How To Create A Product Demo Video Strategy That Drives Results

Compelling product demo videos are powerful sales tools. They’re informative, educational, and memorable. But most of all, they help you make sales and close deals. A great demo video shares the value of your offering, shows how it solves a problem, and convinces viewers why they cannot live without it.

At TechSmith, we’ve made a lot of demo videos and helped a lot of people make their own. We have a bit of experience in the biz.

In this post, I am going to share some criteria to help you decide how to make your demo video and offer a strategy for crafting one that gets your message across.

Who will make it?

The first thing to consider when you approach a demo video is who will make it. There are essentially two choices:

  • Hire a company
  • Produce the video in-house

Let’s tackle the first option. Hiring a company to create your demo video can be a great route. There is no shortage of talented, professional companies that will create top-notch videos for you. They’ll usually take care of almost all the work, from creative concepting to scripting and production. You’ll get a high-quality final product that you can host wherever you like and share with customers.

Of course, they will charge a premium for the work. The average explainer video can cost as much as $7,972.

Now, if that price seems a little gaudy to you, you’re not alone. Cost is just one of many reasons companies choose to produce their own product demo videos. Not only is the per-video cost less, but you can personalize demos to your customers.

A video you (or someone at your organization) creates is far easier to update. And, over time, creating your own videos can turn into a sophisticated video marketing strategy. It’s just about taking the leap and making your first (and second, and third) demo video.

Think you’re ready? I’m confident you are. Here are some ways to get started making your own demo videos.

Think solutions, not features

Improve your demo video by focusing on solutions rather than specific features.

I’m sure your product is filled with great features and functionality that all your customers love. It’s tempting to focus on those in your video. I’m here to tell you that you can’t focus on all of them.

For one, there are probably too many to fit in a single video.

Second, they’re features that people love once they know what makes your product so valuable.

And, third, features usually have terminology and jargon that don’t necessarily speak to the problems or pain points the viewer has.

Think of it like this: features only matter if they solve a problem for your customer.

Instead of laying out features to show, think solutions.

Why does someone want to use your product? What task are they trying to complete or problem are they trying to solve? This is the key to creating an effective product demonstration. People will listen and invest in your video when they realize you are speaking to their experiences or answering a question, not just showing off a feature set.

Consider the buyer’s journey

Of course, people might use your software for different purposes. Or, someone might already know the general solution but need a demonstration with more details. This is another reason producing your own product demo is a great choice.

Knowing your audience is key to creating a successful demo. Sales reps may need to see a completely different type of video than end users or decision makers.

You can target different videos at buyers who are at varying points in their journey or interested in different aspects of your solution.

Your first demo video will likely be for viewers who are earlier in their journey.

A good starting point is the Consideration phase. This is where they are aware that solutions are available or what your product is, but aren’t ready to buy yet. Your demo video for these potential customers should be more general. Focus on the broad solution your product offers and how it achieves those goals.

Tell a story in this video. Relate to what has brought a potential buyer to this point, speak directly to their experience, and emphasize the outcomes that your product offers.

After you finish and share your first demo, you can start thinking about a second (and third, and fourth) one. These can speak more specifically to particular buyers, segments, industries, or problems. Buyers at this stage are Product Aware, and likely know of your product along with competitors.

Here you can focus on the particular features that set your offering apart and spend more time demonstrating exactly how your product is used. Buyers at this point must be convinced why your product is the best one on the market.

Making the demo video

At this point you’re probably amped to start making your demo video(s). Allow me to offer some great starting points.

Learn a Video Editing Software – It sounds intimidating, but I am confident in saying anyone can learn to make great demo videos. Naturally, I am partial to Camtasia, which has a low learning curve (and low price tag as well), but feel free to choose whatever you are most comfortable with. Remember that if your product is software or technology, you will likely need screen recording capabilities.

Use Music and Graphics – TechSmith Assets is a tremendous library of graphic and audio resources that you can use in your demo videos. Customize the intros and outros to your company, which allows you to easily create videos with the same look and feel, or use music to set the tone.

Gather Feedback and Perfect Your Video – Demo videos often require input from people throughout a company. Instead of sending a video or link to your product manager, marketing manager, and sales director, try TechSmith Video Review. Invite stakeholders to a review and collect all their feedback in one central location.

For many companies, starting a product demo video strategy sounds overwhelming. They wonder who will produce and maintain the videos, how they’ll be shared with customers, and, simply, where to start. If you started this post with similar concerns or questions, hopefully I’ve been able to answer them and give you a good starting point. And when you’re ready for more instruction on how to create videos, I highly recommend checking out TechSmith Academy, a brand new (free!) way to learn the basics of video and much more. Between TechSmith Academy, Camtasia, our Camtasia Tutorial series, and new Video Review service, you’ll be able to create your own product demo videos in no time!  If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments- we’d love to hear from you.

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TechSmith Academy- Helping You Learn About Visual Communication and Video Creation

We Heard A Common Theme…

Over the last several years, I have had the privilege to speak to thousands of people about video creation. I have met people with a variety of skill levels and knowledge, with many just starting to start the video creation process.

For the most part, none of these individuals were trained or went to school to create video. They are Trainers who saw a need and opportunity, Marketers who want to catch the video marketing wave and keep up with or beat their competitors, and many others in other professions and roles that have an interest or need in video creation.

We Saw a Need…

What all of these people have in common is that they want to use the medium of video and visuals to help solve problems and answer questions, but they’ve had to figure out how to do it themselves.

While video doesn’t have to be difficult, it can feel overwhelming and challenging to figure out where to start. We firmly believe that one of the best learning tools is to start creating. Nothing will substitute for trying things out and experimenting.

There is so much to learn, and everyone deserves resource to help them jump start their understanding, resources to build knowledge, and to learn from mistakes that others have already made. We believe that there should be a place for you to cut the amount of time to learn, gain understanding of best practices, and to gain inspiration.

That’s why we are thrilled to announce the launch of TechSmith Academy.

We Created a Resource- TechSmith Academy

 

TechSmith Academy Logo

 

TechSmith Academy is a free online learning platform with courses to help you learn more about visual communication and video creation. With our initial launch, we are releasing eight courses all about video creation. These courses range from the beginning stages of why you should write a script, to basics for setting up lighting, capturing audio in your environment, and more. In addition to lessons, many of the courses provide downloadable templates or supplemental materials to help you learn, grow, and practice.

TechSmith Academy home page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are excited to share our knowledge with you through TechSmith Academy and plan to add new content throughout the year about a variety of related topics. We hope you will find the courses and materials both helpful, enjoyable, and useful in helping you to learn more about video creation and visual communication.

Go check out TechSmith Academy, try one of the courses and let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

The post TechSmith Academy- Helping You Learn About Visual Communication and Video Creation appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

Screencasts for knowledge sharing

Throughout my 20 years in IT, I learned a lot by following a daily routine. Between all my jobs over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge (some good, some bad) in this head of mine. I’ve leveraged this knowledge to progress in my career, and to increase my income. Potential employers loved to see lots of experience on my resume, and every time I jumped to another job I saw a 10% or more bump in salary.

However, unbeknownst to me, I held the golden ticket to more significant opportunities locked away in my noggin — my knowledge. On a whim, I started a public blog about my work. I felt that if I could step away from the daily grind and document my successes, it could act as both documentation for myself, and a helpful guide for others. It’s a win-win!

heads with gears

In addition to blogging, I started tweeting about the topics that interested me and some of the unique scenarios I encountered. In short order, it took off. Google picked it up, and I was soon answering questions about all kinds of IT topics. It was so rewarding! But it didn’t end there. Suddenly I was teaching online courses, presenting tech demonstrations on YouTube, and writing on other sites. I was hooked! Fast-forward four years, and I have multiple online courses published, a YouTube channel, a complete eBook and a print book due out next year. Times have changed. My knowledge paid off!

