Adobe Education
Educators and Professional Development Specialists

What are your tips for creating instructional video?

How might we shoot, edit and share better instructional video?

From video lectures to oral history projects, so called “talking head” or “instructional” video clips can make a great addition to your teaching practice.

But instructional video can be tricky to get right. What are your tips for other educators who are just getting started?

Include links to good examples in your response if you can!

5 / 5 • 14 Ratings

Comments (26)

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Michael Kloth

Posted on 5/19/18 10:30:17 PM Permalink

My tips are:

  • Good lighting - this doesn't have to be studio lighting (but that is of course useful) but think about where the light is coming from and how it is falling on your subject.
  • Good audio - while this is another area where a lot of money could be spent, I consider an external microphone for the camera a minimum entry level bit of equipment. I really like Rode's line of on camera mics. A ​shotgun mic like this one will do wonders for camera captured audio. ​
  • If you are filming yourself as a talking head shot, a camera with a flip screen is huge. The only problem is that the manual focus recommended in the class is a chore that involves some trial and error.

Dan Ross

Posted on 2/16/18 3:37:11 AM Permalink

​If it's for children, use vibrant colors and make sure what ever you are shooting is well lit and bright.

Make sure you are using a good microphone. If you speak too close or loud, the audio will become distorted. Too far away and soft, your audio will be hard to hear. One rule is to open your hand and close all finger except your thumb and pinky - this is a good distance.

James Rafferty

Posted on 11/2/17 2:49:41 AM Permalink

Keep content short and to the point, humor can help (if appropriate). Once introducing a host (talking head) don't stay with them longer than necessary, use imagery (tells a thousand word), animations and footage to keep content engaging. Utilise screen capture for saving time when incorporating webpages, powerpoints etc. and don't forget some background music to help keep a steady pace, set a mood and add interest.

Sheila Hutchins

Posted on 8/10/17 8:38:56 PM Permalink

​I haven't shot many videos but when the presenter mentioned not to use auto focus I was somewhat surprised as I use that feature often. This is a good take away from the video as well as framing the person.

Cornelia Boehm

Posted on 8/9/17 9:21:01 PM Permalink

​Timing is very important. It's easier for me working with a detailed script and take shots of particular sequences. Don't forget, if working like this you have to take care of natural light and better darken the room.

Kevin McDaniel

Posted on 7/22/17 3:38:28 PM Permalink

​I hadn't thought of varying the shots by cutting to hands or a bookshelf like he mentioned in the video. I can see how that adds some visual interest to an instructional video. I like the dark background, and I am brainstorming how to develop something like that. Also, I think I would consider some sort of teleprompter to use; that will help me appear more confident on camera.

Stephen Horvath

Posted on 7/22/17 8:17:54 PM Permalink

If you're looking for a cheap-ish teleprompter, look for an iPad (tablet) prompter. It will attach to the top of a tripod and use a tablet as the prompter. There are also teleprompter apps available. Some are free(!), but you may need to pay for one to attach it to a ​tripod. My superintendent loves his iPad teleprompter!

Cornelia Boehm

Posted on 8/9/17 9:09:29 PM Permalink

Thank you for this useful advice!​

Claire Richards

Posted on 1/9/18 5:48:39 AM Permalink

That is an interesting suggestion as one thing I've found that no matter how polished is that the 'script' gets rewritten in recording audio to go over screen-casts. The iPad is a nice way to have a script but edit along the way. ​

jeff lewis

Posted on 7/20/17 8:57:40 PM Permalink

Very insightful workshop. Framing the presenter properly adds a more professional quality to the video.

Rick Henderson

Posted on 7/19/17 5:46:39 PM Permalink

​I've heard either scripting the whole video, to just going off the cuff (but knowing what you're talking about) to everywhere in between. I like some vloggers who talk normal speed or slightly quickly, to not waste too much viewer time. I can't stand watching instructional videos where the narration is at a slow, monotonous pace, like most voice overs.

Claire Richards

Posted on 1/9/18 5:50:23 AM Permalink

I have to agree, I think vloggers got away with long wandering videos when youtube/ instructional videos were new but people don't have patience for that now, especially if you're tracking down a specific technique in the middle of a project.​

evan bush

Posted on 7/19/17 2:56:22 PM Permalink

​I make coaching videos with my wife for our online school. I am learning new ways to shoot better videos.

dorothy lynch

Posted on 7/17/17 6:28:39 PM Permalink

​Ward's tips on staying steady, frame well and sound be a key factor is very good information. When sharing instruction videos with student they are all over the place, they catch every mistake possible. Those tips are very important if students are to get the instructions you require them to have.

jassmen alvarez

Posted on 7/17/17 1:59:47 PM Permalink

​Ward's six tips are great. I never really thought about it but they make sense. One of my struggles is the background, students never pay attention to that. As Kelly mentions, some things they have to learn on their own. The only tips that I can think of is to use more than one camera to record and place them in different angles and I always like to record a bit thing around and some candid shots just to give me some more choices when the creative juices start to flow during the editing. Lastly shoot more than once.

Ari Vega

Posted on 7/17/17 1:53:15 PM Permalink

In shooting and instructional video, I would recommend to just do it. Start recording a practice session. Rewind and then look at what you have done. Then, troubleshoot at what worked and what didn’t work. Editing would be the longest but most rewarding part.

