This is a co-written guest post by Jess Nepom, and Kristen Tracey. Jess is the Academic Project Manager at Knewton, and Kristen is a Content Developer. This post originally appeared on the on the Knewton Blog on September 19, 2012.
Choosing between scalability and perfection is the issue at hand any time an instructor needs to produce a number of videos. Instructors want every educational video they make to be perfect — clear, engaging, and without any stumbles. However in a flipped classroom, where an instructor produces many videos, he or she simply cannot always fix everything.
Editing educational videos, like any other web videos, is all about balancing scarce resources with quality. If you notice flaws in your footage, you might want to consider the following: 1. how important is the error; 2. how central to the course the video is; and 3. how much time will it take to reshooot?
Then decide: edit, reshoot, or ignore?
[PHOTO: Jess recording a voiceover in Knewton’s studio with a greenscreen and lighting poles in the background]
Outside noise, static from the mic, random glitches in the file: these things happen. Sometimes static or hissing can be improved with tools like the De-crackler or De-hummer in Adobe Premiere. But often, it’s impossible to remove noise issues completely. If the sound issues are distracting or impede understanding, reshoot. But if they are just short glitches, fix them up as best as you can and then move on.
Tip: One way Knewton prevents sound issues is to have two teachers in the room while filming. The second teacher listens through headphones attached to the camera, hearing exactly what the microphone is picking up. This way, he or she can immediately catch any audio issues. The two teachers then reshoot instantly before any editing resources have been wasted.
Tip: “Hollow” audio (a recording that echoes or sounds like it was recorded in a big empty room), is nearly impossible to fix after the fact. Just reshoot in this case. Prevent that type of sound by doing a test recording beforehand. Recording in a smaller room, or one with sound-absorbing material like thick curtains, can help. So can moving the microphone closer to the person speaking.
Teachers are human, and they sometimes make mistakes when they speak. What to do in these cases depends largely on context,.
Always fix any error that it central to whats is being taught or might cause misconceptions. Students will ignore small missteps and flubs if they’re irrelevant, or if the teacher immediately corrects herself. However, they can be easily confused if, say, a teacher says the wrong number in a math problem.
If you do decide to fix a mistake, you can try to use cutaway visuals to skip over the error. Try cutting to a full-screen version of the question to cover the fact that your video just skipped a few frames. You could also re-record the word or sentence and dub it over, but if the audio isn’t exactly the same, it might seem strange and distracting to students.
Tip: In Knewton’s Math Readiness Course, none of the videos are more than 5 or 6 minutes long. That length is great for many reasons — one being that if Knewton makes a mistake, it’s only 5 more minutes to get a whole new take. For these videos, Knewton vastly prefers reshooting to trying to edit out an error. If you’re having trouble getting through an entire video without flubs, try making several shorter videos instead — either way, your students will thank you!
From poor lighting or dropped frames, to typos in visual aids, to accidentally leaving a half-eaten meatball sub in the background of the shot (whoops!), visual issues can be a tough call.
You can often fix lighting issues using image controls in your video editing program, or crop out that sandwich stub. For other visual problems such as typos, don’t worry too much unless student understanding is compromised. That said, if you’re planning to put this video out in the world for hundreds or thousands of students, it’s probably worth fixing by reshooting or replacing that portion of the video with a corrected visual.
You do need to take into account that some people may be watching your video on an iPhone or a low-quality web connection. If you can’t get the video to look clear on your own monitor, consider a reshoot. And seriously consider if dropped frames or other technical glitches will be distracting to students who need to be paying attention to the lesson, not the quality of your video.
Tip: More light is generally better than less. Lights that seem incredibly bright in your studio will probably look great on-screen — alternatively, that faint shadow that you barely notice in person might become a distracting issue once you’re looking at it on a computer monitor. As with almost everything in video, it’s much easier to get it right in the original shot than to try to fix it later with editing. Take the time to set up good lights in the beginning, and reap the rewards of easy editing later.
[PHOTO: This is a more complex set up Knewton uses for interview-style videos. They turned off the overhead lights and used bright studio lights to get an even, controlled lighting setup.]
With all of these decisions, anything you decide to ignore can always be added to your to-do list for later. Knewton’s all in favor of iteration — release a product that works, but continue to improve it until it’s the best it can be.
Good luck, and happy shooting!