Contributing to a community

people on digital devicesThroughout my knowledge-sharing journey, I learned a crucial lesson — first, give back with no expectation of payment. I didn’t start out making money from my knowledge. I wanted to share it with others. Being around like-minded people is intoxicating. It motivates me to do more and push harder and connect with others. Through these connections, I build friendships and comradery, but also put myself in a position to unlock more opportunities. Through my community connections, I found a job making double what my previous job paid. Being part of a community allows you to help others, make friends and potentially make career advancements in the process.

Improving self-confidence

My community is IT. Geeks tend to be introverts. Lack of self-confidence makes a difficult barrier to sharing knowledge. Many people in my community think they’re not good enough. They may believe everyone already knows what they’re going to talk about — or have any number of other reasons to avoid speaking up. These reasons come down to one thing — lack of self-confidence.

To share your knowledge means exposing yourself, even if just a little. To write a blog post, record a screencast and post it on YouTube, or reply to a question on a forum opens you up to some level of criticism. Some random, anonymous person on the Internet may try to discredit your statements. But, in my experience, those haters make up less than 1% of the feedback you will receive.

Nearly all of the people you interact with online will be appreciative you took the time to share your thoughts. They will thank you for helping them with a problem. You know lots of things others do not. Never assume that whatever knowledge you have is common. You have valuable knowledge to share!

Screencasting as a knowledge-sharing tool

Sharing knowledge boils down to contributing content in three forms — written, audio, and/or video. Numerous studies show that video makes the most impact online. Whether it’s an iPhone video demonstrating how to make the perfect basket underwater, or a recording of your computer screen while narrating (known as a screencast), video grabs attention. Attention spans are short. Video captures and keeps that attention by providing movement and interesting/entertaining audio. It’s a lot easier to close a browser tab with a bunch of text rather than seeing constant action in a video!

Free Trial: You can try any of our screen recorders for free. Get everything you need to record on your Windows, Mac, and iOS devices.

Screencasting, in particular, works powerfully for my niche. Since 100% of the content I produce is on the computer, screencasting is key for me. Screencasting helps me explain complicated technical scenarios much easier than the written word (especially with the right screencasting tools). People are visual beings. If you can help them visualize what a solution may look like, they will better understand your message.

Introducing TechSnips: A training platform

techsnips gears

 

TechSnips is a training platform for anyone with techy knowledge that allows you to contribute short screencasts about your area of expertise, and get paid for them. If you share knowledge via video, you could use a platform like YouTube, but you’ll find that you’re amongst a sea of content (some good and some bad). Differentiating yourself is hard.

A platform like TechSnips works differently than YouTube because all training screencasts are professionally edited at no cost to you. You also become part of a community of like-minded techies you can learn from and make connections with. It’s like being in an exclusive club. Being a part of a community like the TechSnips contributor community will help promote your content, and you will get paid in the process.

Learn more

If you’d like more information about how to share your knowledge, I encourage you first to check out my recent session, How to Accelerate Your Career and Others by Proving You’re a Badass. I wanted to inspire others to share knowledge and reap the benefits. It covers everything we’ve gone over here and shows you my rise in the ranks by sharing my experience and getting involved in a community.

Start recording

Not sure where to get started? TechSmith Academy is full of courses for people to level-up their video and visual communication skills. You can find free courses about all areas of video including: scripting, lighting, editing, audio, and post-production! Check out TechSmith Academy

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Everything You Need to Know About Mobile Video Recording

Your mobile device is capable of so many things, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of the features that mobile apps offer. You can surf the web, check your bank statement, or place an order for take-out right from your fingertips. So let’s say you want to record a video of your mobile device in order to create a tutorial or provide clear instructions for a friend or a co-worker. Thanks to some tips and tricks from TechSmith, mobile video recording has never been easier. Let’s take a look!

The Basics

Before hitting the record button, it’s important to consider a few key factors that can have a lasting effect on the quality of your video.

Audio

Built in microphones on mobile devices are very limited. If you can, try and get as close as possible to the source you are shooting. And make sure to listen for noises around you as well. Make sure there are no cars driving by or buzzing from lights – anything that can interfere with the audio signal.

Lighting

For the most part, cameras on mobile devices work better with as much light as possible. So if you can, avoid dark areas. And also, try to avoid getting the sun, bright lights, or windows pointing directly into the shot. This can dramatically over or underexpose your subject.

Shot Composition

On mobile devices, zooming is very limited. So if you can, physically move the camera forward, back or side to side, to fill up your frame. And try to stabilize the shot best you can. No one likes shaky footage. A good tip is too lean up against something. If you have a tripod or flat surface nearby, that will work great as well.

Apps

Here at TechSmith, here are a few apps that are used for shooting and sharing video:

For more visual demonstration, watch the video below!

Recording a Mobile Device Using a Camera

“Blasphemy!” cried the townspeople as they descended on TechSmith headquarters, pitchforks in hand. “Why would you use a camera to record a mobile device at a screen recording company!?”

Well, consider this method a tool in a toolbox. It can be jarring for viewers to cut from a “real world” camera video with actors right into a screen video. Using this technique eases the transition from your live video to your screen recording. Or Perhaps you’re using an accessory like a new tablet pen that you’d like to review? Maybe your fingernails are on fleek and you want to show off that fresh new manicure. Whatever the case, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and we here at TechSmith have got your back with some tips on how to make your mobile device look good through a lens. Check out the video below as it takes you through the following tips:

  • Use a solid surface to place your mobile device on
  • Shooting directly down will capture everything on your screen
  • Avoid pointing lights directly at the device to prevent a glare
  • Take note of the focus – try using manual focus and exposure so your camera doesn’t adjust in the middle of the video

Get Mobile Video Files Off Your Device

So you’ve recorded your mobile device, but you want to bring it onto your desktop for editing, saving, or sharing. Here are some tips on the different options available for getting your video off your mobile device and onto your computer:

The simplest option is plugging your phone into you computer with your USB charger. Or if you have an android device, take out your memory card and use a card reader that is hooked up to your computer. Once connected, you can click and drag your video files right into any folder you desire.

But, let’s say you don’t have a card reader or USB cord available. The next solution is wireless or “cloud” sharing options.

But what is the cloud exactly? The cloud, or cloud computing, basically means software that is operated by internet enabled devices. Instead of storing your files on your mobile device or computer, the files are stored on a server somewhere out there in the world. So for these options to work, you will need to have an active internet connection. Here are a few options:

  • Dropbox works on all devices and you are given 2GBs for free to get started with options to upgrade if needed. Dropbox is available for all major mobile offerings.
  • Google Drive gives you 15GB for free to get started and it is compatible on all mobile devices as well
  • Apple’s iCloud offers 5GB of storage for free to get started and works basically the same as the other two. And believe it or not, iCloud is available for Windows users too.
  • Email services put a cap on file size, usually around 25MB per email, so this option can be limited, but still works if you are in a bind.

If you don’t have a cord or you don’t want to send your videos through the cloud because of privacy reasons, another option would be a product that we offer here at TechSmith, which is called TechSmith Fuse. It is a free companion app for a smartphone or tablet that works together with Snagit.

The way it works is that it connects your mobile device to your desktop computer through a WiFi connection. So as long as your devices are on the same WiFi signal, all you need to do is connect your device via a QR code and BAM! Now you can wirelessly send media safely over the network. No cloud storage involved. The app makes it easy to access video on your computer that you’ve captured on your device. You can download it in either the App Store or the Google Play Store.

How to Go From Smartphone Video to Animated GIF

Now that you have your mobile video recording off your device and onto your desktop, you now have the option to turn that video into a GIF! In June of 1987, the animated GIF was born. While the file format is just slightly older than the majority of millennials, it is widely used by people of all ages. The use of the GIF has peaked in popularity in recent years…the reason? Brands are seeking better social-media engagement.

