Welcome to the TechSmith Blog

Tips, trends, and strategies to help you share your expertise with visuals and video

Why You Need Audio Descriptions to Make Online Course Videos Accessible

Learn what audio descriptions are, how to add audio descriptions including pros and cons of main methods, whether to create them...

caption online video courses

Not only does the ADA Section 504-refresh highlight the need for audio descriptions in higher education videos, but it’s also an accessibility best practice that has the potential to benefit all students.

Learn the different types of audio descriptions, how they work, and how to create them so your institution stays compliant.

Are audio descriptions like captions?

Sort of.  Here’s the difference: captions use text to describe what’s being heard on-screen. Audio descriptions (AD) talk through what’s being seen. Put another way, captions help people who are hard of hearing, while audio descriptions help people who have difficulty seeing.

Audio descriptions are also sometimes called ‘video descriptions’ or ‘descriptive narration tracks.’ They all refer to the same thing – an option that gives you all the information from a video without ever opening your eyes.

You’ve probably watched movies that have embedded audio descriptions, even though you didn’t use them yourself (or even know they were there!). Ever see the AD symbol on a DVD? That means the movie has an audio description track that can be turned on as needed. Many movie theaters offer audio description support, too.

Audio descriptions icon

An example – what they sound like
Although visuals are a core strength of video’s ability to convey information, it can be difficult for people with sight loss to understand what’s going on based on standard audio alone. Audio descriptions bridge the gap by narrating what occurs on screen so everyone can understand the meaning.

Here’s an example that demonstrates how audio descriptions can describe important on-screen action that makes the video easier to understand for sight-challenged viewers.

Audio descriptions icon on a still-frame of a popular movie clip, The Lion King

In higher education, audio descriptions are important and providing them is legally required. This is good news because it makes crucial on-screen visuals in online and blended courses available to every student.

Audio descriptions help many types of learners

Audio descriptions help people with a visual disability (more than seven and a half million adults in the United States alone) as well as students with lesser degrees of vision loss.

They can help other students, too. Some people learn better with both audio and visual inputs or are primarily auditory learners. Non-native speakers may like hearing audio descriptions to better understand the language. Students on the autism spectrum can benefit from hearing social/facial cues read aloud.

Student on a jostling bus, using headphones to listen to a video lesson with audio descriptions

Some students turn on audio descriptions simply because they prefer to hear the video lesson. Whether they’re jogging, reviewing a video lesson at night with headphones while their roommate sleeps, or watching videos on a jostling bus, there are many reasons why having the option to treat the lecture like a podcast makes sense.

How to add audio descriptions

There are two main ways to add audio descriptions:

  • Embedded voice descriptions – In this method, audio descriptions are their own separate digital “track,” behind the scenes. They can be turned on as needed. This is the most advanced and versatile method because all students have the same version of the video, and only listen to audio descriptions if they need them.

The best of today’s accessible video platforms now offer features that make it easy to add audio description tracks to videos. In TechSmith Relay, you simply log in, go to your video, click on the ‘Accessibility’ tab, and then ‘Manage Audio Description.’

Screenshot of how to add audio descriptions in TechSmith Relay. Click on Accessibility and then Manage Audio Descriptions

Then, upload your audio description track, which can be an Mp3 or M4A file type. Once your video has an audio description track, students can easily turn it on by clicking the AD Track button on the video player.

Screenshot of what video looks like once an audio description track is included, with the AD icon
  • Separate video – Usually only used when embedded tracks are not available, this involves creating a duplicate video with audio descriptions permanently part of the audio, or “burned in.” There’s no option to turn on or off the audio description narration with this method. While this is great for students who always use the narration, having two copies of every video can be confusing and double bandwidth and storage costs.

Create audio descriptions yourself, or outsource

The easiest way to create audio descriptions is to outsource it to a company who does this as a service. Many of the same vendors who create captions can also create audio descriptions and usually charge about $15-$30 per minute.

Another option is to create audio descriptions in-house. It’s more affordable, and you retain complete control of the wording and phrasing.

An instructor creating audio descriptions

Before you begin, learn from those who have done this before and can share best practices. There are a number of preferred ways to explain what’s happening on-screen. It’s helpful and will save you time when you understand common practices. One great resource is the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), which has a handy description key and other resources with tips and techniques that will make your audio descriptions easier to create and understand.

When you record your audio descriptions, keep in mind that they don’t need to synch perfectly with the visuals. As long as they are approximately nearby the on-screen action, they will be effective.

Another tip is to time your narration so that it doesn’t interfere with on-screen dialogue or other audio in the original video. Record audio descriptions in the empty spaces in between the existing audio. You don’t need to verbally explain every single thing that happens on the screen, as long as you describe the gist of what’s happening.   

Alternatives to audio descriptions

An annotated transcript is an alternative to audio descriptions. Instead of narrating what’s happening visually, you write it out and provide it separate from the video.

For example, if a complicated chart is shown in a health sciences video, an annotated transcript would include an extra section that describes what the chart looks like, in detail.

One benefit of this method is that deaf and blind students can use assistive devices to ‘read’ these transcripts, whereas audio descriptions are only helpful to those who can hear. Extended transcripts may also help other types of students who want to review material through written words, or struggle to process visual information for other reasons. Cons include extra time creating the transcript and maintaining another resource.

Health sciences instructor explaining a medical skeletal model in a video lesson

A final alternative to audio descriptions is simply to verbally describe all visuals within your original video. This takes the concept of providing an AD track and makes it part of the video itself. This method works particularly well for educational videos and demonstrations where descriptions of on-screen action are a natural addition.

For example, if you’re making a video lesson with a chart, verbally explain the main points. If you’re hand-writing a calculus proof, talk through it as you go. Demonstrating a chemistry experiment? Describe what you’re doing along the way, so students have the audio and visuals.

There’s a lot to understand about audio descriptions. This topic will continue to grow as more video platforms offer this functionality, and more colleges and universities begin including audio descriptions alongside video captions as standard accessibility accommodations.

Learn more about TechSmith Relay and it’s accessibility solutions including Audio Description track support at www.techsmith.com/Relay

Dayna Amboy

Marketing Content Strategist at TechSmith. I love photography, web design, and baby giraffes, not in that order.

The Ultimate Guide to Easily Make Instructional Videos

What do you do when you need to learn something new? What if you need to know how to fix something? Or what if you need to learn...

Ultimate Guide Easily Make Instructional Videos

What do you do when you need to learn something new? What if you need to know how to fix something? Or what if you need to learn how to use a new software or service?

You probably look for a video.

According to a Pew research study, 87% of users said that YouTube is important for helping them figure out how to do things they haven’t done before.

Regardless of your industry, instructional videos are the best delivery method if you’re serious about teaching others, growing your business, or building an online course.

If you’re looking to level-up your video skills and knowledge, you’ll love this guide.

No time to read the whole guide?

Don’t worry. Get a free PDF version so you can read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Research shows that when people look for answers to their questions, they prefer to consult a video. In fact:

  • 4x as many people prefer to watch a video about a product rather than read about it when making a purchasing decision.
  • Two out of three employees complete tasks better when instructions are provided visually, and they absorb information 7% faster.
  • 7 out of 10 millennials are likely to watch a company video when shopping online
  • Learning and educational content are viewed over a billion times a day on YouTube.
  • Online video course sites like Udemy, Lynda.com, and Skillshare are growing to tens of millions of students.

Unfortunately, it can be a challenge for many small businesses, educators, and entrepreneurs to find the time to create video content.

That’s why we’re here to help!

In this guide, we share our secrets to creating high-quality training and tutorial videos. We know what works (and what doesn’t) and we’re going to show you exactly what to do to make how-to and instructional videos.

how to make instructional videos

Here’s what you’ll find in this free guide to create great instructional videos:

Part 1: What is an instructional video?

An instructional video is any video that demonstrates a process, transfers knowledge, explains a concept, or shows someone how to do something.

Creating instructional videos isn’t limited to instructional design professionals. At least, not anymore. Anyone, in any industry, can (and probably should) create instructional videos. Examples of instructional videos you can create include:

Micro videos

Micro videos are short instructional videos that focus on teaching a single, narrow topic. They’re usually less than a minute long and appeal to today’s media consumers, who have notoriously short attention spans.

Tutorial videos

Tutorial videos are the go-to instructional method for teaching a process or providing step-by-step instructions. Usually between 2-10 minutes long, tutorial videos may leverage multiple instructional methods.

Sometimes referred to as “how-to” videos, the best ones are carefully planned and have a professional touch.

Training videos

Training videos are designed to improve an employee’s workplace skills. Companies often create online training videos to cover interpersonal topics, such as compliance and harassment training, or job-related topics, such as hardware and software training.

Training videos often use footage of real people to connect the trainer and trainee. These can be interactive videos and often fit in among a larger training course.

Explainer videos

Explainer videos are short videos (usually less than two minutes) that explain a business concept or product in an entertaining, visual way. They typically use basic animations to explain a larger topic, product, or service. Explainer videos simplify complex ideas into easily digestible content.

Presentation videos

Recording a presentation makes it available for an audience to watch after the fact — perfect for people who want to rewatch and reabsorb the content or for those who may not have been able to attend the in-person event. This might be as simple as recording just the audio for a presentation, or as advanced as recording PowerPoint point slides, a webcam, and a separate microphone all at once.

Lecture and presentation capture tend to be longer than a tutorial video and span the length of the entire class or presentation. This makes them more time intensive to consume and requires a higher level of investment from the audience.

Screencast videos

Screencasts tend to be quick and informal, and are usually intended for a smaller audience than tutorial videos. These videos are digital video recordings of your computer screen and usually include audio narration.

The format lends itself to just-in-time teaching, where an instructor, colleague, or manager can quickly create a screencast to answer a question or clear up a problematic concept. Often considered “disposable” videos, screencasts can be made quickly, with lower production value, and for a specific purpose — often with a short lifespan.

As you can see, instructional videos go by a variety of different names. But whether you need to make a how-to video or a tutorial, the goal is the same. Unlike other forms of video, an instructional video instructs. Of course, while you don’t want boring videos, your main goal is for your viewers to comprehend and learn what you are teaching them.

