How to Make Better Videos for Learning Tasks: A Guide for Students

So your teacher has asked you to make a video as part of a learning task. Cool cool. Here are some tips to make your videos awesome:

photo of a surprised woman
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

PLANNING

  1. This task is no doubt about learning something in a fun, personalized way. Make sure you do your research, make notes, and that you know what it is you are meant to be learning.
  2. You should storyboard or plan your video carefully before you begin shooting. This phase is where you get to be creative and it should take you a while to do. Have an idea of how you will shoot each scene.
  3. Write a rough script to follow based on Points 1 and 2 above.
  4. If this is a group task, assign roles carefully and meaningfully. You will most likely need a videographer / camera operator / editor, a few actors, and perhaps a director.
  5. Make sure you have all the props you will need.
  6. Watch a few good self-made videos on YouTube or Vimeo to see what a good video looks like.

 


SHOOTING

  1. Where possible, SHOW instead of TELL. A good movie shows you things without necessarily telling you what they are. This is sometimes tricky with a learning task video, but it is possible. You can add a small amount of text (at the bottom of the screen), for example, instead of narration. More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show,_don%27t_tell
  2. Make sure you vary the camera angle and shot every few seconds to keep the viewer’s attention. If you are not using actors, switch often between images and text. Hint: Technically, you should change your shot more or less as often as you blink – once every few seconds.
  3. Ensure that you shoot in a quiet place – it is amazing how much ambient noise can be captured on your camera’s microphone. Use headphones to check that you didn’t accidentally capture something in the background.
  4. Don’t stand too far away from the camera or device, otherwise voices will be too soft to hear properly. And speak up! You may need to do a voice-over or reshoot if your sound is poor.
  5. Your characters don’t always have to talk at the camera. If they don’t, test to make sure that they are still audible.
  6. Check your light. It is better to use plenty of light than it is to have too little. Check that shadows don’t hide or obscure anything. If filming indoors, try to shoot near windows.
  7. Check the background to make sure there is nothing distracting happening there.
  8. Always shoot in landscape mode.
  9. If you can, try to mount your device or camera on something sturdy (like a table) to stabilize your video and avoid shaky filming.
  10. Avoid panning shots. Rather cut from one shot to another.
  11. Understand and use the rule of thirds. Don’t film everything bang in the middle of the shot. Read about the rule of thirds here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds
  12. Add a few fun or interesting elements. There is very little worse than someone standing in front of the camera reading from a script.
  13. Switch perspectives – from first-person to third-person and back again, and from one character to another.
  14. Get your characters and actors to talk clearly and to avoid a monotone.
  15. Add cool effects like slow motion and timelapse where relevant. Don’t overdo these.
  16. Clap twice at the end of a scene.
  17. Avoid digital zoom. Rather stand closer.
  18. If you are filming with a device, avoid using the camera’s flash function. Rather find better light.
  19. Don’t be afraid to reshoot!

USE THE FOUR-SHOT STORY METHOD:

  • Start with an establishing shot. This wide angle should give us some kind of clue as to where and ‘when’ we are. Don’t give away too much here. And it only needs to be a few seconds long.
  • Use a long shot to introduce your characters or topic. Provide a bit more information about what is going on. Again, only a few seconds are required here.
  • Use a medium shot or a series of medium shots to clarify and convey the information you wish to convey.
  • Use a close-up to reveal intimate or technical details.

(Alternate between the third and fourth type of shot for the majority of your video. Use a long shot to indicate a scene change.)


board cinema cinematography clapper board
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

EDITING 

  1. Use a quality editing program like iMovie.
  2. Don’t make the editing too obvious by using things like transition effects. Good editing isn’t noticed because it’s part of the story.
  3. Insert a title slide either at the beginning or soon into your video with the name of your video and the people involved.
  4. You should edit your footage into a short, snappy, 2-5 minute video. Longer than this is very boring to watch and probably unnecessary.
  5. Do not add music in the background when people are speaking. This is very distracting.
  6. Add end credits. This is a nice touch.
  7. Make sure everyone in the group is happy with the final product (if relevant) before you submit it.
  8. Please be sure to name your video file properly and to include the names of your team members when you submit it to your teacher.
  9. Pay attention to the quality of your video. You want a good quality – but sometimes if the quality is too high, it makes it difficult and time-consuming to upload.

 


A FEW OTHER THINGS

  • As a general guideline, don’t publish your video to a public platform.
  • If you do publish publically, make sure that you do so with everyone’s parents’ written permission.
  • It’s a good idea to make sure there is nothing in your video that could identify who you are, where you are, or any other sensitive information.
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