Culture is better communicated and conveyed through visual media like video, which evokes emotion in audiences, and is more effective than static images or text alone. The GIF is a quick, digestible, auto-playing snippet of video, whose beauty is in its simplicity.

movie-clip-american-beauty-plastic-bag-swirling-in-wind

Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/FWNJ8Hdsk3YzK

Creating a GIF is easier than you think. There are several options for tools that will help you make one easily from existing images or videos, either saved locally on your computer, in the cloud, on a flash drive, or from the internet.

Below, you’ll learn how to create a GIF from video you’ve captured on your Smartphone or tablet in four easy steps using TechSmith’s Snagit + mobile app Fuse.

If you would like to follow along with the steps outlined and don’t yet have Snagit installed on your computer, you can download a fully-functioning free trial here.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Record/Select the video

Open TechSmith Fuse on your device, and either record a new video by choosing Video, or select an existing video to use by choosing Library > Gallery.

If you are creating a new video, be mindful of whether you prefer portrait or landscape orientation. It may also be a good idea to review the footage to make sure you’re satisfied with your brief video before moving on.

techsmith-fuse-interface-library-and-new-video-options

Step 2: Send the video to Snagit

Now that you’ve selected the video you’d like to use from within Fuse, you’ll want to open Snagit on your desktop and select the Connect Mobile Device option.

snagit-interface-showing-connect-mobile-device-option

A QR Code will pop up. Select Share from within the Fuse app and then scan the code using the box that appears on your device’s screen. The media will be sent into the Snagit editor.

techsmith-fuse-interface-showing-share-option-and-qr-code-used-to-connect

*Sidenote: This works for still images too! You won’t use the still images to create GIFs, but you you can use them to make memes! Sending your still images into Snagit is also a good way to gain quick access to the picture you took of a trade show booth that caught your attention, or the whiteboard full of notes that you captured with your phone that needs to be shared with your team.

Step 3: Select the part of the video you’d like to convert

From within Snagit, you can play back the video. You now have two options.

You can remove the unwanted sections of your video, and then click to create the GIF with all of the remaining content.

Your other option would be to select the portion of the video you’d like to convert and then click the GIF button.

The first option is found to be easier, but it’s really a matter of your personal preference.

snagit-interface-showing-how-to-select-portion-of-video-to-trim-or-use-for-gif

Step 4: Celebrate and share your glorious achievement!

Now that you have successfully created your GIF, get sharing! Post it publicly to your company website, distribute it via email, or share it on social media.

Whether you’ve created the GIF to illustrate steps in a process, provide mini-demos, or maybe just to impress your friends, the use case possibilities are endless. Let your creative juices flow!

slot-machine-15-iloveimg-compressed

Creating a GIF is easy! If you’d like to view a quick recap, check out this video tutorial.

Are you already creating GIF’s from your mobile video content? I’d love to hear how, and what you’re using them for. Share your GIF, and/or your thoughts, in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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How to Create Alternative Text for Images for Accessibility and SEO

If you create or publish digital content of any kind, it’s likely by now you’ve at least heard something about the importance of creating content that’s accessible for people with disabilities. Alternative text (also called “alt text”) helps ensure people who are blind or visually impaired, or who may have other physical or cognitive disabilities can access and understand visual content such as images, charts, and graphs.

In the United States, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all digital content be accessible to people with disabilities. Other countries have their own requirements. For people who use screen readers or other assistive technologies to access digital content, accessible content is essential to ensure they are able to access and understand the content in the same way that someone who does not require assistance would.

What is alternative text?

Alternative text, in its simplest form, is background code added to a digital image that allows a screen reader or other assistive technology to describe the image’s content and meaning to those who cannot see the image or may be unable to process the image due to a cognitive disability.

It’s used in several ways:

  • Screen readers use it to describe the image to users so they can access and understand the content.
  • In browsers where images are blocked, the alt text is displayed in place of the image.
  • Search engines use it to determine the content and context of images.

Screen readers can tell when an image is present, but they cannot analyze their content. The alt text is read in place of the image to give users understanding of the image’s meaning and context.

How to add alt text to images

Unfortunately, there is no one way to add alternative text. Different software platforms do it in different ways. Check your software’s documentation or help files for information on how to add alt text to your images from within that platform.

In Microsoft Word, for example, right-click on the image and choose Add Alt Text. Then, add your text into the alt text window in the sidebar that opens. When you’re finished, simply close the sidebar and your alt text will save with the image.

Animated GIF showing a user right-clicking on an image and filling in alternative text using Microsoft World

Alt text vs. captions

Alt text and captions are similar in many ways. Both provide a description of the image and context of how the image fits in with the rest of the content. However, alt text is typically “behind the scenes,” whereas captions are visible to anyone accessing the page. Furthermore, captions may not always include a full description of the image and its contents, as they are typically used to enhance or provide context for a visible image.

However, captions can be more useful for accessibility purposes. Captions are especially helpful for images that might require a lot of alt text to accurately describe. Rather than creating long and less useful alt text, longer descriptions can be made using a caption. Then, the alt text can give a brief description of the image and suggest the user look to the caption for a more complete description and/or context.

Alternative text best practices

Creating good alt text isn’t a science — it’s more of an art. Too short and it may not give enough detail. Too long and it can be tedious. But here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re creating alt text.

1. Accurately describe the content and function of the image

People who use assistive technology rely on the contents of the alt text to give them not just what the image contains, but any context for the image if it’s not readily available. Depending on the complexity of the image, it may be better to provide context in the text of your content to avoid overly long alt text.

2. The shorter the better, but not too short

One of the main concerns with alt text is the length. For the most part, screen readers will read either all or none of the alt text as written. In other words, there is no way for someone using a screen reader to skip ahead to find more relevant content or to pause and go back to something they didn’t understand. If the most relevant content is at the end of your alt text, the user would have to listen to all of the irrelevant information before discovering why the image is included.

Give enough detail to accurately describe the image, but avoid minute details that don’t necessarily enhance the meaning of why the image was included.

A photo of back-end web site codes on computer monitor. Developer working on a web project in a busy office. There is a shallow depth of field in the photo. There are lots of code line in the file.

For example, in the image above, there are a number of ways you could describe it depending on what it’s trying to convey in the context of the surrounding content.

It would be tempting to just describe it as a computer screen. And, in some cases that might be enough. But, in an article about using screen blur to hide sensitive information, you may need to describe the image as a computer screen with the file tree blurred for privacy.

If the article was about a specific type of coding and the image was attempting to show an example of that code, you may need to go into more detail about what code is displayed.

Or, maybe the article is about the width of bevel on the computer screen, so there would need to be detail about that, instead.

In this sense, creating good alternative text is more of an art form rather than a science. Your alt text should be long enough to accurately describe the image, but not so long as to be cumbersome.

3. Use proper punctuation and spelling

A screen reader will read the alt text exactly as it appears, spelling and punctuation mistakes included. In programs like Microsoft Word, there is no way to check the spelling or grammar of your alt text, so you’ll want to be extra careful.

Similarly, you must use proper punctuation or your alt text may sound like a really annoying run-on sentence, or worse, not make any sense at all.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to create a new document where you can compose the alt text using Word’s built-in spelling and grammar checkers and then, when you’re satisfied and it’s mistake-free, copy and paste it into the alt text window of whatever software you’re using.

Most modern browsers automatically check for spelling, so if you’re writing something in a content management system (CMS) or into Google Docs, it’s likely your spelling and grammar will be checked, but it’s good practice to proofread regardless.

Pro tip: Make sure your content reviewers also check to make sure your alt text is a correct description of the image, uses proper spelling and grammar, and is clear and concise when they’re reviewing the rest of your content.