Part 2: Common mistakes people make when creating videos

When it comes to making instructional videos there are a few common mistakes people make. Here are a few you can easily avoid:

1. Not knowing your audience

Knowing your audience is critical. If you don’t know your audience, it’s all but impossible to make a helpful video. Understanding your audience will guide key decisions about your videos.

General information is helpful, but thinking about a specific individual that is representative of your audience – what their problems are, why they will be watching your video, what they like and don’t like – will help you make a more focused and detailed video.

Later in this guide, I’ll show you the right questions to ask to get a clear picture of your audience.

how to make instructional videos nick

Nick Nimmin

Find Nick on YouTube: NickNimmin

“[Y]our audience for your videos is the same people that you’re targeting for your product in the first place. … [I]f people are buying your product, then people are looking for how to use that product, how to get better at that product. Things about that product that they might not know initially when they take it out of the box. They’re looking for that kind of information.” – Nick Nimmin

2. Trying to make it perfect

Too often people worry about getting things perfect. It’s good to remember that perfect is an illusion. If you start with perfection in mind, it will paralyze your creative process and you will struggle to begin.

Remember, the goal of creating video content isn’t to create the perfect video, it’s to create a video that teaches something.

how to make instructional videos sean

Sean Cannell

Find Sean on YouTube: THiNKmediaTV

“Punch perfectionism in the face. Punch fear in the face, and just hit publish, because you just got to put out your first videos, and the reality…is your first videos are going to be your worst videos. We all start horrible, and I think that’s the fear. We’re afraid of putting out some bad videos…just accept the fact they’re going to be bad, and get those ones out there.” – Sean Cannell

3. Worrying too much about equipment

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you don’t have the right tools to create quality videos. It’s fun to have the latest and greatest gear, but it’s far from a necessity. Learn the basics, then start to upgrade your tools. It doesn’t take fancy equipment to make great videos, and I’ll prove it later in this guide when I show you the equipment we use to make great videos.

how to make instructional videos andrew

Andrew Kan

Find Andrew on YouTube: TubeBuddy

“So many people focus on ‘I don’t have the right gear’ and ‘I don’t have the right camera,’ but they don’t really think about, well, what is my message? What am I trying to get across with my brand? They don’t want to just be told, buy my product. If you can make someone feel something, if you can make them relate to what you’re doing, that’s more important than any piece of gear.” – Andrew Kan

Part 3: How to make an instructional video with screen recording

Most people who end up making videos didn’t expect that someday they’d be making videos They stumbled upon the job. The result of this is a lot of people don’t approach their first video with a well thought out plan.

But, the greatest secret of all is that great videos start with great planning.

The essentials for a complete tutorial video plan include:

  • Step 1: Determine and get know your audience
  • Step 2: Write a storyboard and script
  • Step 3: Record your narration
  • Step: 4: Record your screen
  • Step 5: Make a few edits
  • Step 6: Add a video intro
  • Step 7: Produce and share

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail

How to Make Tutorial Videos | Camtasia | TechSmith

Step 1. Determine and get to know your audience

Before you even think about hitting the record button, get to know your audience and understand why they need help.

If you have a product or service, talk to your customers about how they use your product and where they struggle. If you’re teaching a class, find out what learning outcomes your students hope to gain. Are you training a new hire? Ask yourself what questions they need to be answered to be most successful.

Then use that information to choose tutorial topics that will help the most people.

WARNING: As tempting as it may be, DO NOT skip this first step. Even if you know your audience like the back of your hand, it’s still vital to get that information out of your head and into an outline.

Before you move on to step two, make sure to answer these questions about your audience and video:

1. What is your topic? Pick ONE topic per video. By narrowing your scope, your video will be more focused, and easier to create.

2. Who is the audience? Start with basic demographic information like education, age, professional organizations, association with other groups and then advance to their interests, concerns, and goals.

  • Why do they care about this topic? Make sure you know why your audience will care. This will ensure you address their concerns and reasons for watching the video.
  • What is the learning objective? Having a clear learning objective helps you provide clearer instruction with a more achievable outcome.
  • How does it benefit them? If someone is going to invest time watching your video, what value are they going to take away?

If you want to learn even more about planning a great video, check out this video from TechSmith’s video learning guru, Matt Pierce.

In this short video you’ll get even more questions to consider when planning your video, like:

  • Where is your video going to be hosted or end up?
  • What is the best size for that location?
  • Do you want to add interactivity, like quizzes or interactive hot spots?
  • Do you need accessibility features, like captions?

Answering these questions will help you create a video that’s clear, concise, and interesting to your audience. By spending a little time researching your audience, you’ll know exactly what they are looking for online. You’ll avoid losing viewers, reduce confusion, and help viewers retain your information.

Step 2. Write a storyboard and script

Storyboard

Once you have your topic and know your audience, I recommend you create a storyboard to outline and visualize what you plan to show.

Some people get really creative and draw elaborate pictures.

instructional video creative storyboard example

Honestly, though, they can be as simple as this:

instructional video simple storyboard example

Quick sketches and stick figures are perfectly fine for live video. For a screencast or screen recording, you can use a series of simple screenshots to roughly show what you plan to display with the narration.

When you finish storyboarding and you have your plan in hand you’re ready to record, right?

Not quite. Before you go any further, write a script.

Script

A script (even a simple one) will help you be efficient with what you say, saving you and your viewers time. You’re also far less likely to forget something.

instructional video script example

Here are a few scriptwriting tips to get you started.

  • Write your script like your explaining the process to a friend. Try to be as straightforward as possible with your language.
  • Show and tell. Instead of simply giving a play-by-play of your on-screen actions, “first I click this, then I click that,” let the actions speak for themselves. Take time to both say what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
  • Practice, practice…and then practice some more. Read your script aloud and see how it flows. If you find yourself getting tripped up, go back and make sure you’re using natural language.
  • Get feedback. Find someone who’s not afraid to tell you what they really think and send them your script. This might seem scary at first, but once you get used to receiving feedback, it becomes an essential part of the scripting process.

Step 3. Record your voice over

With your script in hand, it’s time to record the narration. I use Camtasia, which comes with a built-in, easy-to-use voice recording feature. You can even paste a script to read from during recording.

Next, if you can, get your hands on the best microphone you can find. Even a middle of the road mic (like the one connected to your headphones) will provide much better sound quality than the one built into your computer.

instructional video best microphone

Then, find a quiet place to record. At TechSmith, have a recording studio with sound dampening foam, which is great, however, we realize this isn’t feasible for everyone. If you want a low-cost solution, a broom closet or small office can sometimes get you a pretty similar sound.

When you’re ready, record your script and make sure to speak slowly and clearly. If you make mistakes, don’t start over, simply pause, then start again right before you made the mistake. You can always remove the mistakes when you’re finished.

I recommend using Audacity or Adobe Audition to remove mistakes and any extra noise from your audio.

With your audio narration done, you can record your video.

Step 4. Record your screen

Start by cleaning up your computer screen and closing unnecessary applications. Turn off notifications that might pop up. Follow these directions to get crisp, clear, screen video. The last thing you want after you record all your footage is to realize you have a blurry video.

TIP: When you choose a screen capture or screencasting software, pick a tool with built-in recording, editing, and sharing features. It will save you time and let you do all of your work in one tool.

Open the application you want to record and conduct a few practice walkthroughs of exactly what you want to show your viewers. This will help you get smooth cursor motions and, in the end, you’ll have less editing to do.

Then, open the Camtasia recorder and record your screen just as you practiced. Remember, if you make a mistake, simply pause and then start right before the mistake. You can always smooth things out when editing later on.

If you want a simple way to increase engagement and help viewers connect with your content, try adding a webcam recording to your screencast.

When you finish recording your desktop, you can edit your video.

Step 5. Edit the video

Most people feel like they need to be a professional video editor to make a nice looking video. But you don’t need expensive editing tools or a lot of knowledge to get started.

It takes just a few steps and some simple video editing tips.

To start, cut out mistakes by selecting them with the playhead, then clicking cut. To trim extra footage from the ends or your recording, drag the end of the clip in.

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail

Editing In-Depth | Camtasia | TechSmith

When you finish editing the video, add your audio narration. With your narration on the timeline, you can use clip speed and extend frame to sync the audio and video in your project.

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail

0:18

Ripple Move & Extend Frame | Camtasia | TechSmith

Here are a few examples of simple edits:

  • If you need more time to explain a concept split the clip and use extend frame to essentially freeze the video.
  • To speed up a boring part of your recording, add clip speed, then drag the handles to speed it up.
  • Or to focus your viewer’s attention, use animations to zoom in on the important parts.

Step 6. Add a video intro

A video intro leads your viewers into your content, but don’t get too crazy. Keep your intro simple and to the point. Viewers want to get to the meat of your content. They don’t care about anything other than what you promised to teach them.

A good intro clearly lays out the topic and quickly explains what the viewers can expect to learn.

To create your own video intro, add some space at the beginning of your video. Hold the shift key on your keyboard and drag the playhead to the right.

Then, open your media bin and select the Library tab. From the “Motion Graphics – Intro Clips” folder, drag the intro you like onto the timeline.

Camtasia comes stocked with a few built-in video intro templates, but you can get an entire catalog of pre-made video assets, including intro templates from TechSmith Assets.

To customize your intro clip, select it on the timeline and then edit the text and shapes in the properties panel. Enter text, choose a font, and change any colors or other settings for the shapes and text.

instructional videos camtasia properties panel

After you have your video all put together, now is a great time to add some music to your video. While it’s not required, music can make a good video that much better. For a how-to or video lesson, try to choose something upbeat and positive. You want your viewers to feel good as they’re learning.

Step 7. Produce and share

Finally, think about where your video will live. There are many video hosting options to choose from these days. You can share your video to an online video platform like YouTube, Vimeo, or Screencast, or you can choose to save the video as a local file. You can also share directly to your favorite social media site.

We’ve found that the majority of our users prefer to store finished videos on YouTube, especially for external videos. There are many great reasons to put your education and learning videos on YouTube.

screencast hosting pie chart

Before sending your video out into the world, I recommend sharing your video with a few people to get some video feedback.

This helps ensure your message is clear and your video accomplishes your goals.

Part 4: How to create a training video with a camera

This is where we start to level up. There are a lot of similarities between a screencast and creating training video with a camera. You still need a video plan, a script, and the right tools, but stepping in front of the camera also brings some new challenges.

