Technology has given virtually everyone the capability to produce a training video, but having the tools is not enough to produce one of high quality. If you are going to make a training video, you need to know your audience and plan carefully to meet its need. Follow proven techniques and you can produce a professional-quality and effective training resource.
Planning the Video
Many people have short attention spans, so plan your video to be no longer than 30 minutes. Even within this time parameter, you should break the content into 3- to 5-minute segments. Write a script and practice it to be sure it fits into your format. You may also wish to create a storyboard -- a graphical outline of the video. This will be particularly helpful if you are mixing videos of people -- narrators and role-playing actors -- with images from PowerPoint and other sources. If you plan to demonstrate how to use a product, you will match the step-by-step narration with the time required to complete the steps. In this manner you will make sure that the script fits the action.
Preparing the Set
Once you are satisfied with your script and the flow of the video, decide how the set will be laid out. Sets can be minimal -- a desk with a phone for a customer service rep fielding a call or a sales rep calling on a prospect. You will need two lights set at 45-degree angles to the area where you will be filming to eliminate background shadows. Plan on using two cameras to record the video. One can be your primary camera and the other can be used for cutaways to keep the video from being monotonous. Do not use the cameras' built-in microphones; They will absorb too much background sound. Invest in several lavalier mics -- the type that attach to a person's collar or lapel -- to get the best quality sound.
Shooting the Video
Do not attempt to record the video in one continuous shoot. If you have divided the script into units, you can break after each one to allow your actors a breather and, if necessary, to reshoot a small segment rather than the entire program. If you plan to show close-ups of products, you can shoot those later and edit them into the flow when you put the pieces together. If you have a narrator doing a voiceover for a product demo or PowerPoint segment, you can record that at a different time. If you wish to vary the appearance of the setting, use a green screen to allow you to edit in different backgrounds.
Editing the Video
The key to good video is to keep it simple. The viewer does not expect elaborate graphics or special effects. In fact, those will just detract from your message. If you do not wish to pay a professional editor, you can probably do your own with editing software. As you edit in text, stay with clean fonts, don't put too much on a slide and give the viewer a few extra seconds to read the content. Make sure your text, audio and video are all in sync and that your learning objectives are presented in order. Creating short segments will also help a presenter later on. He can stop the video and take time to discuss key parts before continuing.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.