To get started, record in different settings as they may offer better clues of what light, sound and background works best. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Perfection comes with practice. To get over the hurdle – just do it! But, remember to have fun along the way so you’ll be relaxed as you perform.

You might want to show it to some other individuals to get their reaction. Show it without saying anything. Get their comments and you decide whether that helped or not. But most of all enjoy!!!

Kelly Cotton

Posted on 7/17/17 1:30:25 PM Permalink

​In teaching 9th grade students, something they rarely think about is not shooting with light coming only from behind the subject. I have seen them shoot video and pictures where the subject is dark because of the light coming from behind them. I try to give examples of this at the beginning of the year to avoid this from happening. There have been times where they have to learn on their own, though!

Ari Vega

Posted on 7/17/17 2:24:10 PM Permalink

At this age group it's all the better for enjoyment to take root. Steven Spielberg they may not be, but with satisfaction and the building of confidence they will later shine with their own light.​

Walt Justice

Posted on 7/17/17 12:34:28 PM Permalink

I love Ward's six tips but my favorite and the one I find most applicable is the upper third rule. I have done a lot of instructional videos and never did I think of this one! I think I need to go back and do some editing.

In addition to Ward's six tips, I would add, use a second camera if you can. I used to do a lot of product demonstration training videos and it was always good to have one camera that was completely stationary while the other could do close-ups, b roll, and other footage at the same time. Also, invest is a good mic. If you are doing solo stuff you can use a desktop mic like a Blue or buy a lavalier. You can find some decent ones on Amazon. Sound will make all the difference in your videos.

jassmen alvarez

Posted on 7/17/17 1:59:29 PM Permalink

I agree a good mic makes a world of difference.​

Ari Vega

Posted on 7/17/17 2:27:30 PM Permalink

The second camera is a great idea, if you have one, or can borrow one from media services provided your school has one.

I found that doing the shoot on one day and then looking at it at later times helps. Rather than to just jump in the mistakes will become a detriment to creativity. ​

Tony Fling

Posted on 7/17/17 10:47:30 AM Permalink

​Every point that Ward Serrill made in his video were great! Especially about keeping the persons eyes in the upper third of the shot. Very insightful video.

Ari Vega

Posted on 7/17/17 2:31:30 PM Permalink

I like the idea of framing the individual using their eyes. The focus is an excellent way of testing your shoot. The majority of the time we spend looking at a presenters eyes and yet occasionally glance at the background. Its normal for the eyes to travel and absorb the experience. ​

Audrey Wrobel

Posted on 7/17/17 3:45:00 AM Permalink

​Just as Ward Serrill had said, this is all great advice:

"Prioritize Story. A good story is about quest and transformation. It might seem odd to consider story when filming an instructional video, but remember: having a compelling narrative will make all the difference in whether or not your students are engaged. When deciding whom to film (yourself? another expert?) and what to talk about, ask yourself questions like: What are you trying to accomplish? How might you engage the viewer? Why should the viewer care?

'Stay steady and still. One of the most important tools you can own is a tripod. Use a tripod and move the camera only when necessary. Inexperienced filmmakers think they aren’t doing their job unless they’re moving the camera, but really the best option is to frame a shot well, press record, and then avoid touching the camera again until the shot is over. Movement should be restricted to following action or revealing something important. If you’re going to move, then practice practice practice and move slower than you think you need to.

'Choose manual focus. It’s always better to set the focus yourself if the camera allows. If you use automatic focus, the camera will have to search for the focal point every time the subject moves, and this is ugly and distracting. If you set your focus manually and the subject moves slightly out of the focal area, it most likely won’t be noticed.

'Sound is key. If people speak in your video, viewers must be able to understand them. Whenever possible, use an external microphone and learn how to use it well. If you must shoot with the camera microphone, then get close to the subject and eliminate any background noise you can.

'Frame well. The eyes of your subject should be in the upper third of the frame. Leave space in the frame in the direction the subject is looking.

'Shoot to edit. Add interest to your film by shooting different shots from different angles and getting B-roll (i.e., cutaway footage) for documentary or talking head films. B-roll provides visual interest and can be edited to replace the speaker’s image while we hear his or her voice."

Much of this I also learned from taking a photojournalism course. So many people forget to pay attention to what is in the background of a shot, and it can seriously distract attention away from the actual subject. Another aspect to this thought is the use of color: it can be a curse or a blessing; quite complementary, contrasted purposefully or overpoweringly distracting from the subject.

I have two tripods, one of which I keep in the trunk of my car. (You never know when you might need one and not have it, besides that they are not necessarily expensive to purchase.)

Batteries: Get a bunch of extra ones.

Temperature: Extremes in temperatures are not good for your batteries (will drain them quicker in the cold) and not great for lenses, either (which will fog up in the cold).

Walt Justice

Posted on 7/17/17 12:34:41 PM Permalink

Great idea about the batteries!​

Audrey Wrobel

Posted on 7/18/17 1:21:50 AM Permalink

Thank you! I worked as photographer for Lifetouch Sportography, but I started building up my supply of batteries well before that since I was journalist prior to that.​