“It works like this,” I say, recording a video while I sketch and talk.

A video explanation saves me time. I explain something once, not hundreds of times. In a large organization or classroom, a well-crafted video reduces the need for me to repeat myself. The video handles the task. It also helps me explain a complicated or complex topic. A co-worker or student can pause the video to consider a detail, or view the video as many times as needed to understand the explanation.

You can create this type of explanatory video on a Chromebook. Both Explain Everything and Lensoo Create allow you to combine text, images, and illustrations with recorded voice or video. Screencasting apps, like Movenote, Screencastify, or Google Hangouts, work too. For example, with a Google Hangout on Air, you share your screen or Slides and then save your session to YouTube.

There’s a difference between Explain Everything and Lensoo Create and the screencast apps, though. The screencast apps are like a live performance: you explain things as you go–with one chance to get things right. Explain Everything and Lensoo Create are more like a studio recording: you build each part step-by-step.

Lensoo Create

Lensoo Create opens to a full-screen app on my Toshiba Chromebook 2. When I start a new recording, the available menu options display to the left of a white screen, below a timer with a record button (Figure A). Add text, shapes, and images, then press record–and press again to pause the recording. Press the > key in the lower left corner of the screen to advance to a new blank slide. To share your project, you publish it to http://create.lensoo.com, after which you may also downloaded it as an MP4 file in SD resolution.

Figure A

Lensoo Create on a Chromebook offers a fast, full-screen way to create a basic explanatory video.

Lensoo Create offers both free and paid options (Figure B). The entirely free solution offers “unlimited recordings to 15 minutes.” The paid version, which costs $1.99 per month or $14.99 per year, extends recording time to 30 minutes, includes more shapes, and real-time video recording. The paid version also improves the resolution of downloads to HD. The app is available for Chrome devices from the Chrome Web Store. iOS and Android versions are also available.

Figure B

Publish your project to the Lensoo Create site. You may optionally download an MP4 of your video. See a sample video I created: http://create.lensoo.com/watch/bsKw.

Explain Everything

Explain Everything opens in a floating window that fills just a small portion of the screen on my Toshiba Chromebook 2 (Figure C). When I start a new project, I first choose a color template, then the menu options display to the left of a white screen, with slide and recording information displayed below.

Figure C

Explain Everything on a Chromebook provides many powerful options, including audio-recording on each slide.

Explain Everything records audio for each slide independently. That allows for some added flexibility. If I make a mistake recording audio on a slide, I can redo the audio for that slide–without affecting the audio for any of the other slides.

Explain Everything projects may be saved to Google Drive, exported to YouTube, or exported to MP4 format (on your Chromebook or on Google Drive). Slides may also be saved as a PDF or image files (Figure D).

Figure D

Explain Everything offers several publish, save, and export options, including Google Drive. See a sample video I created and published to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtOQqLF4ws8.

According to a post on the company’s site, “After 30 days, the app requires a single-time purchase license key ($2.99 USD),” with bulk purchase discounts–including a 50% discount for educational institutions–offered. iOS and Android versions are also available (Note: As of August 24, 2015, the app is listed at $3.99 in each store).

A few tips: Script, study, and talk

Before I used either app, I wrote a script. To create the examples above, I wrote out what I wanted to say and what I wanted to show. They can–and probably should–be different.

You might also study explanatory videos. See how Khan Academy videos explain an idea and then offer examples. Or look at Common Craft videos that explain a complex concept with hand-drawn paper cutouts. (Lee Lefever, co-founder of Common Craft, suggests that “Most explainer videos answer two central questions: “why?” and “how?” and his book is helpful, too.)

These videos all owe a debt to Frank Beard, an illustrator who pioneered the “Chalk Talk” in the late 1800s. Of course, videos of his work don’t exist. But an article published in 1895 suggests that he’d be right at home with either of these tools: “Mr. Beard is an inveterate sketcher, and during my conversation, he illustrated his points by drawing pictures, talking all the while, so that it seemed a race between his tongue and his pencil as to which should convey the idea first.” Sounds like an expert explainer to me.

Have you used either of these tools–on any platform–to create a video? What’s the best tip you can share to help someone create an effective explanatory video? Let us know in the discussion thread below.