Here are a few unique things to consider when creating a training video that includes camera video.

HOW TO MAKE A TRAINING VIDEO

How to Create Training Videos | Camtasia | TechSmith

Start by gathering any equipment you need for your video. Remember, don’t get overwhelmed by equipment. For the example, in the video above, we only used five tools:

  • Tripod
  • Smartphone
  • Phone clip (to keep the camera steady and attach it to the tripod)
  • A clean backdrop
  • Lights

Set up your recording space and make sure the area is well lit. You’ll either want to record in a spot that has a lot of natural light or add some video lighting to your equipment list.

how to make instructional videos video setup

Place your camera on a tripod and position it as close to your subject as possible, while still getting everything you need in the shot. Being close to the subject will help you get the best possible audio when recording with a smartphone camera.

When the scene is set, use your storyboard and script to guide you through each step.

Remember, just because you have a camera video, it doesn’t mean you can’t also use screen video. Some of the best tutorial and training videos include both! Camtasia makes it easy to combine camera and screen video in one project.

Part 5: The true cost of making tutorial, training, and explainer videos

Before you roll up your sleeves DIY style or hand off your project to a professional video company, let’s take a step back and make sure the right people are making your video.

Budget often plays a large role in this decision, you may want to start by considering the impact you want the video to have.

Here are a few questions to ask when weighing the options.

  • How many videos do I need?
  • How much money am I willing to spend?
  • Is this video going to lead the marketing efforts for a campaign?
  • Will it live in a prominent place, such as on a website landing page?

Below, I’ve laid out the pros and cons of common options for creating an instructional video.

Hire an outside company

If there’s a lot depending on this video (and you only need one), you might want to consider hiring an external company to produce a “knock their socks off” level video. But buyer beware. This will cost you a lot of time and money. Furthermore, if you want to edit the video further for use in other places, you’ll have to pay extra for that.

Pros

Video production companies have the talent, skills, and experience to create the best explainer videos. Good companies work with you to make your video exactly how you want it.

Cons

It’ll cost you. The average cost for a custom 60-second explainer video is roughly $8,000. And just one professionally-made tutorial video can cost $10,000 or more.

Hire an outside company

This is my favorite option because If you create your videos in-house you’ll have more control over the budget and complete creative freedom. A screencast tool like Camtasia is a perfect option for those looking for a DIY option.

Pros

You have complete creative freedom and more control over the budget.

Cons

You’re limited by your own skills, time, software, and hardware.

And, while you might never reach the level of a full-time video producer, you’ll be amazed at the quality of the videos you can create with just a little bit of practice.

What’s next?

Whether you’re just getting started, or you’re a video ninja, you’ve learned some of the key tools and strategies to create successful instructional videos.

Take this guide, download a free trial of Camtasia, and hop in.

Camtasia is built for anyone who needs to make any kind of instructional video. We offer a ton of helpful tutorials to get you started. And, for the record, we make 100% of our tutorials and other screencasts using Camtasia.

If you want to learn even more about creating videos, try out the new TechSmith Academy. It’s a totally free resource designed to level-up new video creators!

No time to read the whole guide?

Don’t worry. Get a free PDF version so you can read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Justin Simon

Web Content Strategist at TechSmith (Content + SEO). I play a lot of golf and watch a lot of football.

Simplified User Interface: The Beginner’s Guide

It can be difficult to onboard users to new and complex interfaces and workflows. Too much information can easily overwhelm the...

Mocked-up website with a simplified user interface

It can be difficult to onboard users to new and complex interfaces and workflows. Too much information can easily overwhelm the user and make it difficult to keep the focus on the essential feature or functionality.

Additionally, software updates tend to be frequent. These regular updates, coupled with localization processes, can make documentation work in the software industry quite demanding for technical content creators. How can we face these challenges without having to constantly update supporting content?

What if we designed our visual content in a way that is easy to follow, and is able to withstand future UI tweaks?

Let us introduce a design technique used by TechSmith’s User Assistance team and others – it’s called simplified user interface.

Simplified User Interface: What is it?

A simplified user interface (SUI) is a visual representation of a software interface that removes  unimportant elements and reduces them to simpler shapes.

Simplified User Interface graphic showing PowerPoint UI
An example of SUI (pronounced “sue-ee” by the TechSmith User Assistance team).

The elements that are fundamental to the instructions or for the user to understand are purposefully kept visible and the SUI graphics serves as a visual aid to support the instructional content given, via the sub- or figure text.

SUI graphics allow for easy-to-follow instructions which enable the reader to get to the point quickly and avoid distractions.

Keep it simple, Stupid!

SUI graphics leverage the famous K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, Stupid!) principle: systems perform better if they are kept simple and when unnecessary complexities are avoided. By reducing the graphics to a simpler state and by removing distractions, we can allow the user to focus on only the essential information, which creates a better experience.

Josh Cavalier,an eLearning expert, describes cognitive load as the “amount of information being processed by the brain”. When you reduce the amount of distractions for your audience, they are better able to focus their attention on what is important.

Simplified User Interface graphic with one menu item exposed
In this example, only a single menu item is shown so as direct user attention to something specific.

In a recent blog post from The Interaction Design Foundation, it’s explained that a user is focused solely on how useful something will be for them. This is true for both the product design itself but also for the how-to documentation and instructions.  If it’s hard to understand how to use a product, the value that it has to offer, or how a product can solve a particular problem, then users will struggle.

SUI graphics build upon these principles: using a simplified user interface in help documentation can aid in user success by giving them only the information they must have in order to be successful, increasing their success and satisfaction with a product.

Keeping content up to date

Keep your content current, longer. A quick survey with attendees at STC Technical Communication Summit revealed that keeping content up to date is one of the biggest challenges faced by technical communicators today. And that makes sense, if we look to software as an example: release cycles are shortening and new features and functionality are being added frequently. And with each feature addition and related tweaks to the user interface, the instructions that the technical documentation team laboriously put together are at risk of becoming quickly out of date, even if only slightly. So what is a technical communicator to do?

Again, simplified user interface graphics can play a strategic role in one’s content strategy. The removal of a button or addition of a feature will easily confuse the user if this change is not reflected in a precise screenshot. However, a simplified user interface graphic can often sustain multiple software versions and updates before needing further updates. The simplified design is more forgiving to minor interface changes and additions as it is already an abstract representation of the interface. Technical content creators can use this technique to extend the shelf-life of their visual content or even for repurposing content in similar scenarios.

Faster content localization

Any content creator who has been through the localization process knows that it can be time-consuming and expensive to create screenshots and graphics for each locale. Yet, the localization of onboarding materials and other graphics can be trivial for any organization that wants to be successful internationally. As Day Translations points out, we should all “scrap the idea that English is the language of business”. It’s important to cater to different customer bases by providing them with content that speaks to them…in their native language.

Most technical communicators know the effort it takes to create and manage unique screenshots for each language. In order to simplify this task, one can design the content to use SUI images instead of language-specific screenshots. The same graphic can often be repurposed across multiple languages with little to no adjustment. Additional information or instructions can be conveyed through the sub- or figure text.

Simplified User Interface used in both German and English dialog boxes.
In this example, the same SUI graphic is used in the software preference dialog for all languages.

Again, this is another area that helps to reduce creation and maintenance efforts while still providing the user with clear instructions.

How to create a Simplified User Interface Graphic

Creating a simplified user interface (SUI) graphic is easier than you think. The best way to get started is to begin with a screenshot and then transform it. To do this, you need screen capture and image editing software. At TechSmith, our tool of choice for creating SUI images is Snagit because it provides both of these functions, though there are other capable image editors.

Step 1: Capture the screenshot

Using Snagit, capture a screenshot of the user interface you want to turn into a SUI graphic and open it in the Snagit Editor. Crop the screenshot to the dimensions of your desired output.

Screenshot of a web page for Bridge Street Insurance featured a Request a Quote call to action button

Step 2: Simplify the screenshot

Simplifying an image is a process that involves covering up and removing visual noise like unrelated text, menus, buttons, or tool tips to reduce an image’s complexity and focus attention on the important parts. Snagit provides two ways to help make this an easy process with the new Simplify tool available in Snagit 2019.

The first option is to simplify a screenshot manually by selecting the Simplify tool, and using the graphic elements to hide unimportant details in your image and direct attention to the ones that matter. After choosing the Simplify tool, Snagit automatically detects the colors in your screenshot, creates a color palette, and provides a set of tools that match and are ideal for simplifying images.

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail

The second way option is to automate the process. Snagit’s Auto Simplify feature recognizes shapes and text and then automatically covers them with the themed elements. Remove, add, and change the color of any of the elements Snagit adds to achieve the look you want.

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail

Watch the tutorial below to see the Simplify tool in action!

Video Thumbnail
Video Thumbnail

Step 3: Save it

When you are done, save your file as a .png or .jpg file to be used in your documentation. We highly recommend also saving your final image as a .snag file. This is the Snagit project file type and it allows you to reopen the project to edit and adjust the image later on. This makes updating your image easy so you won’t need to recreate your SUI graphic every time.

Bonus Tip: Use a tag to easily access this file any time in the Snagit library.

Key takeaways

The benefits of using Simplified User Interface graphics in your technical documentation are twofold: First, these graphics visually enhance your instructions and improve the onboarding experience for your users. Second, the graphics make technical communicators’ jobs easier, as they reduce the need for screenshot updates and help with localization.

Integrating SUI graphics into part of one’s content strategy is therefore a smart business decision that all content creators should consider, regardless if your favorite aspect is the improved user experience, having evergreen content, or faster localization. Even just a few simplified user interface graphics can make a big difference!

If you aren’t using Snagit yet, download the free trial today, and get started creating your own SUI graphics!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Allison Boatman

Allison Boatman is a member of the Marketing Team at TechSmith.
Follow her on Twitter @allisonboats

  • She can often be found aimlessly wandering around local craft stores.
  • Personal motto: "Work hard, stay humble."
  • Favorites: Alaskan Malamutes, Iceland, and 90's pop culture.

  • How to Record the Perfect Live Streaming Video

    Learn how to easily record a live streaming video.

    record live streaming video

    Do you feel overwhelmed by video? We are bombarded with live video from Facebook, live streaming webinars, and streaming on YouTube.

    How are we supposed to process it all in real time, especially when it may be gone in the blink of an eye?

