Shooting Web Video for Training: Video Content Not Only Helps People Learn; It Saves Resources and Puts Learning Just a Click Away for Global Organizations

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As video cameras become more affordable and easier to use, more trainers are looking to add video production skills to their professional toolkits. They are focusing on producing what I call didactic video--that is, video content designed to help people learn. Many trainers are using the Internet to store and distribute their video, because it's cheap and virtually ubiquitous.

What is it?

Didactic video offers all sorts of opportunities for organizational learning: It can bring real-life footage of a job skill into the training room; save organizations time, money, and the inconvenience of travel; and make learning more accessible and on-demand for global organizations.

Expensive cameras and editing software don't promise effective learning, just as fancy word processors don't ensure good writing. If you want to produce video that is engaging, easy to understand, and enables learning, focus on the following: video psychology, learning theory, and production discipline. Mastery of each of these areas is essential, whether you are producing a high-end educational documentary or a cheap and cheerful video for your learning department.

Why it works

There's an old adage in TV news that says, "If it bleeds, it leads." This explains why stories with dramatic pictures end up as the top features on the evening news. Whether it's on TV, the web, your iPhone, or at the cinema, video is about communicating using pictures before anything else, such as dialogue or commentary.

If you don't have interesting pictures, your viewers will disengage quickly. This is why broadcasters avoid talking-head shots: If they don't have any pictures to illustrate what someone is talking about, they change the angle or shot size regularly to keep viewers interested.

Because video is about pictures first, it is not always the ideal method for learning. Complex facts and abstract ideas are difficult to display visually and may be more effectively learned using other methods.

Bearing this in mind, ask yourself, Does my learning objective involve action that can be watched? Learning appropriate body language in a staff feedback session, or a practical skill such as installing an air conditioner, is perfect for video. But using video to learn HR policy or a computer programming language is not so effective.

Guidelines

Learning theory and media. Much of the planning for and design of your training sessions is helpful when it comes to creating engaging video content. You should always begin with a clear purpose--the learning objective. The difference is that for video, you will primarily use pictures to do the explaining.

Think carefully about the structure of your video. Plan your shots by drawing a storyboard and then when you are clear on your pictures, write your script. Don't repeat in your script what is obvious in the picture.

For example, if the objective is to show someone how to change a tire safely by the side of the road, you might first capture a long-shot of the car pulling to the side of the road, and then cut to a close-up of the flat tire flapping as the car comes to a stop. Just as you think through the sequence of how you may explain a concept in a training session, consider what you would show someone to visually learn your objective.

Learn the basics of visual grammar so that your storyboard can describe shot sizes (close-up or long-shot) and camera angles. Each shot size and camera angle will affect how your viewer understands your story. So the better you understand it, the more control you have as a videographer.

To make the information easy to remember, think of some of the tricks that worked in school and consider using them in video. How did you learn your times tables? Repetition. So repeat key learning points throughout the narrative at key times using graphics, titles, or slow-motion replays. …