4. You don’t need a title for accessibility, but it can be helpful for other reasons

From an accessibility standpoint, giving your image a title isn’t necessary. Most screen readers won’t even bother with it. However, the title will show up as a tool tip when someone browsing your website hovers over the image. The title can also help search crawlers better grasp the image’s content and purpose.

That said, you should never sacrifice clear and concise alt text that accurately describes the image in favor of scoring an extra point or two on the SEO scale.

5. Don’t include “image of,” “photo of,” etc.

When a screen reader encounters an image, it will tell the user that it has encountered an image. So, if your alt text included the phrase “image of,” the screen reader would say something like, “Image. Image of computer screen …”

6. If your image contains text, it must be included in the alt text

Because any text within an image would not be readable to a screen reader, it must be included in the alt text if it is relevant to the image’s meaning and context with the surrounding content.

A sign reading "ASK MORE QUESTIONS" in all-caps on a wall between two analog clocks.

Looking at the image above, depending on the context and intent, it may be necessary to describe in the alt text that the sign reads, “Ask more questions.” If it’s notable to better understand the intent, you may also need to describe that the text is in all-caps.

However, in an article about how to place a sign on a wall where the actual text of the sign isn’t important, you may just need to describe that the image shows a sign centered between two wall clocks.

As noted in the Alt text vs. captions section above, if an image contains a lot of text, it’s typically better to include this information in a caption instead. You may also include it in the surrounding text content. In these cases, you would want to note in the alt text that further information about the image is included in the caption or body of the text.

Because of the guidelines for keeping alternative text relatively brief, for images with markup and text like what you might create in Snagit, I suggest using the caption or surrounding text to describe the relevant markup and text. It will be far easier and useful for users.

7. Don’t rely on your accessibility checker

Many content creation tools, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat come with useful accessibility checkers. They scan the content and look for typical mistakes content creators make that could render the content inaccessible. They’re great and you should definitely use them to check your content.

But there’s a problem: Your accessibility checker can check that alt text exists, but it can’t determine the quality of that alt text. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have your content reviewer also double-check your alt text content to ensure it’s useful and correct.

8. Images with links must include the link destination in the alt text

Another tennent of accessible content is that all hyperlinks should describe to the user where it will take them. For that reason, links like “click here” or “visit us” are typically a no-no.

In the same way, an image that functions as a link should also describe to the user where the link will take them. For example, if you have a button on your page that reads, “Download a free trial,” your alt text should read something like, “Link: Download a free trial.”

Alt text for charts, graphs, and tables

Charts, graphs, and tables present a particularly tricky issue when it comes to alternative text. Because they tend to present a relatively large amount of information, any alt text could end up being quite long and difficult to follow. As such, I highly recommend using a caption that accurately describes the chart or graph content and its relevance to the rest your content. Your alt text could then just describe the chart’s title and note that a full description of the content is available in the caption or text content.

How would you describe the chart above (from our recent article on our original research into workplace communications) to someone who can’t see it? Keep in mind that your alt text (or, more likely, caption or body of the content) would need to provide all of the relevant information so that they might understand it in the same way as someone who can see it.

In this blog article, because the information in the chart isn’t necessarily relevant to the point I’m trying to make, I could simply describe it as a complex chart of information about millennials’ preferences for visual tools at work. If this article was about the research, I would need to describe the actual content in alt text, or more appropriately in the body of the surrounding content.

Unlike images, most tables are accessible to screen readers. A user is able to move through the table to get the relevant information if they chose. However, alt text can provide a brief description of the table and an overview of what it contains so that the user can decide if they want to access the table or not.

Alt text and SEO

Alt text is essential for creating accessible content. However, it comes with a bonus: it also can help with SEO!

That said, the highest and best purpose for creating alt text is to improve the accessibility of your digital content. Trying to game the system by stuffing your alt text with inappropriate keywords or other irrelevant information can actually be harmful.

In this article from Google about image publishing, they note that they use image alt text to understand the subject matter of the image and how it relates to the rest of the content. They also suggest creating alt text that focuses on “creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page.” Google notes that alt text that is stuffed with inappropriate keywords or alt text that isn’t relevant to the image or the rest of the page content risks having your site seen as spam.

Similarly, Yoast, maker of one of the most popular WordPress plugins for SEO, recommends making sure you use your article keyword when possible and when appropriate, but they expressly say not to stuff your keywords into every bit of alt text.

While this is a good overview on basics for creating alternative text for images and SEO, it’s certainly not the last word not the subject. Many organizations have their own guidelines for creating alt text, while others may not even realize they need it at all!

Are you creating alt text for images included in your digital content? I’d love to hear your suggestions, ideas, and struggles!

The post How to Create Alternative Text for Images for Accessibility and SEO appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Get Helpful Video Feedback

A video, like any form of content, typically requires peer review and stakeholder approval before it’s ready for distribution. Whether it’s for use on your website, in an email campaign, or for an advertisement on social media, getting video feedback will always make for a better and, ultimately more effective, final product.

Feedback is necessary, but not always fun—often, we take it personally…but we shouldn’t! The point of asking your peers to review your work is to help produce the best possible final video.

While Google Docs is a great option for writers to easily get the feedback they need—are there best practices in place for video feedback? I sat down with one of TechSmith’s Video Production Specialists, Andy Owen, in search of the answer.

Q: Before you can receive video feedback, you must first create the video. When you receive a video assignment, how do you approach getting started?

A: It depends on the project, but I almost always need context. Typically, I’ll have a meeting with the stakeholders, to discuss and brainstorm ideas. This helps guide me in the right general direction.

People gathered around couches having a brainstorm

Prior to beginning the first draft, I’ll create an outline of sorts—essentially a rough script. I want to confirm that I am on the right track, and that what I’ve put together is what the stakeholders had in mind. Understanding the desired results from the video from the beginning is important. When you’re on the same page as your stakeholders from the get-go, it will save time later, and help make the process efficient.

Q: So after you’ve worked to put together a plan, you create your first draft. What does your typical video feedback workflow look like at that point in the process?

A: There are generally two main phases for video feedback—the first is the structural narrative phase.

You want people with a vested interest to make sure you have the story, or structural narrative, on the right track. I typically start with the primary stakeholders, making sure to provide the disclaimer that “this is not a finished product, but is this the story we want to tell?” I have them pay attention to high-level things like the overall theme and message. When you request this feedback, you may let your reviewers know “this is a rough edit, and I want to know if this is the right story to tell.”

Pile of books - what is the author going for?

I would request feedback about the story from two people, typically—not more than five (because you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen). Then, after receiving the video feedback on the first draft, I’d move forward with making any required adjustments, and begin working on the second draft.

Q: Ok. So on to the second draft. After you’ve incorporated the first round, or structural narrative video feedback—then what?

A: So once you’ve completed your second draft (at which point you are nearing completion), then comes the fine edit phase.

Here, you’re looking for the minor, more technical things, like audio glitches, words that got clipped, poorly balanced colors, etc. When you request this feedback, you may let your reviewers know “the story is complete; but how does it look and sound? Does anything in particular stand out, such as a technical error?” I’m looking for video feedback about details that I may have overlooked, or little mistakes that need correction.

Three people seated around a computer collaborating.

In my experience providing video feedback, I’d receive the video draft, and would manually find the time-code, write that down, and then write out my comments; “could we cut this a little shorter?” or “do we have another angle for this?” It was very text-based.

It’s easy to get defensive when you receive feedback in this way—it feels very personal due to the amount of time and effort that [a video production specialist] puts in. But you must be able to put aside any emotions and check your ego at the door. It’s not about you as an editor, it’s about making the end result better.

