Tasked with making a video? You’re not alone!
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we operate as academics. Lectures have moved online, and conferences are either cancelled or virtual. Social distancing further removes us from one another, and minimises in-person information exchange. Many of us have turned to videos as a way of delivering lecture content, and sharing our research with our colleagues, academic community, and beyond.
Do I need a lot of expensive equipment to make a video?
The thing about videos is that there is an awful lot of awfully specialised equipment there, and it can be awfully expensive. There are huge, HUGE, industries for cinema, television, multimedia production across the globe. Professional equipment can, and of course does, make a huge impact on the quality of the audio, the image, the editing…all aspects of the video production. But who has access to this equipment, and the knowhow to use it? Professionals and experts! Does that exclude the rest of us from producing video content? The staggering user figures of YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms are clear evidence that anyone can make video content with just their phone. Some swear by relatively low-cost additions, such as a mic to improve audio. I find that my phone does the audio fine, but I do use a tripod for all my filming.
What’s the best way to make a video?
The best tools and the best approaches for making videos are (just as they are with many digital projects!) an extremely subjective thing. The best tool is one that has the functionality you need, and its use closely matches the skills you already have, or are willing to learn. In this tutorial, I will show three different approaches to making videos for lecturing and conference presentations. These are all done with my phone, and free software that comes as a default on all Macs (iMovie). At the bottom of the page, I have linked to other materials, which will be more useful for you if you use a Windows machine.
Tips for making video clips
- It is easier to work with clips that are already good, rather than edit them later. Think about lighting, background, etc.
- Turn on your camera, and wait a few seconds. Once you’ve finished talking, wait a few seconds before reaching over to stop the recording. This will make it much easier for you to crop the beginning and end of the video (if you don’t want to have those bits where you lean in to start and stop the recording). This is also true for recording your computer screen.
- Pause in between sentences. This will make it easier to chop the video into smaller sections (if you want to crop out a section, etc).
I have listed 4 simple approaches to making videos of your presentation. Below these options I have added some additional guides as how to edit the videos you have recorded.
Option 1: Screencast your Desktop
An alternative approach is to display your slides on your machine, and to record the screen, and your voice as you talk through your presentation. Again, because I am a Mac user, I have a readily available bit of software that comes free and default on each Mac, namely QuickTime Player. It enables you to select to record the screen or part of the screen. The only one I’ve used for a PC was Camtasia, and it worked well!
Option 2: Film yourself giving the paper
This option of catching the slides is relatively straightforward and thus perhaps the easiest one of the options listed in this lesson to produce. It can be a bit impersonal though, since no one gets to see your face! So this next suggestion is for how to record a video of your slides with you included in the screen as well. This might be the way to go if you have a really short presentation and you are the star of the show – this could also be your approach of choice if your phone isn’t quite up to scratch or you didn’t want to faff with moving movies off your phone to your desktop (see Option 3 below).
One super easy way to do this is to use the “New Movie Recording” on QuickTimePlayer. That activates your webcam, and you can speak directly to it. This is also useful if you have a script, because then you can display the script on your screen, but it won’t be captured on the video.
One option would be to incorporate Zoom into this, by setting your slides as a background in Zoom, and then recording yourself giving the presentation, with you displayed in front of the slides. You wouldn’t have to give a Zoom presentation or have a meeting with anyone, you could just set up a meeting with you as the only participant. For instructions see here. Note that you might have to uninstall Zoom and reinstall it to get the version that allows slides as background.
Option 3: Embedding videos into slides
This is the approach that I have chosen to use for my lectures, because it means the students can work through the slides at a pace they want to, rather than having a solid 1hr lecture to get through. The benefits of this approach are that I can record the content for each slide separately and specifically to that slide, and the students see me as well as the text of the slide. The drawback is that you end up with several short videos that need to be edited.
I usually limit these videos to about 2 minutes. I choose to use Google slides because I am a Mac user but my University’s lecterns are all PCs. Even before COVID, I began to use Google Slides because it avoided any problems relating to opening up presentation software on machines with different operating systems, which can affect the formatting, fonts, etc. This is why my example here is using Google Slides – the same approach will work with PowerPoint and other presentation software as well:
- Plan what to say, possibly write a script.
- Set up your tripod, if you’re using one.
- Set up your camera, and check the composition. What does your background look like? Is there enough light? Is it casting shadows? Where is the best place to stand? How close to the camera?
- Film your bit.
- Export your video clip to your computer.
- Use software such as iMovie or QuickTime Player to trim the beginning and end. You could also add captions, animations, sound effects, etc.
- Export the video out of the software onto your computer.
- Upload video to a platform or repository (I use YouTube, and my videos are unlisted. You could also upload to DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.).
Now, that’s the first bit done. Note that exporting the video out of the software can take time, as can uploading into YouTube (or other).
The next step is to embed the video into the slides. You do this from within your presentations software.
- Decide which slide you want to embed the video into
- Select “Insert”, then “Video”.
- In Google Slides you have three different ways to link up the video, depending where it is stored. In this example, I’ve pasted in the URL of the video from YouTube.
- Select the video and click “Select”.
- I also choose to click “Auto-play when presenting” so that the video starts to play as soon as the slide is changed. If this box doesn’t show up automatically, you can find it by clicking on the video and then clicking on “Format options”.
The same steps as screen grabs:
Option 4: Create an Animation
There are many different tools that you can use to create animations. These could easily fill in another lesson on MetoDHology! For a very simple animation, I would recommend using a free online tool such as Moovly or Powtoon.
Editing Videos in iMovie
Once you have recorded your video, you might want to edit it in some way. Below, I show you how you can crop the beginning and the end of the video, crop sections from within the video, insert images (whilst maintaining your audio), and adding background music. The image I use in this tutorial is from Unsplash.com (which provides beautiful, freely useable images) and the audio is from FreeMusicArchive.org.