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ATTC Messenger February 2014: Video Technology for Training

Video Q&A with Don Fleischman, Video Services Lead, Division of Information Technology, UW-Madison

February 2014

Don Fleischman is the Video Services Lead at the Division of Information Technology at the UW-Madison. In this role, he coordinates the production of videos for the entire UW-Madison campus and beyond. These include videos for online educational support, for promotion and marketing for different campus units, and to capture events. His department has also developed all the videos in the UW-Madison’s MOOC courses. To view samples, visit: DoIT Video Productions Reel

In the Q&A that follows, Fleischman shares some strategies for getting started with video training.


Q: What does video do better than other forms of training? What does it do not so well?

A: Video should always be used to show how to do something, not to tell somebody how to do something. So video should the medium for communication when there is something visual that will help the trainee learn or perform a task. There is no advantage to using video if there is not an inherent visual element to the topic.

There are a few questions that I always ask when I am trying to determine if a project is best served by video.

  • Is there something important about the personal interaction? This question gets at whether or not there is something beyond words that needs to be communicated.
  • Is there something important about the place? Does location change what is communicated by the training?
  • Is there a story to be told? I mean story here in the broadest sense of some task that has a beginning, middle, and end. A how-to video is a story.

The advantage that video has over written instructions is the ability to act out the steps as they are performed. Video also allows us to present a topic sequentially, and allows the trainee to review steps as many times as needed before going on.


Q: What's the best way to structure your video training project?

A: At the beginning of every video project, I ask folks to describe to me in one sentence what their video will show. Then I ask them to describe how they want people who watch this video to respond to it, also in one sentence. In a training video, that second sentence might describe what you want the participant to be able to do, or know, after viewing.

Once those sentences are down on paper, we can begin to lay out a plan to achieve those goals. The best structures do two things with those sentences:

  • They help map out the order in which information needs to be revealed. What does the trainee have to know before he or she can learn something else? What are we assuming the viewer knows already?
  • They keep the video on task. If a person is tempted to include information that is outside of what those two sentences describe then it should probably be left out, and maybe included in a different video.


Q: What is the best way to get started if you haven't done video training before?

A: Watch a lot of videos like the ones you want to make. Watch them critically. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Was I engaged? If I wasn’t, why not?
  • Was the information presented clearly? If it wasn’t, why did I get confused?
  • Can I describe in one sentence each what the video was about, and how the view should respond to it? If I can’t, why?

Then you should try very simply to make a one-minute training for an everyday task. Use the camera on your phone to shoot it—or draw a crude comic book with a panel for each envisioned shot—but start by writing out your sequential script. Don’t leave out even the tiniest of steps. Also, keep in mind what the viewer needs to see. Often times it isn’t the person speaking.


Q: What basic skills and equipment do you need to produce a good training video?

A: The best skill for you to have to make a training video hopefully you already possess as a trainer, and that is a sense of how to present a topic in a way that is clear and concise to the trainee. Translating that to video just a takes a little equipment and a few tweaks to your typical in-person presentation.

A far as equipment goes, the two most important things that you need to have are something to record with, camera or screen capture software, and a microphone. As far as cameras go budget is your only concern. There are very good cameras that start around $250, and many phones now take better video than TV studio cameras did at the turn of the millennium.

How you use the camera is more important than which one you buy. Keep in mind the show rule. Don’t include in the frame information that doesn’t need to be there. As an example, what a person’s legs are doing is not usually that important when recording a person giving presentation, or the backs of the heads of the people in the audience, so don’t show them.

The microphone on the camera is not generally good enough to cleanly capture someone speaking at it more than a few feet away. In fact, the way for people to think that you hired a professional video crew is to use an external mic that is pointed directly at or placed on the subject.

You will need some video editing software and there are several simple editors to choose from. It probably is not necessary to buy a full-featured suite. Products like iMovie for the Mac, and Sony Home Studio for Windows are great easy-to-use and learn editors. Keep in mind that there are a lot of tutorial videos on how to learn software on the Internet.

Finally, there is always a temptation to just record a scheduled in-person training and then deliver that as a video training. Resist it. Live presentations have all kinds of great aspects in person that do not translate well to video. Contrary to what many think, it does not save time, and it will result in a video that does not achieve your goals as successfully as you would like. If you would like to, record and watch the training you are hoping to adapt, and then re-present it in a quiet, well-lit setting talking directly to the camera. Present the information in small digestible chunks. Think about your content as though there are chapters to it, and take breaks some how. The quiet setting also allows you to control distractions and will let your audience focus on your content and not on whatever might have been going on in the room where the presentation was given.