A tool I’ve been using to make this process easier—TechSmith Video Review—allows reviewers to add comments throughout the actual video as they watch it, as opposed to in an email or document. While still text-based, it does provide additional context with the comments, since I’m receiving the feedback while watching the video. This allows me to quickly understand the meaning and motivation of the feedback.

If you think about how often people communicate with emojis—sometimes you’ll get an email, where emotion is not conveyed, and you aren’t sure exactly how to take it. When you get comments on a video via Video Review, the context of seeing them within the video really helps in feeling like the feedback is not about you as a creator—it’s about the video.

A road which comes to a fork

Q: So you mentioned earlier that you’d request feedback from two to five people. What if your reviewers don’t agree with each other? Who’s feedback do you accept?

A: Everything is subjective—it’s still art. There are different ways to approach the video creation. The two most important things to consider:

    • Does it engage the audience?
    • Does it tell a great story?

You want to find a balance, making sure that you’re hitting both those elements.
One way to help make decisions about the feedback to accept as you edit, is to consider the motivation behind the feedback.

With TechSmith Video Review, it’s helpful that the reviewers can have a conversation among themselves. They can discuss any discrepancies, meaning that the video creator isn’t stuck “picking a side”… although you will still have to do that sometimes—again, allow the desired result of the video to guide your decisions.

photo of a camera on a tripod, ready to record

Q: Any last words of advice for anyone who may start creating videos for others?

A: Don’t pretend to know the subject. Talk to stakeholders, learn what they do, learn their goals for the process, involve them in as many iterations as it takes. And ask for video feedback!

Don’t emotionally tie yourself to the first edit draft. If you aren’t sure about whether or not to use some footage, it’s ok to keep it in there to see what your reviewers think. Sometimes, an outside perspective, a fresh set of eyes, may be helpful in determining whether there is value in something. This is especially true when creating a video about a topic that is unfamiliar—that’s when you really need to rely on your subject matter expert(s).

Well, there you have it!

We hope this advice has been helpful. Asking for video feedback doesn’t need to be scary! Following some of the best practices outlined here can help make a simple and effective video creation experience, both for stakeholders, and for the creator.

Visit the TechSmith website to learn more about TechSmith Video Review and get started with your free trial today!

 

The post How to Get Helpful Video Feedback appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How To Use Visual Communication and Why It Matters

Reclaim Your Day: Saving Time with Visual Communication

According to the Rolling Stones, time is on my side. Well, as much as I love the Stones, I can say without fear of contradiction that time is, in fact, NOT on my side. Not even a little bit.

Like you, I’m busy. Really busy. We’re talking 100-emails-a-day-between-five-meetings-and-lunch-at-my-desk-with-a-sandwich-in-one-hand-typing-with-the-other kind of busy. See the image below for a dramatic reenactment of me working last Thursday.

And yet, even with all that going on, nothing halts my productivity like finding myself stuck in the dreaded never-ending feedback loop.

You know what I’m talking about: That seemingly eternal stream of emails, meetings, phone calls and desk drop-bys we go through trying to get a particular project or document approved. Guess what all those methods typically have in common? Words.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Words alone aren’t the best way to communicate. In fact, there’s all kinds of research that shows us that in many cases, it’s downright inefficient. There’s no way around it: Sometimes words get in the way of what we’re actually trying to say.

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some hard numbers:

  • Time spent per day watching video by adults in the U.S. grew by more than 5 times, from an average of 39 seconds per day in 2011, to an average of 1 minute, 55 seconds in 2015, and usage is still trending upwards.
  • Almost 50 percent of our brains are involved in visual processing.
  • People following directions with illustrations do 323 percent better than those following text directions alone.
  • People only remember 10 percent of what they hear after three days, but if a relevant image is paired with that same information, retention goes up to 65 PERCENT!

Ok, numbers are cool, but what does all that really mean?

It means our brains are hardwired to process images quickly. And THAT means that in many cases, images will work better than words when trying to get your message across.

Imagine this: You’re managing the team for a major website redesign. Your project lead emails you with the new homepage design asking for your feedback.

Overall, you love the look, but you have just a few tweaks you’d like to see. You COULD write your thoughts in an email and send it along to the team, which might look something like this:

Hey everyone!

The new homepage looks AMAZING! I love the new elements and the new graphics look great as well. I have just a few changes I’d like to see.*

  • Under the header image, let’s move the Camtasia logo, description and buttons to the left and move the Snagit assets to Camtasia’s current spot.
  • In the header image, the “Learn More” button looks a little small. Let’s make it about 30% bigger.
  • For the Snagit and Camtasia “Learn More” buttons, let’s make them orange like the Camtasia one in the header image.
  • Bold the sentence “Find out which product is right for you in under a minute. Try the Product Selector”!
  • In the grey field below the products, let’s take the grey all the way to black and do the text in white. Buttons should also be orange like above.

Or, you could grab a screenshot and send them something like this:

Hey everyone!

The new homepage looks AMAZING! I love the new elements and the new graphics look great as well. I have just a few changes I’d like to see.

The advantage is two-fold. First, it took me less time to grab a quick screenshot and mark it up than it did to write out the numbered list of changes. Plus, I didn’t have to figure out how to say what I meant (or worry about my spelling as much). But more importantly, because my team can see exactly what I’m asking for, they’re less likely to miss something or change the wrong thing, so we’re way less likely to get caught up in a feedback loop of misunderstandings.

And don’t get me started on how much faster this was than trying to have a meeting. Just the thought of trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules and sit in a room for 20 minutes just to get these quick points across makes me feel like this:

“Ok, smart guy,” you might say, “But what about printing it and doing the markup that way?”

To which I say: You’re proving my point for me.

Either way, you’re still using visuals and markups to make things clearer. By doing it with a screen capture, you avoid the steps of printing, making your markups by hand (and scratching out any mistakes you might make while doing it), and then making copies if more than one person needs to see the changes.

Plus, we’re saving trees. And, what if color is important? I don’t know about where you work, but most organizations like to avoid color copies or prints if they can because they cost way more than black and white.

Oh, and if someone loses your on-paper changes (or spills soup all over them), you have do them all over again.

So where else might markups work better than words alone?

How about:

  • Making notes on a digital image, such as where to crop
  • Illustrating the steps one needs to take to complete a task
  • Highlighting information you want people to notice on charts and graphs
  • Making comments on video stills for your video editor, such as where to blur out confidential information
  • Offering comments on the UI for a new piece of software

The list is virtually endless …

Time is not on our sides, but by working smarter and using visuals and markups, you can get a little more of it back. AND, you get the added bonus of being more clear in your communications, which helps you avoid the never-ending feedback loop and get to “Yes.” more quickly!

Working Smarter, Not Harder

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to work smarter, not harder and they seem to be great ideas. But until workplace nap time becomes mandatory (apparently siestas help you work smarter, not harder), using visual communication can save you and your viewers time.

Getting your message across in a clear, concise way can be difficult with words alone. By incorporating visuals, you can save a lot of back and forth due to confusion. Here are a few ways you can use images and screencasts in your communications to make life easier for you and your audience.

1. Onboard new employees

It’s very time consuming to schedule face to face training sessions every time a new employee joins your organization. It’s also overwhelming to be a new employee with so much to learn right from the start. Make it easier by creating narrated screencasts that show how to use your organization’s standard programs. They will be able to re-watch it when they need a refresher, and you’ll save time by avoiding in-person training sessions. You can even use animated GIFs to help with training!

2. Capture inspiration

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So when you see an idea you like, take a screenshot of it! Saving good ideas with screenshots lets you build up a library of inspiration to use the next time you’re stuck for ideas. Similar to mood boards, you’ll have images of examples or ideas you liked, or didn’t like.