    More importantly, how can you capture this live streaming content so it’s not all lost in the internet’s void?

    Don’t let the internet run your schedule.

    You can easily capture or record live streaming video and share it with your friends, your coworkers, or save it for later viewing. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it will bring order to a chaotic media landscape.

    Here’s how to get started:

    Step 1: Find a desktop capture tool

    The first thing you’ll want to to is find a good screen recorder and screen capture tool.

    There are many tools that will let you record your desktop screen. I use TechSmith’s Snagit which is great to record short-form video. Or I’ll use Camtasia to record longer-form content.

    A word of caution: There are many free (or freemium) versions of programs that allow you to record video from your screen, but be cautious — some of these are peppered with spam software or may be selling your information.

    Free Trial: You can try any of our screen recorders for free. Get everything you need to record on your Windows, Mac, and iOS devices.

    Step 2: Adjust your recording settings

    Once you have your recorder, try loading it up and get used to the different settings.  

    Some recorders will have the Image and Video record option, so make sure that you know which is which when recording streaming video.

    We also recommend you test your audio. Snagit and Camtasia will record the audio from your computer as long as have the correct audio source selected. Select the audio source you want to capture, and then test it to make sure it records properly.

    After selecting the recording area to record, the screen recorder toolbar appears under the selected area. You can select to record microphone audio or system audio with a video recording.

    If you want to record online videos, you’ll probably want to both video and audio of the video stream. For that, make sure you start recording the system audio.

    System audio is the sound from your computer such as application alerts, audio playing from your speakers, etc.

    To record system audio, click the System Audio button on the Video Recording toolbar. System audio recording is enabled when the button is green.

    Step 4: Select an area to record

    Click the Capture button and then select your entire screen, a particular window, or a custom region.

    Here is an example of a NASA live stream that I recorded earlier:

    Instead of selecting the the entire browser window, I simply captured the streaming video section.

    Step 5: Hit record

    After you make the selection, click the record button to start.

    While recording, pause and resume at any time, switch between the webcam and screen recording with the webcam button, and even change audio settings.

    When you’re done recording, click the stop button to stop the recording.

    Step 6: Save and Upload

    Once you have your video, you can save it to the standard mp4 format, and either save it to your computer or upload to share with your friends!

    share with snagit

    Snagit even lets you make a GIF out of your video!

    Video capture can help you make a little sense of the chaos you may feel. One of my favorite uses is recording a Google Hangout, and there are a lot of other great uses for video capture, too.  

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

    Casey Seiter

    Casey Seiter is a Customer Success Manager at TechSmith. An earnest reader, writer, and consumer of all tv shows.

    YouTube Thumbnail Sizes and Best Practices (New for 2019)

    Are you looking to get more views on your YouTube videos? One easy way to do that is to improve your video thumbnails.

    YouTube Thumbnail Sizes and Best Practices

    Are you looking to get more views on your YouTube videos? One easy way to do that is to improve your video thumbnails.

    Your video’s thumbnail is just as important as its title when it comes to attracting views. Thumbnails draw the attention of potential viewers and help them decide which video they should ultimately decide to watch—hopefully yours!

    Of course, it’s a good idea to have a great video behind the thumbnail. That’s why I highly recommend you also check out our Ultimate Guide for How to Make a YouTube Video.

    But, anyway, what exactly is a thumbnail? Thumbnails are reduced-size versions of images or videos that originally got their name from being about the size of a human thumbnail.

    YouTube thumbnails act as the book covers of the online video world. Our decision whether or not to click on a video often depends on the thumbnail. An eye-catching image can draw us in, while a boring or blurry thumbnail can easily deter us.

    By having better video thumbnails than other videos, you’re more likely to win video clicks in YouTube and other search engines. That’s why creating a great custom YouTube thumbnail is so important.

    In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the exact size your YouTube thumbnail should be and I’ll also cover some thumbnail best practices.

    First, let’s start with the exact size you should make your YouTube thumbnails!

    The ideal thumbnail size is 1280 × 720 pixels with a minimum width of 640 pixels, and the ideal ratio for YouTube players and previews is 16:9. Along with the correct size, you’ll also want to keep in mind the ratio, file size, and file type of your thumbnail. Below is a handy guide you can reference as you create a thumbnail for your video.

    2019 YouTube Thumbnail Sizes

    1280 x 720 pixels
    – Minimum width: 640 pixels
    – Recommended ratio: 16:9
    – Maximum file size: 2MB
    – Accepted file types: .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG

    Now that we’ve covered the technical details of your YouTube thumbnail, let’s dive into the creative. How do you make a great-looking thumbnail that entices potential viewers? Great question! We’ve pulled together some tips that you’ll want to keep in mind while creating YouTube thumbnails.

    YouTube Thumbnail Best Practices

    Keep It Simple

    Be concise! YouTube thumbnails are small. And they’re even smaller when they’re viewed on a mobile device, which is extremely common since YouTube is often watched on mobile phones. In fact, on an average day in 2018, there were 1 billion mobile views. That’s why you should try to avoid adding too much text or too small of text. People won’t be able to read it, and thus wasting valuable thumbnail real estate.

    To make sure you keep your thumbnail simple, avoid adding the entire title of your video to the image. Your video title will appear right next to your thumbnail anyways. Try to shorten your title to just a few short words, or if possible, you can simply use only a still image with a logo. Still images work great for thumbnails because they quickly give a snapshot of what viewers will find in your video without you having to create an image entirely from scratch.

    Use Contrasting Colors

    You’ve seen this tragic mistake before: white text on a light background or black text on a dark background. Yikes. As I mentioned before, thumbnails are small, and there are a lot of them. You need yours to stand out, so if a viewer can’t easily read the text on your thumbnail, it’s likely your video will be skipped.

    Pay Attention to Logo Placement

    Adding your logo to your YouTube thumbnails is a good idea. It can help with brand awareness, however, how and where you place your logo on your thumbnails is important. First, make sure your logo isn’t too big. You don’t want to distract from the overall message of the thumbnail, but if it’s too small there’s no sense of adding it at all.

    Adding your logo to the corner of the thumbnail image works well, especially if you have other text on your thumbnail, but avoid the right bottom corner. Why? Because that’s where YouTube displays the length of your video for viewers. If you put your logo there it’ll be covered up and make your video look unprofessional.

    Avoid Irrelevant or Misleading Images

    No one likes clickbait. That’s why It’s important to make sure that your YouTube thumbnail accurately depicts what a viewer is going to find in your video. If it doesn’t, you could hurt your reputation or brand.  And even worse, YouTube could potentially stop showing your videos in search results if your bounce rates are too high.

    A thumbnail’s purpose is to give context, so using an image that doesn’t depict what a viewer is actually going to see won’t benefit you. It’s a good idea to find the most important point of your video and highlight that by creating a thumbnail around it. It’s best to balance creating a visual teaser without revealing too much. Only show enough to make users want to click through and see what you have to say.

    How to Make Your Own YouTube Thumbnail

    Now, let’s put what we learned about thumbnails to use by actually creating a custom thumbnail image. An easy way to create a YouTube thumbnail is to use TechSmith Snagit.

    Here’s a step-by-step on how to create a YouTube thumbnail in Snagit.

    1. Download a free trial of Snagit.
    It’s really that easy!

    2. Import your video into Snagit.
    If you’ve recorded screen video or your webcam with Snagit, you can skip importing your video.

    Import Video to Snagit Library

    3. Use Snagit’s convert to PNG button to turn your video still into an image.
    Play through your video and find the exact spot you’d like to turn into an image.

    Convert Video Still to PNG

    4. Add text, callouts, arrows, your logo, and more right within the Snagit Editor.
    Don’t forget to keep in mind the YouTube Thumbnail best practices—simple, contrasting colors, logo placement, etc.

    YouTube Thumbnail with Text and Logo

    5. Save your image to upload to YouTube for the video thumbnail.

    Now, go ahead and try making your own YouTube thumbnail in Snagit, or feel free to use whatever software you feel most comfortable using. Then, upload your custom thumbnail to YouTube before posting your video.

    Hopefully your new, customized thumbnail will bring you more views, clicks, and engagement!

    Lauren North

    Direct Marketing Specialist at TechSmith. I enjoy painting with watercolors, visiting our National Parks, and eating nachos.

    How to Reduce Audio Noise in Your Recordings (For Free)

    Having to reduce audio noise can be a real pain. And recording clean audio can be tough, especially in noisy environments....

    reduce audio noise

    Having to reduce audio noise can be a real pain. And recording clean audio can be tough, especially in noisy environments.

    Whether it’s background noise or less-than-ideal equipment, sometimes you end up with hissy audio. Luckily there is a free method to make your track easier on the ears.

    Take a listen to what software noise removal can do:

    Noisy Audio

    Clean Audio

    Before We Get Started: Room Tone

    There is one tip that will help immensely with this process. If you are the one responsible for your recording, remember to record at least 10 seconds of “room tone”.

    Room tone is simply a few seconds of recording the natural noise of the environment in which you’re recording (with no talking, nail filing, heavy breathing, etc.) Even if you can’t hear anything, a sensitive microphone will pick up ventilation noise, computer fans, and more.

    Taking “room tone” will serve as a baseline for the software to remove noise. Having a section of room tone in your recording is always a good practice but if you know you’ll be needing to do noise removal later definitely don’t forget! If you don’t have control of the recording process you can still usually find a bit of room tone in a recording.

    You can find room tone in a break between takes or time at the beginning or end of the file where nothing much is happening and usually that’s enough to work with for noise removal purposes.

    So how is noise removal actually done?

    How to Reduce Audio Noise in Audacity

    In this economy who wouldn’t take the free option when available? If you aren’t looking to invest in high-end audio software, Audacity is a free piece of software created and maintained by a community of programmers and audio experts.

