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March 11, 2021

Video In Your Classroom: Tips for Filming and Editing

Whether you’re recording your own practice for self-reflection, or putting together a student lesson to “flip” your class, here are tips for making sure you capture and produce great material:

Keep the camera still. The action in your shot should be what the camera films. With the exception of a little panning and tilting to keep the subject in frame, let the camera be a quiet observer. A shaky or constantly zooming camera is a huge distraction from the teaching message.


Capture multiple views.
 If you can, try using two cameras with different viewpoints. It makes a world of difference later when you can cut back and forth between them depending on the context of the video. One camera could be focused wide on you and your whiteboard, while the other is zoomed in to only see you, as a simple example.

Get the specific shot. If your video is covering something small, get up close so we can see it. You’ll lose the viewer with a shot that is too far or wide to see what you’re talking about, or if you zoom in and the result is a shaky shot. Look into a lens adapter kit if you are using a smartphone. That, in turn, may require that you mount the device. I like the magnetic Gorillapod as a catch-all mount for a small camera or smartphone.

Capture great audio. As we talked about in the “sound” section in part 1 of this blog, nothing will make your video “pop” more than having quality sound to go with a great video.

Don’t “over-res.” Don’t record in 1080 video resolution unless you have a good reason. A 720 resolution is outstanding in almost all situations and requires half the data — which speeds editing and transfer, as well as doubling the effective storage capacity of your devices and online accounts.

Three tips for editing, exporting, and posting your video:

Edit simply and with purpose, but edit. Editing is 80-percent of the video craft, just like with writing. Eschew goofy transitions and effects; instead focus on where you make your cuts and how much you can leave out. Insert closeups of things like whiteboard notes generously. You can capture those on a still camera after the lesson when you have a moment to think about the video.

Export cleanly. Exporting is the process where you save your final edited video as a file that you can upload to the site where others will view it (for example, Vimeo or YouTube). Check the site’s specs for things like “file format,” “codec,” and “resolution” before you set your editing software to export — matching desired specs will help your video look and sound great when it is streamed.

Master your video site. Wherever you are uploading your video for sharing, read its FAQ’s regarding the upload. Pay close attention to mundane things like tagging, headlines, sharing options, etc. that will help make your video discoverable, clickable, shareable, and viral.

If you’re a Teaching Channel Teams member (and I certainly hope you are!) the Tch Recorder app streamlines many of these steps so you spend more time teaching and less time fiddling with the technology of video.

Editing software and hardware are an entire topic in themselves, but my simplest advice is to not get overwhelmed. Great editing actually requires very few bells and whistles, so any decent editing program will work just fine. Apple iMovie for the Mac or Adobe Premiere Elements for Windows are two great choices. If you want to try others, CNET has a slew of them you can try for free on either the Windows or Mac platform.

You can also edit video on your tablet or smartphone, but unless you’re in a run and gun situation, I don’t see a reason to do that. The personal computer’s keyboard and mouse make editing vastly easier and better in my experience.

Finally, the actual computer you use does not have to be tremendously powerful: Any modern machine made in the last year or two should be able to handle good, basic storytelling. If you start to add lots of (probably gratuitous) effects and transitions you will quickly run out of computing power. Just one more reason to keep it clean.

Don’t be afraid to try and fail — figuring out how you want to film and edit your video is half the fun.

Read Brian Cooley’s equipment checklist for filming in the classroom.


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