3. Skip writing pages of notes

Have you ever had the problem of trying to scribble down pages of notes, only to go back and realize your handwriting has gotten out of control and you can’t read what you wrote? One way to help alleviate this problem is to record the conversation (with permission, of course). At TechSmith, we often interview customers to learn how they use visuals in their jobs, and will record the calls rather than just relying on handwritten notes. Then, we just share a link to the recording with others to listen to when they have time, rather than blocking out calendar time for them to attend the original interview.

4. Give Clear Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback on content or projects can be challenging. You often have to wait (or chase) stakeholders for feedback on projects. And sometimes when they provide their suggestions, it’s paragraphs of text which you’re left to interpret yourself. Using visuals to show your exact feedback can reduce the time spent sending emails back and forth and helps everyone get on the same page. This can make the approval process go much faster.

In the below example, my coworker was able to take a screenshot and point out exactly how to improve this project, without having to write a long email. Her screenshot and comments helped me immediately understand what she wanted me to change. If we would have tried to communicate these changes through text alone, it probably would have taken a few hours of back and forth emails to get to this outcome.

5. Reporting progress

I like graphs. But without context, sometimes they don’t make as much sense as they could. By hitting record and narrating your graphs or even slide presentations, you can help your audience better understand results, data, and the impact they may have on your business. This can be particularly helpful when reporting data to coworkers in different departments who may need a little more explanation or context in order to understand what the numbers mean. Adding images to reports can also help achieve clarity and engagement, instead of only using text. We even have a  blog showing results with screencasts to help you get started.

6. Better emails

Emails are a necessary part of many jobs, and pretty crucial communication tools. But what if you could cut down the amount of text, and still convey your point in a way that will grab people’s attention? Adding screenshots to your emails can help you achieve this. They are more engaging to view than blocks of text, and you can draw your reader to your main point with marked up screenshots. Here’s another blog post to help you get started on 3 Ways Screenshots Make Your Microsoft Word Doc, PowerPoint, and Email Better.

Why does visual communication matter?

So, why the increase in visual communication? Content creators  are figuring out that using visual communication is a much more impactful way to get your point across. Read on to learn four important reasons why visual communication is crucial in order to effectively deliver a meaningful message.

1. Visual communication saves time by relaying messages faster.

We can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second–that’s even faster than you read this sentence!

Giphy CEO and co-founder Alex Chung was quoted as saying “a picture paints a thousand words…by that logic…the average GIF contains sixty frames, then they’re capable of conveying 60,000 words–the same as the average novel.” Giphy even recently announced that they are delivering 1 billion GIFs a day… and that this number is growing!

Stats have shown that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. Getting your point across quickly is a huge benefit for obvious reasons. Because time is money, saving time by utilizing visual communication makes sense cents!

visual communication - Dwight Schrute meme - time isn't money - its not an accepted form of currency

Time is money, so the saying goes. Maybe not in a literal sense…

Images and video convey a richer experience than text-heavy content alone. In a media landscape filled with clutter, readers’ attention is hard to acquire, and even harder to retain. As a result, readers often prefer to scan content rather than read word for word. Keeping your material loaded with visuals is a surefire way to relay your message in less time.

2. Visual communication ensures that a clear, unified message is delivered.

We’ve all had it happen–you fall in love with a book, and then you learn that this story you love is getting made into a movie. You feel apprehensive about watching the movie, fearing that it won’t fall in line with the characters, settings, and overall feel that was imagined in your head.

Visual Communication - Google search bar, worst book to movie adaptation - large number of search results

Often novels don’t contain much visual communication–they are typically very text heavy, which leaves much to your imagination. When reading for pleasure, letting your creative mind wander and your imagination run wild is often what you’re seeking–it’s a part of the experience.

When reading for business, though, the opposite is true. For business communications, it’s important that all readers are interpreting a similar meaning, or risk a result of wasted time and confusion. When sending a message for a professional purpose, less room for interpretation is what you want–it’s a good thing.

Visual Communication - Martha Stewart - It's a Good Thing meme

Less interpretation in business communication is a good thing.

Collaborating on projects with remote employees can be challenging. Short, simple videos or animated GIFs are a great way to quickly iterate on suggested edits among your team, and make certain that everyone involved is on the same page.

3. Visual communication helps to provide a shared, consistent experience.

An important part of delivering a consistent experience with visuals is branding. In addition to a logo, many organizations have defined brand colors that should be used in all marketing activity.

visual communication - TechSmith brand guidelines - logos plus colors

Brand guidelines pulled from the TechSmith style guide

Logos, colors, font, graphics, icons, and imagery, paired with your company’s voice and tone, make your brand recognizable. You can witness this in action by taking a Guess the Logo quiz.

Effective branding activity of using consistent visual communication is a great way to take advantage of your brand’s equity when launching to a new market.

Regardless if your organization has 5 people, or 500 people, if it’s a start-up, or if it has a long history, making sure that everyone is using the same defined brand elements is a great way to start driving recognition of your organization and to build brand awareness.

Visual communication - a series of Starbucks logos illustrating a similar tone and feel

Starbucks is a great example of using consistent visual elements for branding.

4. Visual communication results in better retention of the information.

From a scientific perspective, it’s been found that using relevant visuals help the audience remember the information more effectively.

This infographic outlines some interesting statistics—only 10-20% of text (or spoken word) is recalled. But, people recall 80% of what they both see and do.

Whether your planned communication is internal or external, regardless of the topic or strategy, retention is always something to aim for.

Bringing it all together

The evidence overwhelmingly points to the same conclusion–using visual communication is crucial to an overall strategic communication plan. Incorporating images and video throughout messaging has benefits for both the sender and the receiver.

Creating images isn’t exclusive to those with formal graphic design training or with access to expensive, high-end tools. Simple screenshots are a great example of an easy way to create your own image while conveying a message in a meaningful way.

If you are not sure how to get started using visuals to help you communicate better, Snagit is a great tool to use to create screenshots, short and simple videos and screencasts, or animated GIFs.

Are images and/or video currently a part of your communication strategy? We’d love to hear how you are using visual communication–let us know in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Avoid These Common Video Editing Mistakes

So you’re just sitting down to edit your first video production? Hopefully you had the chance to read over our video creation basics before jumping into your edit. Often times this can be an intimidating and daunting task. There are many mistakes to be made along the way and there is no better way to learn than to just DO.

However, some mistakes can be corrected with a few simple tweaks and give your video production a more polished look. The truth is we’re all guilty of editing mistakes. In fact, often some of the best new video editing “techniques” have come from mistakes.

That being said, we’d like to save you the time and energy by providing you with our top common video editing mistakes that you can correct to give your video an edge.

1. Poor Audio / Inconsistent Audio

If you’re new to editing this component can be tough to understand. On your timeline, there will usually be two to three audio components. Music, voice and your clips audio. If you do not need audio from the original clip, the first thing you can do is turn that off. In Camtasia, you can turn that off by right clicking and selecting “separate audio and video” then just delete or hide the audio track. Newbie editors often have their music track overpowering their other tracks. Make sure the music blends in with your voice talent, or sits just below the voice. Pay special attention to your final edit by focusing on the sound.

Pro Tip: Close your eyes and just listen to your video. If it sounds off, it needs to be adjusted regardless of how amazing your footage is!

How To Fix: Most video editors have audio control right on the track. Adjust the audio until the voice and music harmoniously blend together without one sounding more powerful than the other.

Sometimes, you may not realize there’s an audio issue until you’re in the post-production stage. One of the most common things to fix in video editing in post production is the audio coming from our subject who is speaking on camera.

For example, if they made three points in their video, but they were made in the wrong order:

Our narrator said, “With the newest version of our software you can do A, B, and C.”

But they were supposed to say, “you can do B, A, and C.”

Here’s what you can do:

Place your audio clip into your video editor’s timeline (in the gif below we use TechSmith Camtasia). Cut the offending clip at the beginning and end, and move it. You can use the audio waveform as a visualization of the words. If the person spoke clearly and concisely this will be easy. You can also learn some basic audio mixing tips if you want to delve deeper at this point.