    It accepts a wide range of audio file types and has a perfectly serviceable noise removal tool. The one catch is it’s audio only, so if you’re working with video it may not be the smoothest workflow. More on that later…

    Here’s how it works:

    How to reduce audio noise in Audacity

    1. Select your room tone or silent section from your audio

      Drag your mouse over an area with no (or little) audio.reduce audio noise audacity select silent

    2. Select Noise Reduction

      Under the Effect menu select Noise Reductionreduce audio noise audacity select noise reduction

    3. Get your Noise Profile

      Click “Get Noise Profile” and the box will disappear.reduce audio noise audacity select noise profile

    4. Select your entire audio clip

      Select all of the audio that you want that background noise removed. Go to ‘Select’ and then click ‘All.’reduce audio noise audacity select all

    5. Repeat noise reduction

      Go to the Effect menu and select reduce audio noise audacity repeat

    6. Listen to your clip

      Make sure your clip doesn’t sound muffled.reduce audio noise audacity play

    What the sliders do:

    Noise Reduction: Controls the amount of reduction of your noise volume.

    Sensitivity: Controls the range of what noise removal considers noise. The higher this goes the more your actual audio (such as voices) will be affected.

    Frequency smoothing: The default setting is setting is 3, settings lower than this tend to favor music and higher settings tend to favor spoken word.

    I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my Uncle Mike when we go to White Castle: Go easy on the sliders! Small changes can make a big difference.

    Reduce and residue buttons: Reduce is what you’ll want for a good preview. It plays what the audio will sound like with noise removed. If you want to hear exclusively what the noise reduction is taking out, select residue and click preview.

    How to clean up audio in video editing

    Audacity is great for cleaning up audio for a podcast or music. But for vocal tracks in video, it’s time-consuming to export your audio tracks, clean them up in Audacity, and re-sync your audio and video again.

    It’s not impossible but it’s not the most efficient way to remove noise, especially if you’ve already cut up your clips in the timeline.

    Camtasia (video editing software) has a noise removal feature built-in which is dead simple. It still works with your room tone but it’s not necessary to select the section on your clip, Camtasia will do that for you.

    The sensitivity slider in Camtasia works the same as in Audacity. The “Amount” slider is equivalent to the Noise Reduction slider in Audacity.
    By removing noise on the timeline you save the trouble of importing and exporting back and forth from an external program like Audacity, and it’s much easier to make changes quickly.

    Next Steps

    There are other programs with similar processes such as Adobe Audition and the very powerful Izotope RX5.

    These programs edge into the professional realm of audio tools and allow you to go much further with audio sweetening if you’re willing to put the time and money in to learn them.

    Just remember while software continues to get better at saving audio, doing everything you can to minimize noise in the initial recording will always be your best bet.

    Free Trial: You can try any of our screen recorders for free. Get everything you need to record on your Windows, Mac, and iOS devices.

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

    Justin Simon

    Web Content Strategist at TechSmith (Content + SEO). I play a lot of golf and watch a lot of football.

    How to Create a Custom Video Intro for YouTube

    Learn how to create a custom video intro for YouTube and any other streaming service using TechSmith Assets and Camtasia.

    It’s difficult to overstate the power of a great video intro sequence. Think about some of the most popular TV shows in history. The Simpsons, Friends, and Game of Thrones, among many others, may come to mind. One thing all three of these shows have in common are iconic intro sequences.

    But a custom video intro is more than just a fun and eye catching way to start a TV show or video. It is a visual and auditory signature that confirms to the audience the content and experience they’re about to see.

    With the power to create a great video now available to everyone, making an eye-catching, custom video intro is something anyone can do.

    Here’s what to consider and how you can create your own custom video intro for YouTube or any other video platform.

    One metric to rule them all (for video intros)

    Before you start creating, there is an important metric to understand that will help you plan a successful intro sequence. This is especially true when it comes to the duration and the content you display. The one metric more important than all the others is engagement (also referred to as “audience retention”).

    Video engagement is a measurement of the average amount of a video each viewer watches, normally expressed as a percentage or in a graph. The goal of your intro is to keep engagement as high as possible. A good intro will have no negative impact on engagement.

    We use the engagement metric at TechSmith to determine if our intros are doing their job. Both the Camtasia and Snagit tutorials have a quick, visual intro sequence that takes just a few seconds.

    The goal is simply to show users they’ve come to the right source for TechSmith tutorials and then move into the content.

    Here’s the intro that we use on every Snagit tutorial video:

    The intro takes about six seconds to play. Now, take a look at the engagement graph of the Snagit tutorial for Combine Images. The blue line shows the average engagement percentage of everyone who has watched the video, while the orange signifies engagement for people that have watched more than once.

    The first few seconds (highlighted in the image) has a very subtle, smooth decline with engagement staying close to 100 percent. This shows that very few viewers are leaving while the intro plays. The intro is doing its job.

    Engagement through the beginning of your video plays a big role in whether viewers will continue to watch. In 2016, Facebook found that 45 percent of users that watched the first three seconds of a video will stick around for another 30 seconds. A good intro makes a big difference.

    Given the three second to thirty second watch phenomenon, a good intro sequence should likely be around three to five seconds long. This should be enough time to display a title, some brand colors or imagery like logos, and show a quick sequence of action. Then, transition into the meat of your video.

    With these parameters in mind, let’s start creating a custom YouTube video intro.

    Plan your intro and collect content

    The first thing to do is determine the goal of the intro, what you wish to convey and whether or not this is a one-off or a series where you plan to use the intro for several videos. The more you plan to use this intro, the more time you can put into it. You’ll also want to make sure to follow some video best practices like using easy to read fonts and keeping things relatively simple.

    When you’re ready to start creating, you have a choice to make. You can create an intro sequence from scratch or use a customizable template.

    An intro made from scratch usually requires some combination of designing graphics, shooting video, animating and editing. This can lead to a great finished product, but it can also be a time consuming and challenging process.

    The second option is to use a customizable video template, which speeds things up and makes following those best practices a little easier.

    TechSmith Assets provides hundreds of thousands of video assets that can be used in Camtasia, including stock video, images, music, lower thirds, outros, and, of course, intros.

    All of the templates have a combination of colors, animations, text, and spaces to include your own logo that can be customized to your liking.

    Download a template that you’d like to customize.

    If you’re ready to work in Camtasia right away, click the “Open in Camtasia” button to send it right to the Library. Check out this tutorial for more on downloading Camtasia assets.

    Customize your template

    For this example, I downloaded a template intro called “Travel” from TechSmith Assets. Here is what the original template looks like.

    If you need easy-to-use video editing software, Camtasia is a great video maker for creating professional videos.

    Best of all, you can try it for free.

    Once you’ve downloaded your intro template, find it in your Camtasia Library or by clicking the download menu and choosing the template file.

    Then, drag the template to the Camtasia timeline and make sure it is selected.

    Go to the Properties panel where the Quick Properties tab is displayed. The Quick Properties let you quickly and easily change the text, colors, and the logo in your intro.

    Here are the default settings for the intro I downloaded:

    Depending on the template you’re using, you will see options to change the text in the template, add your own logo, and select colors. Here is what the quick properties look like for my template after customizing them and adding a new logo.

    Here is what the completed, customized intro now looks like.

    Save your customized intro to the library

    Ideally, a custom intro can be re-used in a number of videos or a series. To make this easy, save it to the Library. Right click it on the Camtasia timeline and choose Add to Library.

    Then choose a name and where you’d like to save it. This way you can access it when working on any project and simply change the text or other settings if necessary.

    Share the intro with teammates

    Many times people work in teams on videos or video series. If that’s the case, you’ll want to export and share the custom content you create. Right click the intro you saved to the Library and choose Export Asset.

    This will let you name and export a .libzip file that can be shared with teammates and colleagues for use in their projects.

    A standard intro is an ideal way to start your videos. It makes the opening easier to edit and adds a level of professionalism that viewers, even if they don’t realize it, appreciate.

    It’s also not hard to create one with the right tools. When you’re ready, head over to TechSmith Assets and download an intro template to start working on your own.

    Guy Larcom

    Guy Larcom is an Instructional Designer with the Marketing Team at TechSmith. Outside of making awesome screencasts and tutorials, he loves golfing and skiing.

    5 Popular Ways to Increase Conversion Rates with Video

    Video is essential. But where to start? Here’s how you can use video to increase conversion rates right now.

    increase conversion rates with video

    I’m going to make a bold statement: You — yes YOU — can start using video to increase conversion rates right now.

    Video is all the rage. It seems that just about every content marketing guru, ninja, expert, or wizard has declared that if you’re not using video in your marketing, you’re not engaging your customers. To be clear, I agree. But beyond engagement, video can actually increase conversion rates by helping customers better understand your products and services, and building trust at important stages throughout the funnel.

    But what types of videos should you create? What types of videos work best at which stages of the marketing funnel? Throughout this post I’ll share some examples of how TechSmith has successfully used videos in several ways to increase conversion rates.

    For this discussion, I’ll reference “the funnel” quite a few times. Just so we’re clear, at TechSmith, we use Eugene Schwartz’s five levels of awareness. These are:

    1. Unaware: The customer is not even aware they have a problem.
    2. Problem aware: The customer is aware of the problem, but doesn’t know how to fix it.
    3. Solution aware: The customer understands there is a solution, but doesn’t know how to do it.
    4. Product aware: The customer knows the product or products available to solve the problem, but hasn’t yet chosen one.
    5. Most aware: The customer has purchased the product.

    Each stage of the funnel requires a different type of communication or marketing content. In other words, you don’t want to target a customer with content about a solution before they become fully aware of the problem. Instead, meet them with content that is relevant to their point in the funnel.

    The attention problem

    Fact: We are inundated with information. While the internet has brought with it benefits that seemed unimaginable just a few decades ago, it also brought a serious case of information overload.

    In the workplace alone, it can feel overwhelming. Each day 128.8 billion business emails are sent. A recent study estimates that we spend one-third of our time at work just reading emails.

    And in our personal lives it gets even worse with the 24-hour news cycle, social media, smart phones, infotainment systems in cars … well, you get the picture.

    All that adds up to a major challenge for marketers: A constant battle for consumers’ attention.

    Why Video?

    A lot of people will tell you that video is the future.

    I disagree.

    Video is right now.

    More people than ever have access to broadband internet connections and they are watching videos at an astounding rate. On YouTube alone, people watch a billion hours of video every day. That’s the equivalent of more than 114,000 years of video EVERY SINGLE DAY.

    And with 5G wireless connections about to stomp the gas pedal on streaming and data transfer speeds video will become even more important.

    But it’s not just about what people are doing, it’s about what they react to best. And if we’re talking about grabbing and keeping attention, video is the best way to do it.

