5 steps to make a tutorial video

Over the weekend I created a video tutorial for Messages on a Mission. This shows a video of my screen, a video of me, and a video of the output from my MacBook on a second monitor. So how did I do this and combine everything? Read on for my five steps.

Messages on a Mission – ProPresenter tutorial from Aaron Crabtree on Vimeo.

Step 1 – Lights, camera, action!
The first step is to consider lighting for the video. I had a light positioned above me which often creates shadows beneath eye brows, nose, chin, etc. but it worked in this case. I used a Canon 60D with a 50 mm prime lens at f2.2 which gave me sharp video but a pleasant bokeh behind me in a relatively short room. The bokeh (blurred background) helps to make the subject pop out and just isn’t possible with a webcam. It is worth having a good camera for this.

The camera for recording the LCD display is a Casio Exilim EF-FH20. This camera is better known for its ability to shoot high speed video but it will shoot in 16:9 720p which makes it OK for shooting a 16:9 LCD display. Nothing special here: just position the camera on a tripod, set the white balance and start recording.

Step 2 – Consider your audio
Audio can turn a great presentation into a terrible one. I didn’t do a great job with the audio here but it probably won’t turn viewers away. The key to good audio is to have a microphone position near the speaker. A microphone built into a computer may work but you probably don’t want to try using the microphone built into a camera that is several feet away. I used a Zoom H1 on a tripod about 2 feet from me. It picked up too much echo in this tutorial but it isn’t objectionable by most people.

Step 3 – Start recording
Set your focus and your audio levels, then start recording! For my tutorial I had to start recording on my Canon DSLR, Casio camera, Zoom H1 audio recorder, and Quicktime. (In Quicktime on the Mac there is a screen recording feature built-in which I used. I highly recommend it!)

Step 4 – Stepping through the presentation
If you know your subject really well, you won’t need to create a script. Video tutorials like this don’t have to be super-polished to get good results. Start talking, look at your camera frequently, and talk as if you are talking to a person or a small group of people.

Step 5 – Edit the video and upload to a video streaming service
Splice the different video feeds and audio feeds together using your favorite video editing suite. I used Adobe Premiere but Final Cut would be a fine choice too. Compress the video into and MP4 (I used Handbrake) and upload it to Youtube or Vimeo.

It takes practice to make good video tutorials. I shot this video a few times before I felt that I could post it online. There is still plenty of room for improvement!

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