Or if you don’t want to change what they said, but need to hasten their point, or cut out some embarrassing “um’s” and “ah’s.” In that case, you’re going to want to use the old standard of adding b-roll (extra) footage over your audio to hide any cuts. If you haven’t read our post on b-roll, give it a look to better understand this important video editing standard.

2. The Jump Cut

Every editing technique has its time and place. The jump cut is a tried and true way to accomplish the goal of editing, which is to collapse time. Jump cuts are used to save time and push the story forward. This style is often overused by newbies because they don’t know what other cuts to use. It’s especially evident when you take a single shot and just cut time out of the same frame, thus making the character appear as if they magically moved into a different position in the same scene.

Pro Tip:Explore other editing options. Such as setting up another camera angle and cutting to a different angle in the same scene, or providing a transition so the viewer is less jarred.

How to fix: There are a ton of different types of cutting styles out there and you’ll need to begin to understand how to use these as you move forward in your editing adventure. Take a look at the 8 essential cuts every editor should know blog post put together by Premiumbeat.com.

As you can see frame one the subject in the background is on the left, then in the frame immediately following the subject in the background is on the right. Trying to collapse time with this cutting technique is sometimes jarring to the viewer.

3. Incomplete Transitions

This video editing mistake happens when the length of your transition is longer than the previous clip. Often times an editor will place the transition between two clips and one of the clips does not extend long enough. The previous clip drops and briefly shows the viewer a black screen between the transition. Similar to the image below.

Pro Tip: Make sure your previous clips are long enough or adjust your transition time.

How to fix: Camtasia makes it very easy to trim your video clips. After you have set the proper length, just drag and drop a transition on. Often times you will see incomplete transitions using “wipe transitions”, this can be fixed by simply extending the previous clip.

As you can see the black space on the left side of the video is where the previous clip drops before the transition is complete.

4. Music Doesn’t Fit

Have you ever seen a video that has slow music but fast paced footage, or the opposite? Quick cutting techniques and quick camera movements need to have corresponding high tempo and high energy music. There is nothing worse than watching a sad emotional scene with Pharrell’s – Happy in the background. Make sure when you sit down to edit your video, you have your scenes mapped out so that your music choices fit the mood of your scenes.

Pro Tip: Focus on your edit first, then find music that fits your edit.

How to fix: There are plenty of stock and royalty free music sites out there for you to use. Most of them provide a way to filter by genre or mood, so that you can find the right track for the occasion. We’ve compiled a short list of sites for your use. Keep in mind that if your producing anything commercially, you may have to license these tracks for an extended period of time.

Premiumbeat: This site is fantastic for newbie video editors and is easily navigable. You’ll find a wide range of musical tracks to choose from, with artists continually refreshing the lineup.

Musicbed: A more professional site often used by filmmakers and commercial brands alike. This site features higher quality tracks often with supreme vocal talent.

Audio Jungle: Similar to Premiumbeat in that it offers a very wide selections. Great for social media and marketing videos.

5. Inconsistent Graphics

Nobody expects you to be a graphic designer, but you should make sure your fonts, font colors and sizing are consistent throughout your entire video. The biggest error newbies make when adding text and styling to their productions is using different fonts, different font colors and adding colors that distract the viewer from the content.

Pro Tip: Select a font and stick with it. Use it throughout your video for lower thirds, title cards and more. Pick a color palette and stick with it. Change your creative where it fits. If you find yourself saying, “but it looks cute!” it probably needs to be changed.

How To Fix: Take a look at some tutorials on how to add animation and effects to your graphics or text in Camtasia.

As you can see in this image the text is incredibly distracting if not just hard to read. Standard practice usually calls for a nice sans serif font that is legible and isn’t hard for the viewer to read.

6. Removing Sensitive Information

Let’s say you’re using screen recordings to give instruction or train new employees. It’s easy to accidentally capture private information in your screen recording. Software such as Camtasia, gives you the option to create an area-specific blur in your video. Now you can better conceal that information.

Pro Tip: When using the blur tool, think about whether it’s to hide or highlight information! The blur tool not only allows you to protect your personal information, but can draw attention to particular areas of your video.

How to fix: Take a look at this tutorial that shows you different ways you can “blur it out.”

7. Adjusting Your Frame

You’ve put the camera away, you’re sitting down and you seeing your video for the first time. That’s when you realize you left too much room above your subject’s head in the frame.

Pro Tip: Be aware of your subject’s background before hitting record. Take note of how much empty space is around them!

How to fix: If you filmed this at full HD (1920×1080), then you can edit your video in a 1280×720 timeline. That will maintain your aspect ratio and give you room to maneuver your shot.

Final Thoughts

If you’re just getting started editing video these tips will help you figure out how to avoid common editing mistakes and make your final piece look even more polished. The goal of your edit should always be to tell your unique story and sometimes that means you need to break some industry standards to make your piece more creative. These five tips are here solely for the purpose of helping your video look more professional. As you may know getting started is the hardest part. That’s why we put together a guide to help get you before you even start editing. Check out our post about how to make video: before starting your first video.

We’d love to hear your tips and tricks on avoiding video editing mistakes. Share your experiences with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

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How to Add Captions or Subtitles to a Video

The rise of video in social media should be no surprise to anyone. We’ve all seen the bombardment of videos all over our computers and mobile devices, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. So, while we’re all aware of video’s surge, here are some hard numbers:

  • 67 percent of users watched more videos on social networks like Facebook and Snapchat than they did a year ago
  • Video will account for 70 percent of all mobile traffic by 2021
  • Adding video to your social feeds means audiences are 10x more likely to engage and share your posts

However, there’s a huge difference between doing video, and doing video well, and one of them is knowing when to use captions vs. sound.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on captions (or subtitles) to understand your video’s content. But there are a lot of other great reasons for using them, as well.

Turn down for what?

Have you ever been at work sneaking in a few quick Facebook status updates, or on the train or bus- trying to desperately hold onto what little privacy you have- when your phone starts blaring noise from some ad or FunnyOrDie clip? You’re not alone. One of the most annoying things you can find in your Facebook feed is a video that autoplays with the sound on.

Here’s Facebook’s take on the matter, stating the most obvious: “Our research found that when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80 percent react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser” (Source)

Facebook found out that video generated content on social platforms is not the same as commercials on TV. “…it’s not TV ads. It’s TV ads with the sound turned off.” (Source). Users don’t want something that shouts at them; they want something that piques their interest without intruding on their enjoyment of the platform.

The age of captions

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen captions and subtitles on videos or in movies either in the form of translation of the dialogue from one language to another, or simply a same-language presentation of dialogue and other audio events. One of the most widely-known uses for captions — closed captioning — is a way for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to be able to access and understand the audio portions of a video.


While the terms “subtitles” and “captions” are often used interchangeably, there are some differences. Technically, subtitles should convey only the dialogue or narration happening in a video. Subtitles used for translating one language to another would likely also include translations of any foreign language text shown on the screen.

Video with subtitles

Captions often convey dialogue and/or narration plus any other audio effects that may be present, such as when (and what type of) music is playing and any background noises such as loud crashes, cars honking or dogs barking that may be integral to understanding what’s happening on the screen. In fact, to meet accessibility standards, captions must include those elements.

Video with captions and an audio cue

Millennials consume video in a much different way than their parents or grandparents. To burst into their social bubbles, these videos need to adapt to be on their level. Enter the art of adding captions to video. Captions certainly are not a new concept for videos on TV, but they are a strategy that is proving more and more effective on all social media platforms. While scrolling through your social feeds with your sound turned off (which 85 percent of users do), most individuals will completely skip a video whose meaning is lost without sound. If they can’t hear it, then they won’t get it, so who cares?

