How to Get Started with Video for Learning and Development

Jonathan Halls, a video expert who worked for the BBC, shares the 4 principles necessary to get started using video for training.

Published on 1 July, 2016 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022
How to Get Started with Video for Learning and Development1 1

by Jonathan Halls, Founder, Jonathan Halls & Associates

Video is an excellent modality for learning. It is an easy way to teach by demonstration. Yet many L&D professionals see it as intimidating. Where do you even begin to learn this new skill?

With a little effort, engaging learning video can be quite simple to produce. I recommend following these 4 principles:

  • Get The Right Equipment

The right equipment does not necessarily mean expensive equipment. It is easy to get sucked into buying cameras equipped with all sorts of “bells and whistles.”  In my workshops, I teach people how to get phenomenal video shots using an entry-level consumer camera that costs $260. A cheaper camera forces you to use the manual functions. (You need to be the one deciding things such as which face to focus on.  Don’t leave that to the camera.)   A more expensive camera may look impressive but takes longer to learn; you’ll still need to do the same things as you would on a cheaper camera, and there’s more that can go wrong.

  • Learn How to Use it Properly

It’s difficult to create quality video without knowing the basic principles of how the camera works. You don’t need to know the electronics, just the basic functions.  Like white balance and exposure–both of these are pretty simple and straightforward. Learn how to zoom in and focus. Learn where to place the microphone.

When it comes to learning video, get some guidance. Some people take to video production like a duck to water. However, most benefit from professional training that stops you learning bad habits. A good camera trainer will share short cuts that don’t compromise quality and help you frame shots that draw the viewer’s eye.

Dedicate Enough Time for Planning

  • Dedicate Enough Time for Planning

Planning your video should take at least 40% of your production time. If you wing it, you increase the likelihood of mistakes. Mistakes require time-consuming fixes in the editing software and often require a re-shoot that wastes even more time.

Planning involves everything from storyboarding and developing a filename convention to getting location permissions to film and booking equipment.  A lot of your planning will revolve around the storyboard.

You don’t need fancy software for storyboarding. I still do mine with a pen and paper. The purpose of a storyboard is to be clear about how a shot will look and how action moves from one shot to another before you go out and shoot. It also trains you to be more visual in your thinking. Invest some time in learning how video works, if this is new to you.  Do a workshop or read a book so that every shot you take adds to your message.

Next, set up a workflow of what you will do in each order.  If you are working in a team, make sure everyone knows what tasks they’re responsible for delivering.  And be sure everyone follows the same conventions such as following a file name convention and knowing which folders to keep assets in.

  • Be Clear on Your Purpose

So far we’ve talked about equipment and planning. But without a clear purpose there’s no point making the video. What will your viewer be able to do after she has watched the video?  

Your video’s purpose is the yardstick you will use to check every aspect of the video is on target. Video professionals know that the real skill to making media content is cutting content out, not adding more in. Anything in your video that doesn’t help your viewer achieve the purpose should be cut out.

A student of mine got an amazing shot of the sunset. He showed me and said, “I really want to put this in my learning video.” It was a beautiful sunset shot, but when I asked him, “How does this relate to the purpose of your video?”, he couldn’t answer. It didn’t matter how well he shot it, the sunset had no place in his video because it did not help the learner achieve the purpose.  

I see a lot of videos with shots that are amazing but irrelevant to the video’s purpose.  Respect your viewer’s time and only include shots, audio and editorial elements that are relevant to the purpose. Keep in mind your purpose, and you will always know what to include and what to cut.  For learning video, I suggest you structure the purpose as a learning objective following Mager’s principles.

Anyone can create quality video. It starts with being clear about your purpose, having the right equipment, using it properly and planning it so it achieves your editorial purpose.

Hear more from Jonathan Halls on July 19 for “How to Use Digital Content to Give the Learner More Control.
Jonathan Halls helps people learn as a trainer, coach, and consultant on digital media, leadership, communication, and learning. Formerly a learning executive at the BBC, Jonathan has worked as a journalist, talk show host and trainer. He has delivered seminars & speeches in more than 25 countries. He delivers seminars and keynotes around the world and teaches at George Washington University in the USA. He is also an author and writer.

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