    Need more convincing? Here are seven statistics to help you see the light:

    1. A recent study by TechSmith found that 48% of people find video the most engaging form of communication (vs. just 15% who favor plain text).
    2. By 2021, video traffic will be 82% of all internet traffic.
    3. 96% of consumers watch explainer videos to learn more about products and services.
    4. 94% of businesses say that explainer videos have helped increase user understanding of their products.
    5. 87% of consumers want to see more videos from brands in 2019.
    6. Including a video on a landing page can increase conversion by 80%.
    7. 79% of consumers say a brand’s video convinced them to buy an app or piece of software.

    So how can YOU use video to improve your conversion rates?

    1. Digital Ads

    If you’re in marketing, you likely already do some digital advertising. It’s a great way to present targeted messaging across several phases of the funnel.

    Want to let someone know there’s a better way to do something? Give the unaware customers a look at a problem they didn’t even know they had.

    Want to remind someone who’s already been looking at solutions to a problem? Target them with an ad highlighting features that set your product apart!

    But, what if there was a way to make digital ads even more effective?

    Video to the rescue!

    According to Facebook, ads with video have an average click-through rate (CTR) of 1.84%, the highest CTR of all digital ad formats. They also tend to grab attention more effectively than static images. When you consider that mobile customers spend an average of just 1.7 seconds with a piece of content, grabbing and keeping their attention becomes downright essential.

    In this video, we highlight a key feature of Camtasia, reminding those who are already aware of Camtasia that device frames offer a great way to showcase their software or app.

    2. Recorded webinars and demos

    According to insidesales.com, 73% of marketing and sales leaders say webinars are one of the best ways to generate quality leads. Why?

    They’re highly engaging. According to GoToWebinar, the average time an attendee spends viewing a webinar attendee is 61 minutes. If we’re all constantly competing for attention, then having a customer’s attention for over an hour is absolute gold.

    Webinars work across the entire customer journey. From discussion panels to product demos, webinars are a dynamic and effective way to engage your customers.

    Webinars generate high-quality leads. They come with a ton of information about your prospects. Information that you can use to identify who is ready to buy or who may need some more help to get to the point of purchase. With each webinar registrant, you can collect lead and engagement data your sales team can use to initiate personalized outreach.

    If you choose to conduct a webinar, make sure to record it. Then you can offer it as gated content and collect leads. This extends the life of the content and gives customers who were unable to attend a chance to come back and learn more about you and your products.

    3. Landing pages

    Landing pages are typically best for those in the product aware phase of the funnel, but can also be used for things like webinar sign-ups, ebook or white paper downloads and more.

    We did a really cool test of using video on a landing page highlighting Snagit’s features and came up with some pretty amazing results.

    The image above is our original landing page. It was static, listing each feature with a graphic representation. The landing page performed well, but we were curious about what would happen if we added video.

    This video shows the landing page with video added. The video highlights the Favorites feature, which allows customers to add tools they use frequently to the Favorites palette.

    Overall, the variant with video saw a 12% increase in conversions and an 8% increase in revenue.

    People like to see a product in action, and adding video allows you to show them in the best, most engaging way!

    4. Product pages

    Much like landing pages, your website’s product pages offer a great opportunity to showcase your product’s best features. But with video, you can show even more!

    After our success with adding video to landing pages, we wanted to see if we could duplicate that success with our product pages.

    Our original Snagit product page included a static image with a “Buy Now” call to action. We did an A-B test with that original banner image vs. a page with an animated gif.

    And yes, an animated gif does count as a video. While there’s no sound, an animated gif incorporates motion, highlights key features, and shows off your user interface in an engaging way.

    Once again, we were pleased with the results. The product page with the animated gif outperformed the static image page by a large margin. We saw a 6% increase in conversion, a 12% increase in revenue, and a 5% increase in free trial downloads!

    5. Post-purchase onboarding

    Once a customer has purchased, you obviously want to keep them coming back. This is the time when you can help customers feel more connected to your brand. Once again, video can be an essential part of nurturing that relationship by onboarding them in an efficient and delightful way.

    We use short tutorial videos to help our customers understand the ins and outs of Camtasia. We cover key features to help customers work through making their first videos one topic at a time. This lets them master key features without having to watch a super-long video that tries to cover everything.

    While we knew our tutorial videos were successful, we wondered if we could create a better way to deliver them. So we ran a layout test of our Camtasia trial email series, which helps onboard new trial users to the product. The series links to tutorial videos and other resources on our website.

    Content in the control and test layouts was the same, but the test version put imagery at the top in a prominent position. It was usually a video thumbnail with a play button linking to the online tutorial video.

    At the same time, we also ran a subject line test, so the results were affected by that, as well.

    Overall, the test version had a 13% higher number of transactions per opened email, even though it had a 13% lower click-to-open rate (influenced by the by the subject line test). This indicates that those who took action and clicked through in the test emails were more likely to complete a purchase.

    BONUS: Customer testimonials

    Customer testimonials offer another great way to engage customers with video. They showcase a real customer to whom they can relate, present a specific problem that your product can solve better than anyone else, back up promises with evidence, and demonstrate key benefits in action.

    This is a quick customer testimonial we did with Integrity Data, one of our Camtasia customers. It’s short and to-the-point, highlighting quickly how they use Camtasia to provide more value to their customers.

    Try it for yourself!

    Now that I’ve shared a few ways you can use video to increase conversions, it’s your turn! While some types of videos may require a more professional touch, there are a number of ways you can start creating videos right now. Even a quick interview with one of your customers on your smartphone or a screen recording of your software product in action can help move the needle toward a purchase.

    Download a trial of Camtasia and see for yourself how easy it can be!

    Ryan Knott

    TechSmith Public Engagement Specialist. Geek. Science Enthusiast. Hufflepuff. Retired roller derby coach. On a mission to pet all the dogs. A few things about me ... 1. Mildly obsessed with the movie Alien, 2. Two pibbles: Biggie and Reo, 3. Friend of ducks everywhere.

    5 Reasons to Blur Images at Work (When in Doubt, Blur it Out)

    You want to share something, but there are things you’d rather not (or can’t let) people see. So what do you do?

    You want to share something, but there are things you’d rather not (or can’t let) people see. So what do you do?

    Wait, don’t share that yet!

    Sometimes there is sensitive information you don’t want to show others, yet you need them to see the rest of the document. Or, there’s something distracting you’d rather minimize, so they can focus on the important stuff.

    You could remove info within your original document by restricting permissions or versions – but beware. There can be ways to get around this type of security, exposing what you want to hide. There’s a better way (and it’s simpler, too!).

    The advantage of screenshots

    Instead of sharing the original file, take a screenshot. This flattens the info to a static image file, completely stripping out all underlying data and removing any chance that something could be uncovered later.

    You can even grab your screen when it scrolls up, down, or sideways, to capture everything at once.

    Chop, crop, redact, or blur?

    Now that you have your screenshot, how do you block out stuff you don’t want people to see? You could redact it with a black rectangle.

    But that’s kind of ugly and pulls attention away from your actual content. You could visually cut or crop out the parts you don’t want, but that can look choppy and make it hard for people to understand the context of what you’re trying to share.

    Consider your audience

    For some categories of information, redaction is your safest choice – black boxes on top of a screenshot completely obliterate what’s underneath. However, there are many occasions where information isn’t restricted per se, but it’s extraneous for your reader, so you’d rather remove it.

    Blur is preferred

    When the information isn’t classified, but simply unwanted by preference, blurring is great. Instead of covering up the offending content, you can blur it out, so you don’t ruin the aesthetic of the image.

    It de-emphasizes the unnecessary information yet doesn’t completely obscure it – people can tell that there used to be something there and can see how it fits into the larger picture.

    You can increase the level of blur, based on who you’ll be sharing it with. Better to over-blur than not blur enough. Start with 8% blur intensity for mild fuzziness, 25% for a stronger mask, or go with 50%+ to make sure it’s indistinguishable to the human eye.
    blur_percentage

    1. Before you hit ‘send’…

    Blurring comes in handy when you’re sending documents, memos, purchase orders, or any information internally that contains client contact info you’d rather keep private.

    Mailing addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, and similar, can all be easily hidden with a quick blur, leaving the rest of the document intact.
    sales-order

    2. Spreadsheets, reports, and other sensitive numbers

    Sometimes you need to share financial trends, but don’t want the actual numbers getting ‘out there’ for everyone to see. Blur out the sensitive parts, and leave the rest, so you can show important data without giving away the details.
    spreadsheet

    3. Login details, domain names, and more

    You want to show coworkers (or trusted clients) how to login to the system, but you don’t want them to see your username or password length. Blurring lets you share a screenshot that shows them all they need to know (without giving away info about your own account).

    Use blurring when creating screenshots for IT help desk, manuals, common workflows, how-to docs, and more.
    loginboth

    4. Extra things that get in the way

    When you’re making training tutorials, sometimes there are a lot of things on the screen. You want to focus viewers’ attention on a particular button, or action, so they know what to click on, or the right way to do something.

    You can easily blur out the nonessential things, so they can focus on the workflow they need for that task, and so you can better tell your story.
    buttons

    5. Patient information and other protected data

    When it comes to certain types of data, it’s best to take a cautious approach and hide anything that must be protected, particularly in healthcare (protected health information, PHI), human resources (employee confidentiality), or any type of personal identifying information (PII).

    Some protocol requires old-school redaction with black rectangles. However, many times blur will do the trick (especially if you use 50%+ blur intensity) when you’re sharing information internally with colleagues, for training, or with those who already have access but who don’t necessarily need to see all the data.
    patient_redact

    Bonus! Faces, objects, and visual noise

    Blurring works with photos, too! Hide anything you don’t want people to see (or would rather they don’t see), such as background faces, house numbers, or anything you want to obscure from your image.
    photo_blur
    There are endless ways that blurring makes communication easier.

    It helps beyond digital files, too – after blurring your screenshot, you can print it out and share with colleagues.

    How do you use blur? Do it you use it the most for work, or at home?

    Ready to get your blur on? With Snagit, you can take screenshots and then blur out whatever you don’t want, in just a few clicks. View the tutorial.

    Don’t have Snagit yet? Try it for free today.

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

    This Is What Marvel Can Teach You About Making Better Videos

    Five things Marvel does well that any video creator can.

