Using a few undemanding tools you can make suitable instructive videos.
As I write this, college teams compete to win the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament in the United States. Fans can watch games broadcast by CBS live with free NCAA March Madness Live apps. The tournament also uses a Twitter account (@marchmadness) and hashtag (#MarchMadness).
But there's a big difference between following a game on Twitter and watching live. Watching a player receive a pass, then dunk a basketball conveys a lot more information than a 140-character Tweet can provide. Words (and a few pictures) summarize the story on Twitter. Live video shows all of the action.
Videos can show how hardware devices open up or connect, both of which are difficult to describe in words.
- Need to replace ink cartridges for an HP OfficeJet Pro printer? Read the instructions or watch a video.
- Need to connect a laptop to a projector? Read instructions (PDF) or watch a video.
Videos also help people learn software faster, by showing users where to click.
- Need to create a shared Google Calendar? Read the instructions or watch a video.
- Need to share an item from Google Drive? Read the instructions or watch a video.
In all of these examples, videos make things understandable in a way that written words don't.
Fortunately, you can create videos showing how your own organization's hardware or software works without significant expense.
Use your smartphone to record video. Native Android and iOS video recording apps work well. You might also use a third-party app, such as YouTube Capture on iOS. Most digital cameras also record video. Whatever equipment you choose, make sure your camera or smartphone battery is charged before recording.
Alternatively, you can record video using your laptop or desktop. You can record video from your webcam directly to YouTube by going to YouTube.com/my_webcam.
Use YouTube.com/upload to record, upload and edit video.
To record a screencast of your desktop, go to YouTube.com/upload, then choose "Broadcast" to launch a Google+ Hangout on Air. While in your Hangout on Air, use the Screenshare feature to record an on-screen video walk-through of software or websites. (Note that to use YouTube or Google+ you'll need an account for these services.)
Screenshare during a Google+ Hangout on Air to record software or website walk-throughs.
Take measures to obtain the best video image you can. Use a tripod or situate the camera in a stable position, if at all possible. Make sure the lighting is bright enough, with no distracting shadows or reflections. Pay attention to objects in the background and try to minimize distractions (e.g., a window with lots of street activity can be distracting). If you're recording people, try to avoid the "webcam up the nose" shot: place the camera roughly level with the subject, or just slightly above the subject. Orient your camera to capture videos horizontally to avoid "vertical video syndrome."
When recording a Screenshare of software, keep your desktop as clutter-free as possible. Remove unnecessary desktop files and icons. If you use a browser, streamline or hide your bookmark bar and extensions, and zoom in to make the site text and images as visible as possible without distortions.
Also work to obtain the best sound possible. Test your audio to make sure the recording picks up voices clearly, and use a headset or microphone, where practical. If possible, record in a quiet room and minimize extraneous sounds, such as ringing phones, vibrating phones, sirens, etc.
The free YouTube.com/editor lets you organize and crop video clips, add title pages and choose transition effects between clips. WeVideo.com also provides a free online video editor useful for short projects. WeVideo's paid versions permit editing of higher resolution files, more storage, and removal of the WeVideo watermark.
Create a title page for your video that includes the topic and date, as well as the names and contact information of the content creators. The date helps viewers judge how current information in the video might be.
To share your video with a limited audience, first download your video in MP4 format, then store the video on your Google Drive. From there, you can share the MP4 file with specific users or groups.
To share your edited YouTube video with the largest audience, make your video public. You might also promote the video on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
Sharing the video with Google+ gives you the best of both worlds: you can show users how to do things with video, while also explaining things in writing. In this multi-media age, we tend to want both video and text.
Now, pardon me while I go back to watching basketball - and Twitter.