For several years now, I have been attending conferences and interviewing thought leaders on video. I am telling you – it is not fun schlepping high-end gear across the country and through airport security. A camera, lighting, audio gear, and tripod can be heavy and take up a more room in your luggage. I hate checking bags, so that makes it even tougher.
Professional video production can be very expensive. With the amount of inexpensive gear and advancements in technology, it has become easier and less expensive to produce high-quality video. If you have any doubts, you may need to visit this little site called YouTube and see what kids are producing these days. I don’t know about you, but if I want to learn how to do something, one of the first places I check is YouTube. I could say the YouTube has made me a better man.
Thanks to YouTube, most people are tolerant of less-than-perfect video quality. As a matter of fact, in some cases, I have experienced that a not-so-corporate, over-produced video may get you better acceptance from your employees. Over-produced, over-acted “corporate communications” video sometimes may produce more eye rolls than learning.
Besides the geek factor, creating and deploying rapid video applies to learning and development folks. Video (when done right) is a very effective way to deliver training content. It can be a stand-alone piece or part of eLearning or online training, and classroom training. And rapid video works great as part of mLearning.
Here is my checklist for creating rapid video:
- Good audio
- Good lighting
- Keep it short, sweet, and relevant
- Make it fun and engaging. It would not hurt if your learning went viral.
- The less postproduction, the better. If you can shoot and post your video without any editing, that’s rapid.
- Use experts, not actors
A few weeks before DevLearn 2011, I picked up the new iPhone 4S. I knew they had improved the camera hardware and that it now captured HD video. I was attending my son’s tae kwon do belt testing and captured his board breaking on video. When I watched it back, it blew me away at the quality. So when I was packing for DevLearn, I left my expensive and bulky gear at home and capture my interviews on the iPhone. Besides, I am a mobile geek and it would give me some street credit with all my geeky friends. We love our gadgets!
There were a few things I needed to do to get the iPhone setup ready for the road. The number one priority was that I needed it to mount on a tripod since I am a one-man show.
I was tight on time so it would have been nice to find what I needed locally, but no one carried anything so I had to order online.
The first tripod adapter I tried was the Glif. It is a cool little gadget, and at a price of around $20, it is a good option. What I don’t like about it is, if you are moving around much – kind of the point of this rigging – the phone might fall out if it gets jarred or works itself loose if you were, for example, chasing Britney Spears down the block. To solve this issue, I MacGyvered a Velcro cable strap to ease the risk of the iPhone falling out. It worked well.
Good lighting matters in producing a good-quality video. Even though the iPhone 4S does a good job of adjusting to lighting conditions, there are a few things you can do to assure a quality video. If you can, make sure you and your subject are positioned for optimal light on the subject’s face. Before you capture, look through the viewing screen and assure the subject’s face is well lit.
One way to assure good lighting is to provide an external light. I purchased a small kit that mounts in between the tripod and a camera. There are a lot of options out there but I found a cheep solution that works okay for most up-close capture situations. I found a Sima Universal HD light at Target, but there are a lot of places to buy it online.
Audio may be the most important part of a good video, but it can be tricky.
I knew getting the audio right would be something I would have to work on for the iPhone rigging to be perfect, but I tried to find the right solution locally, to no avail. I could not find an adapter to hook up my external microphone. The quality of the sound is not bad – there is little noise and therefore it sounds good. The issue is that the microphone points out the bottom of the phone – after all, the device is a phone, and so the mic is built for the phone. If you are recording an event or someone speaking, this may be okay. But it is a pain for interviews, as I discovered at DevLearn.
For my interviews, I was sitting just off camera at the end of the phone with the microphone. The result was that the audio levels were off-balance: I was loud and the subject was soft. A good audio engineer could fix this in postproduction, but then it would no longer be rapid video.
Once I got back, I could purchase equipment to remedy the issue.
There are several options for adding an external microphone, but after researching, I go with the Fostex Audio Interface. There are three audio inputs available and it comes with two microphones. You can point the microphones in any direction you need. You could also attach a lavaliere system or a shotgun microphone, so the options are endless. I also liked the fact you could adjust the microphone levels for different situations. Another great feature is that you can plug in a pair of headphones to monitor the audio. This is a huge value. One last feature I would like to point out is that there are two options for mounting on a tripod: one for portrait and one for landscape.
Another consideration for the learning and development departments is the use of user-generated content. What better way to capture tribal knowledge and expertise of top performers? A video is a great way to do this.
Using a mobile device is the best option for many reasons, but the most relevant is ease of sharing. After capturing the video it can be emailed, tweeted, or posted to a social media site with little effort or investment in infrastructure.
I have seen several good use cases for this including one when I worked at T-Mobile. We wanted a way to assure front-line retail sales associates understood the features of a new device we had just launched. We created a contest and asked retail reps to use said device—a T-Mobile myTouch—to record their newly developed elevator pitch based on training they had just taken part in. The videos were emailed to a moderator and then posted to the internal employee social network. There were some creative videos, and some went viral throughout the organization.
Using the technology and techniques described above and empowering top performers to curate and create content is a powerful strategy for building a learning-centric organization.
Other related links
Here are the slides from a workshop I did for ASTD TechKnowledge 2010:
My friend Paolo Tosolini shared a great video on his iPhone camera setup. He has a great setup, and the video is a good example of video learning. Paolo has done some really cool projects. I enjoy sharing ideas with him.
Paolo is an award-winning enterprise social video consultant who launched and managed Microsoft’s internal YouTube-like service.
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