How to Make Video: Before You Start Your First Video

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Getting Started With Your First Video

Your first video might be one of the toughest videos you ever make. The first time making anything can be tough. With video, you know others are going watch it, probably scrutinize it, and they won’t even know if it’s your first or fiftieth. You also don’t know what you don’t know about the process and have yet to build a body of knowledge to help you estimate time or to know what problems you might encounter. Challenges abound, but none of them are so large that you can’t overcome them. We’ve been there, made a lot of mistakes, and learned success strategies that we want to share with you. The guide below will get you off to a great start.

Start. Pick a Project and Begin

Before we get to some ideas to help you get going, let’s get something out of the way. This first video, I’m sure it’s going to be something you love and slave over. You will pour a lot of effort into making something you’re happy delivering to your viewers. It will be awesome.

Until that is, you look back on your project after having created a few videos, and you’ve grown your skills. You’ll quickly realize how far your skills and abilities have come. If this is your first video, first videos are difficult. It’s okay to learn. It’s okay to make something that won’t be perfect. It’s okay to just start. At the end of the day, once your first video is complete, you can move on to the second video and make something even better.
Even though you don’t have to have a masterpiece, there are steps you can take to make your video a success. Starting is step one, and nothing else but getting going will get you around it.

Learning Objects vs. Outcomes: Narrow the Focus

I was recently in a conference workshop with Shannon Tipton (Learning Rebels), and she made a bold statement, which was to the effect: Throw out the learning objective and focus on what you want the learner to actually do. She was talking about microlearning, but I think the same applies to making a good video.

If you’re an instructional designer, who like me, spent time in graduate school learning about instructional theories, and how to write learning objectives from Robert Mager’s work, maybe a little part of you cries “NOOOOOOOOO!” But here’s the thing–we’re not jumping off the cliffs of insanity here. It’s about focusing on the end outcome.You should be able to say “Yes” or “No” when evaluating if your outcome was accomplished.
And as you’re thinking about what you want your learner to do, narrow it down to one idea, one topic, one point of focus. By narrowing your scope, your video will be more focused, and easier to create. Your learners also benefit. They will receive clearer instruction with a more achievable outcome. They will also not have to wade through (hopefully) an hour of content when your video is the obstacle between your learner knowing what to do and being able to do it.

Know the End Before You Begin

If you’ve taken the last bit of advice, you know what you’re trying to achieve. Awesome! Knowing the end relates to the outcomes you’ve just established, but really means you need to know some critical information:

Where is the video going to end up? Knowing where the video’s final destination is important and will help you make a ton of other decisions. You should definitely make these decisions before you start creating your video.
Are you putting the video on a public channel? If you are going public, make sure you think through the context that individuals may find your video. You may want to add extra elements that identify the product, company, or organization. It’s a small detail, but you don’t want viewers to have to guess whether the video is associated with your or not.
Is it going to be accessed through a Learning Management System (LMS)? If you’re using an LMS, you’ll want to know what video formats your LMS supports. Are there other restrictions like file upload size? Even if you can get the video into the LMS will the end users be able to see it? Do they have speakers or headphones so they can hear the audio?
If in an LMS, do you want to use SCORM or xAPI for tracking purposes? Not every learning video will require the same amount of tracking, but if you do want to use SCORM or xAPI, it helps to work out what you want to know and what requirements you’ll need for your video and LMS. Knowing this before you start making or planning your video can help guide the creation to make sure you’re not shoehorning elements into your video at the end.
What size will fit perfectly in your video’s destination? What resolution should you create your video at? Size is an essential part of making a video, and as a best practice, you should edit your video at the size you want to produce it at. So for instance, if your video needs to be 1280 x 720, you should edit your video at 1280 x 720. For recording, you have more flexibility. However, recordings should be proportional, and larger or the same size as the final video output. Again, considering a 1280 x 720 output, you could record at 1280 x 720, or record at a size like 1920 x 1080. Both sizes have an aspect ratio (the ratio of the width to the height of an image or screen) of 16:9.
Are there accessibility needs for your viewers? Do you have Deaf or hard of hearing learners that need captions to access the content? You should write a script that will act as your captions for your video or if you don’t have a script, consider having your video transcribed. This can help viewers who rely on accessibility features. It also provides viewers who don’t have a way to listen to the audio a means to still get the information in the video. If you are posting your video to a site like YouTube, captions can also play into how easily your video can be found by searching.
Learn more about captions.
Is the video part of a series? If so, do you want to link the viewer to another video or other content? Some sites and video players will allow you to link directly to other videos or web pages from within the video. Linking provides easy access for your viewers to related content. Or if your viewer has multiple tasks to accomplish, this can help the user to find the next video or information in the series.


It just so happens that this blog post is part 1 in a 2 part series. Part 2 will talk about scripting, storyboarding, reviews, and gathering before you go shoot.