    Marvel Comic Books

    Almost two years ago, in August of 2017, the filming of Avengers: Endgame began. Two years later, the film released on April 26, 2019 and achieved the highest opening weekend sales for a movie ever.

    Even more amazing is that the film it beat for the number one spot was its own predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War. And — get this — Infinity War started filming at nearly the same time.

    Two of the biggest movies ever, filmed within essentially the same two years, and then released one year apart.

    The master class in creating a great video, nurturing excitement, and getting great results doesn’t end there. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) started way back in 2008, three years before HBO’s mega-hit show Game of Thrones released its first episode. Over a decade later and the MCU is as relevant as anything in popular culture.

    So, how’d they do it?

    Well, huge budgets certainly help, as do the best video production and editing skill on the planet, and a slew of the biggest names in Hollywood playing the superheroes. But budgets, gear, and star power don’t guarantee success.

    The creators of the Marvel movies followed some key principles that any video creator can follow.

    Much of what I discuss below can be found in even greater detail in two ebooks that we offer in the TechSmith Academy, our free resource on learning to create videos.

    Here are some great tips you can learn from Marvel to get you started making better videos:

    Know your audience

    The creators of the MCU knew something critical—people don’t just love freakishly powerful, smart, and clever characters. Those are exciting things, but what really gets people invested in the stories in the MCU? What is it that pulls them back to the theater for every installment, parting with their hard earned cash to see these movies?

    The MCU succeeded so thoroughly because they knew what their audience cared about. They figured out that it’s not simply the comic book heroes powers that people love, it’s their human qualities and challenges. The MCU was constructed on this foundational insight.

    Study your target audience, whether it’s your customers, users of a product, or another common community of interest, and discover what they really care about. It’s often not just the process or outcome you’re explaining but helping them toward a greater goal.

    If you can connect the content of your video to an audience’s core interest, you’ll succeed in doing what the MCU has done by weaving core themes into the stories told.

    Create similar types of content or topics

    “Coliseum Altamonte” by ColiseumOnline is licensed under CC BY 2.0  

    This is both a way to make creating your content more efficient and keep your audience engaged.

    The MCU is a rich world of interconnecting plot lines, character dramas, conflicts, and villains. Each movie stands as its own piece while managing to acknowledge (and often enhance) the others. Viewers follow this line and the consistency of the format brings them back. They know what to expect, the kind of experience they’re in for when they head to the movies, and they like it.

    To do this with your videos, first, find what it is that you or company does best. This is likely a set of topics on which you can be considered an expert. The MCU creators are pros at translating comic book stories and heroes to the big screen. You are likely an expert in the problems that your company’s solution solves or the service it provides.

    Once you know what topic(s) you’re expert in, go deep. Plumb the depths of them to discover all the details and minutiae that will help your audience. From this, you can derive a list of consistent topics for videos. Compiled together the list will represent a complete set of knowledge.

    Also, consider your format. There are a few formats that perform especially well. Additionally, by choosing one to two formats to consistently use, it will be easier to create each video. Some of the most popular formats online include:

    Create reusable pieces and create in bunches

    I can’t speak to how many reusable pieces of content the MCU editors employed, but they sure did create in bunches. Over the last decade plus they have released 22 movies, or about two each year. This pace would force them to be creating different movies in parallel with one another.

    The MCU hired different writers, directors, and other staff members for many of their movies. This let them work simultaneously. If you have a team, this is a good way to help with the creation of scripts and other materials for your videos. Of course, a team isn’t always an available resource. That just means reusable pieces will become even more important.

    You can start by creating a script template. We use one for all our product tutorials, and it makes us much more efficient. A template provides a good starting point for each script and helps to focus the writer by giving them a few guidelines with which they can attack the dreaded “blank page.”

    A good template typically contains prompts for key building blocks of any video including a title, a space for visuals or storyboard elements, and some information on the videos goals or main points.

    Reusable content also helps in video editing. Not only will having intro and outro templates make the process go faster, but viewers will also appreciate the consistent look and feel.

    Create your own intros, outros, lower thirds, and on-screen graphics, or use TechSmith Assets, which contains hundreds of thousands of video templates and resources that you can customize to your desired look and style.

    Follow a consistent release cadence and interact

    Marvel absolutely crushes this point by releasing at least two movies a year for the last decade plus. Any more than that and they risked oversaturating the market, while fewer might have let people move on to other sources of entertainment. The stories brought people in and left them desperate for each next installment. Then their consistent release cadence fed the demand.

    You can do the same, albeit at a quicker pace and a bit smaller scale. Choose a logical pace for the amount of content you have and your viewers’ attention spans. Start with monthly or biweekly and see how your viewers engage. Whatever you decide on, make it public and stick to it.

    On top of consistently releasing new content, you should also make a point to interact with your viewers. Respond to comments, ask questions, and encourage others to comment, like, and subscribe.

    If you listen to podcasts or make YouTube videos, you are familiar with this practice.

    Tell relatable, human stories

    “Spiderman” by PetLvr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

    The MCU is flushed with great stories and it does a beautiful job of telling them. At the core of each of those stories are a number of timeless and deeply human themes. Friendship, success, tradition vs. change, sacrifice, responsibility and corruption, choices and consequences, finding oneself, and many more are all explored in the MCU stories.

    The MCU takes these themes and uses them to motivate everything that their characters do. They don’t simply want to save the world, they want to return to a long lost love, see their family again, live up to the expectations of a parent. Beyond any special effects and cinematography, this is what keeps fans coming back.

    I’m not saying your videos need to take on lofty themes and explore their most challenging questions. But remember that the best videos will contain an authentic story that viewers understand and experience themselves.

    If you studied your audience well and are in touch with the problems they face or the reasons they purchase your product or service, then you can take that information and embed it in a story they understand.

    We can all be (a little) like Marvel

    “Spider-Man” by beingmyself is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

    The Marvel MCU is a feat of great video making at the grandest scale.

    It takes hundreds of millions of dollars to create each movie. While that money helps them gain access to a global platform and audience, it’s not what keeps the fans demanding more.

    That is achieved by the creators’ understanding of their audience, creation of similar and connected content, a consistent cadence of new content, and, finally, great storytelling that placed real, human experience at the center.

    These are pillars of video creation we can all achieve.

    Header Image Credit: “Exposition Jack Kirby Angoulême” by ActuaLitté is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

    Guy Larcom

    Guy Larcom is an Instructional Designer with the Marketing Team at TechSmith. Outside of making awesome screencasts and tutorials, he loves golfing and skiing.

    How to Add Music to a Video (Step-By-Step Guide)

    Where do you find music? And how exactly do you add music to a video?

    headphones against aqua background

    By now you know that video is essential to communicating with your customers.

    Humans are hardwired to process visual content, but adding great visuals to a video is just half the battle.

    A truly engaging video often includes background music, as well. The good news is that adding music to videos is pretty simple.

    But where do you find music? And when you find it, how exactly do you add music to a video? Read more to learn how to add music to a video.

    The right stuff

    First things first.

    There’s a difference between adding music and adding the right music. Before you choose your music, think about what type of video you’re creating. For a video showing software or product features, you’ll probably want something upbeat and positive.

    You want your viewers to feel good when they’re seeing your product. Other types of videos may need something more somber. Who can forget the various animal rescue commercials that are all over our TVs?

    They pair sad, slow music with photos of sad-looking animals to compound the experience and — they hope — make us more likely to open our wallets to donate.

    Not convinced yet? Trying imagining one of those rad videos of skateboarders thrashing out in a skate park with pan flute music instead of grungy guitars.

    The right music enhances the experience for your viewers, while the wrong music can send the wrong message entirely. Check out this (admittedly) humorous video for an example of how music can change the feeling of your video.

    Now here’s that same scene with different music. Notice anything different?

    Where to find music

    How can finding music be a challenge? I mean, music is everywhere, right? I have 70 GB of music on my iPhone right now. I’ll just use some of that music.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? Unfortunately, most of the music you own is effectively off limits. That music is copyrighted and, if you use it, you’ll owe the copyright owner money (called “royalties”) for every time someone views your video.

    Ever wonder why your local Applebee’s can’t just sing “Happy Birthday To You” when it’s your birthday? Same reason. Someone actually owns the rights to that song and Applebee’s would have to pay royalties every time it was sung in their restaurants.

    So where do you find the music you can use? Well, unless you want to compose your own music, the easiest answer lies in royalty-free music. There are a number of ways to find royalty-free music, but your best bet starts with a simple Google search.

    Some royalty-free music is truly free. There are a number of sites that offer music you can simply download and use as you wish (though often for non-commercial purposes, so be sure to read the user agreement).

    Free music sites will also likely have a limited selection so you may have trouble finding exactly what you’re looking for, or the music may not be as good as you prefer. That said, I have used free music on a number of occasions and been pleased with the result.

    For most commercial purposes, such as product overviews, customer stories, etc., though, your best bet is a premium royalty-free music site. While the music won’t be free, it’s typically inexpensive, and you’ll have a wider range of high-quality music to choose from.

    Premium Beat is a popular choice (and one I’ve used myself), but there are many other premium royalty-free music sites out there, as well.

    Pro tip: If good music is a priority, make sure to build this cost into your video budget so you can build a music library to have on hand.

    So you have your music, how do you add it to your video?

    Now that you know what music you want to add, how do you do it? Luckily, most video editing software makes it easy. In fact, it’ll probably take you way more time to choose the music you want to use than it will to actually add it to your video.

    I use Camtasia for Mac to create and edit videos, but most video editors will use a relatively similar process.

    Step 1: Open your video

    This may seem like a no-brainer, but I wanted to be thorough. In your preferred video editor, open the video project to which you want to add music.

    Step 2: Import your media

    In Camtasia, there are several ways to import video and audio files into your Media Bin. You can select Media from the menu, right-click in the bin, and select Import Media from the menu.

    Or, you can choose File > Import > Media from the menu.

    If you’re into shortcuts and hotkeys, you can choose CMD+I.

    No matter which method you choose, navigate to the file you want to import, select it, and choose Import.

    Step 3: Add your media to the timeline

    Once you’ve imported your file, find it in the media bin, click on it, then drag and drop it to the timeline. You can add it to a new track or add it to an existing track depending on your needs. I typically add things to new tracks by default so they’re easier to find later.

