Tips and Tools We Use to Make Our Tutorial Videos | Jason Valade and Ryan Eash

What does it take to make your tutorial videos shine?

Jason Valade and Ryan Eash are both Instructional Designers at TechSmith with several years of experience in creating high-value instructional videos.

Jason is also an ATD Master Trainer and has a background as a classroom teacher. He loves teaching and training people on all things TechSmith-related. Ryan works on the customer education team creating video tutorials and course materials to help customers learn how to utilize TechSmith tools.

This world-class Instructional Designer duo has plenty of tips, tactics, and advice to share, so hit play on the video or podcast player, or keep reading to learn more.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

How do you decide what type of video to make?

One of the first hurdles to overcome is deciding what type of video you need to create. Will it be a short screen recording? A polished video? Or will screenshots suffice?

Of course, there’s no single right answer, and this is something the customer education team at TechSmith always struggles with, according to Jason.

TechSmith videos fall into many different categories, from highly polished videos for the masses to smaller ones covering tiny topics, webinars, and more.

“Deciding what method and what style of video to make, that’s a constant challenge that we actually meet on and discuss on a pretty regular basis.”

One of Ryan’s first steps is to look at what TechSmith tutorials already cover the subject. He can then decide whether something new needs to be created or simply altered.

Another thing that often determines the outcome is the time available. Jason says that this can greatly determine the outcome and style of a video.

“I would say, ultimately, it comes down to timing. When are these things needed? And when are people going to find it most helpful?”

Staying focused and making decisions

With so many different decisions, big and small, to make about a tutorial video, it can quickly get overwhelming.

A quote they both like to use is: “don’t let perfection be the enemy of done.” Jason emphasizes that you don’t have to try and do everything right away. There’s a lot of value to splitting up a big complex task into manageable chunks.

His advice is to just work on one thing at a time and focus on your strengths.

“I tend to focus on the audio, on the voiceover. I’m not a great writer. So I script what I think, pass it around the team, and let everybody give feedback. I take which parts I want to take or which parts I want to leave out. And then I record the voiceover. When the voiceover is done, I feel like a million bucks because that is such a huge component of the video. The rest just kind of flows in its place.”

How TechSmith uses a tiered system for videos

The customer education team at TechSmith tends to use a tiered system to prioritize videos. There are three tiers that differ based on audience, content, review process, and production style.

Tier 1: This is what you’d see on TechSmith tutorials. The team spends a lot of time scripting it, recording audio, editing, and reviewing it to make sure it’s all perfect.

Tier 2: This type of video may have a script and a quick review process, but it doesn’t go through such a strict process as tier one videos.

Tier 3: This is the simplest type of video where you just hit record and give a quick answer to a question. It could be a webinar-style video without a ton of editing.

Jason likes to use a spaghetti sauce analogy to explain the tiers.

“The spaghetti sauce tiers are: tier one is grandma’s or mom’s. It’s the ultimate gold standard by which you judge all other spaghetti. It cannot be off by a little bit. It tastes perfect every single time. Whereas tier two is like your friend’s spaghetti where it’s really good. It might interchange a few ingredients here or there, but it’s not mom’s or your grandma’s. And then tier three spaghetti looks like spaghetti, kind of tastes like it. It’ll do in a pinch.”

How to get more comfortable producing tier three-style videos

“You’re a human being. You’re not a robot. Make sure that gets conveyed in your content.” – Jason Valade

Despite the spaghetti analogy above, tier three does not mean bad or even low quality. It’s just a different approach to getting the information across.

Interestingly, for some content creators, it’s the tier three videos they feel least comfortable with. Those who always aim to make ultra-polished videos aren’t always comfortable releasing less-than-perfect videos.

Jason’s advice is to just do it anyway and see how you feel.

“You might say “um” or an “ah,” but you’re a human being. You’re not a robot. Make sure that gets conveyed in your content as long as you’re comfortable with it. There’s a comfort level, but as far as getting more comfortable doing tier-three videos, just do them. Just get them out there and see how they feel.”

Ryan admittedly is one of those people who find tier-three videos difficult. He likes to rely on scripts that he practices with before recording. However, as much as it is about confidence, it’s also about the team you have around you.

“Confidence is a big, big thing. But in the end, surround yourself with people who can help build you up.”

Top tips for video success

As instructional designers and training professionals, Jason and Ryan are used to giving out advice on a regular basis. But what’s the tip they give out the most often?

For Jason, he likes to introduce people to the library in Camtasia.

“The library can save so much time over multiple videos where you can store content in there. I mean, I’ve got all the text with branding in there, all our colorways and the themes, all our logos and icons and cursors, and stuff like that. Helping future Jason is an important thing to me.”

Ryan, on the other hand, is a big believer in the power of scripting. He finds that having a script means he can keep his videos shorter and to the point.

“If I were to do a video of scripted and then I would do that same video unscripted, it might be twice as long as the other one.”

Camtasia features everyone should know about

Camtasia is packed full of intuitive and handy features, but Ryan’s favorite is using the shift key to click and drag the playhead to move everything down the timeline. This is so useful if you decide you want to include a title slide at the beginning.

Jason likes to use the emphasize audio feature, which is a great way to introduce music with a simple click and drag method. Another feature Jason likes is the animations feature which you can find on the animations tab.

Audio tips when working remotely

During the pandemic, many instructional designers and content creators have had to make do with their home setup.

Jason’s top tip for this (besides heading over to the TechSmith Academy) is to spend some time testing out and learning more about your equipment. It doesn’t matter whether you have a $20 microphone or a $500 one, just learn how it works and sounds, and make sure you practice.

Ryan likes to record his audio separately from the rest of his video, which gives him a chance to edit out mistakes and clean up the sound before it goes live.

For those nervous about speaking on camera, Ryan’s tip is to “speak like you’re talking to your mom.”

Long videos vs. short videos

“If it has to be a longer video, keep it engaging, so they’re like, wow that was a 10-minute video, it didn’t feel like it.” – Ryan Eash

The debate goes on. Should your videos always be as short as possible? They certainly shouldn’t be longer than they need to be, but sometimes a longer video is necessary if it’s a complex subject.

However, if you do make a longer video, Ryan says you should always try to “keep it engaging so that when they’re done, they’re like, “wow, that was a 10-minute video. It didn’t feel like a 10-minute video.”

Whatever type of tutorial video you want to make, whether it’s an ultra-polished one, a tier-three, a short and snappy, or a longer one, be sure to check out the TechSmith Academy. This resource hub has everything you need to learn more about video creation, audio, editing, Camtasia, and much more!

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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