    If no empty track is available, Camtasia automatically creates a new track if you drag your file to the open area above the timeline.

    Step 4: Adjust the audio to fit your needs

    Here’s where you’ll need to make some decisions (if you haven’t made them already). Do you want your music to run through your whole video? Is it just for the intro or the outro?

    For this example, let’s assume that we want to have the audio run throughout the entire video. Since there will be narration, we’ll want to make sure the music isn’t so loud that it makes the narration difficult to hear or understand.

    When you select the audio track in the timeline, a line with shading will appear. To adjust the volume, you can click on the line and drag it up or down to the desired level. The waveform in the track grows and shrinks as you adjust the volume up and down, letting you know that the volume has been adjusted.

    In the Audio Effects menu, there are additional options for adjusting audio. For example, adding a Fade Out at the end of your video clip can help avoid a potentially jarring abrupt ending.

    Now that you know how to add music to a video, try playing around with it the next time you create a video. These were just a few basic steps to get you started, but there are a lot of other ways to edit audio to fit your needs.

    Look for more on audio in future blog posts, or check out these great blog posts for more information!

    Editing Videos — How to Sync Audio and Video Sources

    How to Edit Video — Normalize Audio Clips & Volume

    It’s Not Too Late! How to Reduce Audio Noise in Your Recordings (For Free)

    Audio Best Practices

    P.S. The techniques above work for adding any type of audio to a video, not just music tracks. Whether you’re adding narration, sound effects, interviews, or other types of audio. Camtasia makes it easy to add audio to a video.

    P.P.S. Remember that not everyone who consumes your video content can hear it. People who are deaf or hard of hearing — or who may choose to watch your video without sound — also need a way to consume the content without relying on audio.

    So, be sure to include captions with all your videos. And, if you include a music file, the captions should note that, as well.

    Ryan Knott

    TechSmith Public Engagement Specialist. Geek. Science Enthusiast. Hufflepuff. Retired roller derby coach. On a mission to pet all the dogs. A few things about me ... 1. Mildly obsessed with the movie Alien, 2. Two pibbles: Biggie and Reo, 3. Friend of ducks everywhere.

    10 Video Marketing Tips That Will Make You Feel Like an Expert

    Seasoned, self-made video pros share their tips for making marketing videos.

    video-marketing-tips-hero

    Perhaps you’re new to making videos or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran.

    Either way, it can be insightful to hear what experienced creators have learned by making video content on a regular cadence and measuring the results.

    We worked with Jay Baer, founder of digital marketing consultancy Convince and Convert and New York Times best-selling author of six books, to bring together a group of expert video creators for a conversational webinar about their top video tips.

    video-marketing-tips-experts-header

    Get expert video marketing tips from:

    Amy Landino, co-founder of video marketing agency Aftermarq, best-selling author of Vlog Like a Boss, Keynote speaker, and creator behind YouTube channel AmyTV.

    Sunny Lenarduzzi, founder of YouTube for bosses, video branding expert, keynote speaker, and creator of two YouTube videos per week on her YouTube channel.

    Madalyn Sklar, a live video strategist, host of #TwitterSmarter and #SocialROI Twitter chats, keynote speaker, and creator of Video Like a Rockstar program.

    Watch the entire webinar

    Below, we’ve put together the highlights of what these video experts had to say. You can also feel free to watch the full hour-long webinar for a few additional tips.

    Now let’s dive in!

    1. It’s okay to be uncertain

    It’s normal to be nervous and uncertain! This is especially common when you’re new to video. You’ll get better with practice, and it will continue to get easier with each video that you create.

    Madalyn shared, “…many people tell me they don’t know how to get started, and so they don’t realize it’s as simple as pressing a button on your phone. It is easy to get started, but sometimes we need to just know how.”

    Sunny added, “The value you’re providing is so much more important, versus the level of editing tricks and fancy pants graphics and all that kind of stuff. It really comes down to how much are you able to help your audience. Take yourself out of the equation and don’t worry so much about what you look like or sound like. Instead, worry about how much you can help the people who are going to watch this video.’”

    2. Plan your video in advance (even live videos)

    Planning your video can help keep you on track, ensuring you don’t forget anything important, and that you don’t stray too far from your topic. Depending on the video, it might make sense to write a script, though your plan doesn’t need to be formal–even preparing bullet points can help to keep you on track.

    According to Amy, “I think this is a lot of where confidence ends up coming from, is really just understanding that you’re going to be able to communicate better when you plan what you’re doing and you know what you’re talking about. Make sure you’re in tune with the audience and delivering on the content that they want.”

    3. Your phone can be your camera

    When it comes to filming video content, it’s a common misconception that you need a high-end, expensive camera. If you already have one and know how to use it, great. If not, though, a smartphone will work!

    Madalyn shared, “My dad called me the other day and he goes, ‘What’s a good digital camera that I should get?’ I said, ‘Your phone,’ and we just had a little bit of a laugh because I think sometimes people forget how powerful our phones can really be…the iPhone X has the ability to shoot 4K at 60 frames per second. That’s mind-blowing!”

    Don’t get hung up on getting the best gear. Starting is far more important than having the most powerful equipment.

    4. Lighting is key

    Proper video lighting can make a huge difference when it comes to making a polished video.

    Sunny shared her thoughts about lighting– “…it’s everything. When I was first starting and even now, I love shooting in natural light, and I truly believe that natural light is one of the best lighting sources…one of the keys to video is that you become relatable and that people feel like they know you and they’re inviting you into their phones, their computers, their commutes, their family time. You’re a part of their life, and so they want to see you, look you in the eyes, and really get to know you, and lighting is a big key of that relatability.”

    Jay added, “I’ve got some studio lighting here in my office because I do videos all the time, and I have two nice semi-professional lights…I think it was like $75 or something.”

    The takeaway, here, being that lighting doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.

    5. Sound is massively underrated

    Your video’s audio is something that is easy to overlook. But it’s something you should be thinking about!

    Amy shared her opinion about this– “…as a beginner, sound is one of the last things you’re probably thinking about when you’re thinking video. But, in all actuality, it’s such a major component of the immersive experience that video can offer! So it’s really important to be thinking about this and making sure that it is aligned with the experience you want people to have with that video.”

    If you are going to invest in one piece of gear to start, make sure to get a good microphone for recording videos.

    6. Use a consistent background

    What you choose to use as a backdrop for your video may vary depending on your goal and your industry, among other factors. But especially when you’re creating a video series, you want to have consistency. This aids with brand recognition.

    Amy offered tips regarding consistency: “Think about how you can articulate your brand. So for instance, I tend to lean toward a lot of light pink and gold. That’s all on my bookshelf behind me, so that helps me continue to drive my brand through in something very simple like home furniture… how do you just make sure that you can either be wearing the logo, maybe it’s behind you, maybe it’s your brick and mortar shop…it really just depends on what your brand is and how you’re going to be presenting that video every time.”

    Sunny weighed in on this topic, too: “What I’ve found on YouTube particularly is people want to relate…it’s really important to have pieces of your backdrop that really represent your brand, who you are, and how you want people to feel about you.”

    7. Stop random acts of video

    Strategically planning your content, vs. creating a one-off on a whim, will help you make more of an impact. Plus, it’s a great way to build and keep an audience.

    Jay shared, “creating something consistent with a consistent cadence and a consistent type and a consistent circumstance gives your audience something to look forward to and something to know you from. It just becomes much more familiar.”

    He went on to liken regular video publishing, such as a weekly show, to writing blog content: “Say you want to start a blog–great. Write down 50 headlines. If you don’t have 50 headlines, you don’t actually have a blog. You just have a desire to have a blog, which is not exactly the same thing.”

    8. Have a consistent editing style

    The eighth tip, again, reinforces this idea of consistency–this time, with regard to editing.

    Sunny provided her tips for consistent editing; “We have a script formula–I call it the hot script formula–to make sure that we are efficient and consistent with each video that we create. It makes my editor’s job a lot easier.

    The idea of the hot script formula is having a hook, outcome, and testimonial in the first minute of your video so people know exactly what they’re getting into. Next, you have your bullet points that you speak through to get your point across and create value for the video. Then at the end, you obviously have your call to action. So we follow the same scripting formula for each video and that allows us to have consistent editing.”

    9. Vary videos by channel

    You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s typically not a good idea to use the exact same content across all social media channels.

    Amy provided some insight about this: “Specifically if a video on YouTube is designed for YouTube, it may not work as well on Facebook. That doesn’t mean you have to make a brand new video every single time, but it does need to be customized for that experience. So let’s say you are going to upload an entire video to YouTube–maybe a 30-60 second clip of the video could be what you upload directly to Facebook to kind of tease that content and move people over. This allows you to point people to the space where you want them to be in the immersive experience.”

    Make sure to create content tailored for each specific social platform.

    If you upload your video to Facebook, or you want to make a YouTube video, be strategic. You may also want to use that to move drive traffic from your target audience over to a blog post or landing page where they can learn more about your product or service.

    Be mindful of where content will live and create around that.

    10. Shorter is usually better

    People have limited time and attention. So while there isn’t a “magic length”, as a general rule–the shorter, the better.

    Sunny provided some advice about video length, “One of my favorite words is efficiency. People don’t have big attention spans in this day and age and we’re just getting fed so many messages. So my biggest thing is efficiency and relevancy…if you’re creating video content as a business, you really need to remember that people might not know you. They might not have any loyalty to you, and so you want to be as efficient as possible with your content.”

    Time to Apply the Tips!

    Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired after reviewing these tips, and are now ready to get started planning your next video!

    If you want to learn even more about creating video content, download our free ebook, The Marketer’s Ultimate Guide to Video, also featuring Jay Baer, Amy Landino, Sunny Lenarduzzi, and Madalyn Sklar, for a more comprehensive look into the video creation process.

    If you are ready to try out what you’ve learned but need a tool, we’d recommend Camtasia, TechSmith’s screen-recording and video editing solution, which is perfect for beginners. We even offer instructional tutorials to help you get started.

    Allison Boatman

    Allison Boatman is a member of the Marketing Team at TechSmith.
    Follow her on Twitter @allisonboats

  • She can often be found aimlessly wandering around local craft stores.
  • Personal motto: "Work hard, stay humble."
  • Favorites: Alaskan Malamutes, Iceland, and 90's pop culture.