However, when you add captions to videos, viewers are more likely to be drawn into it. Facebook’s internal tests show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12 percent. Anything you can do to capture a viewer’s attention — even seconds more than than they normally would — can add up. In fact, 74 percent of ad recall is achieved in 10 seconds of Facebook video campaigns. In a world without sound, captions are one of the best ways to increase those numbers. With these numbers, it’s no surprise why marketers are obsessed with Facebook video.

The rise of video isn’t just social

Facebook video is powerful, but video is on the rise in education and in the corporate world as well. As of 2015, 77 percent of U.S.-based companies offered online corporate training to improve professional development. With the non-social use of video, we also have to consider other reasons why captions are crucial. When you offer video-based training or learning, you need everyone to have access. Enter the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and compliance concerns. How can people who are deaf or hard of hearing learn from your video without being able to hear it? This is where video in particular can be a powerful tool, sound or not. Check out the below video explaining “Deaf Gain”:

Universities, community colleges, and even K-12 are also adopting eLearning tools rapidly and with open arms. Since 2000, growth in the eLearning industry has skyrocketed by 900 percent!  To put this in perspective, 64 percent of full-time faculty at community colleges teach distance education classes. The question we have to ask ourselves is not if we should adapt to video, but what can we do to make our videos the most accessible, engaging and effective as they can be?

Why add captions?

As noted above, the most common use for captions is to provide a text-based representation of any audio happening in a video. Subtitles are most often used for providing a text-based translation of dialogue. For accessibility purposes, all videos should have closed captions available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

But there are a lot of other reasons to use captions as well. One of the more practical reasons, especially for web videos, is so that people don’t need to have their volume turned up to understand the content of your videos. Imagine someone scrolling through their Facebook feed and coming upon a video. As that video auto-starts, they can’t hear it because their sound is turned off. They’re far more likely to scroll past that video (and miss all your great content) than if that same video contained captions or subtitles that conveyed the dialogue or narration.

The same is true for videos playing in places where there is a lot of ambient noise. If people can’t hear your video, the captions provide the content, no matter how noisy the room.

Don’t get caption crazy

Captioning is an effective tool when sound is not an option, but there will always be scenarios in which sound is simply required to communicate your message. Sometimes a teacher making an online video might want to personalize his or her video with their voice – add human warmth to an otherwise dry topic. Or add an air of authority to reinforce their lesson. Here’s an example of a student learning ESL – a scenario that would be impossible without the benefit of sound.  How would you caption a lesson on the violin? In many ways, captioning is the wave of the future and of enhanced video comprehension. That being said, some things can only be communicated by sound:

So, how do you add captions and subtitles to a video?

Most video editors have captioning capabilities. I’ll show the steps for adding video captions in Camtasia for Mac.

Step 1a: Start with a script

This step is more about saving time than anything else. If the narration or dialogue in your video was read from a script, you’re already way ahead of the game. You can use your script (or transcript) to copy and paste the spoken words into the captioning editor. When writing content for subtitling, these tips are also helpful to consider, such as reading speed and length. If you don’t have a script or transcript, skip to Step 1b.

Step 1b: Transcribe your video

If you don’t have a script, you may want a transcript of your video. There are a few ways to accomplish this. If you prefer to just type your captions or subtitles in manually, you can skip to Step 2.

  • You can watch your video and type out exactly what’s being said. This works fine if you have a short video (say, less than five minutes). But longer videos will become more difficult and will take far longer. Even the fastest typist will likely need to stop the video occasionally to ensure an accurate transcription.
  • You can send your video out for translation. There are a number of companies out there that specialize in transcription. A quick Google search will yield a ton of results.
  • Use your video editor’s speech-to-text feature. Many video editors (including Camtasia for Windows) feature speech-to-text ability for your video’s narration or dialogue. The accuracy of the transcription can be affected by a number of factors, including how much other noise is happening in the video, the overall quality of the audio and more. Overall, this is a great feature, but remember that you will definitely want to check the accuracy of the transcription before you share your video.
  • Use YouTube’s automatic transcription services. You can upload your video to YouTube and then download the transcript when it’s completed. As with any auto-transcription, you’ll want to review it carefully to verify its accuracy.

Step 2: Add a captions track to your audio track on the timeline

Step 3: Add your captions to the captions track

This is where having a script or transcription really saves time. Select the caption space on the timeline and a caption dialogue box will open below the video preview and the selected portion of the video will play. Then, just copy and paste the portion of the script that’s heard in the selected caption space. You can then click the right arrow button to move to the next caption space. Repeat until you have added all the captions.

If you don’t have a transcript or script, the process is very similar. However, instead of copying and pasting the appropriate portions of the script, you’ll type the corresponding narration or dialogue into the dialogue box. Make sure that you’re typing only what you hear in each selected portion of the video.

Step 4: Review for accuracy

As with any work meant for public consumption, you’ll want to make sure it’s accurate. Once you have added all the captions (and any other necessary audio cues) to your video, review a time or two to ensure the captions match up with the dialogue or narration as perfectly as possible.

Step 5: Produce and share!

Once you’re satisfied your captions are correct, you’re ready to share your video with the world.

Have you added captions or subtitles to your videos? If not, are you ready to give it a try? Download a free trial of Camtasia and give it a go!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

The post How to Add Captions or Subtitles to a Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Create a DIY Green Screen Video Effect

Green screen technology has been around since the early 1900s. But did you know that green screen technology isn’t exclusive to the color green? This visual effect is often called chroma key compositing or chroma keying. It is a post-production effect that allows video editors to replace backgrounds and insert footage or images into their scenes.

Many companies use green screen to produce informative product videos, company updates and more. It is a useful and valuable tool when you want to produce a professional looking marketing video quickly and affordably. In this post we’re breaking down how to use green software for beginners. The first thing to know is that it’s incredibly easy to produce a green screen video these days!

To help you get started, here are a few key things to remember when producing any video:

1. The first time is always the longest. Anytime you do something new it will take time. Be patient and continue to execute. You’ll get faster every time you do it, learn how to get started.

2. Make a plan and carry it out. We wrote a great post Before Starting Your First Video that explains the importance of a script and making a plan!

3. Last but not least, have fun! Green screen videos can be a blast to create. Don’t take yourself too seriously (even if it’s a serious video) and your production is sure to be more relatable to the masses.

What is Green Screen Used For?

There are many practical use cases for green screen and it all depends on what you are trying to achieve with your video production. On big Hollywood sets you will see green screens as large as a city block! It’s unlikely that you’ll have that type of budget, but if your company is ready to invest in video marketing, you will have the tools to produce some amazing marketing videos!

Some common use cases for green screen are include:

1. Marketing Videos

Filming a quick marketing video for your organization can be easy. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be green! You can purchase simple pop up green or blue screens for cheap online.These are usually the best colors to use.

2. Creating Engaging YouTube Videos

Some of the most popular YouTube vloggers use green screen to add interesting backgrounds to their videos. Replacing the background can add depth and visually interesting patterns to keep the viewer engaged.

3. Split Screen Videos

With green screen technology you can create fun side by side or split screen videos to add comedic relief to your video production. Just make sure to write your script before pressing record!

4. Replacing Backgrounds

Green screen can be used to replace backgrounds on devices, computer screens and more. This is a great visual effect to use if you are creating a marketing video for a new application or piece of software, or making a video to share out campaign results with your co-workers.

It’s not as hard as it looks

You do not have to be a director on a fancy movie set to use green screen technology. This process can actually be very cost effective and easy to set up. Over 33,000 people search for green screen help each month, and most people think that it takes complicated software to accomplish this visual effect. But you only need a few things to get started.

Step 1: Get a backdrop

First, get a piece of muslin cloth that’s a bright shade of green.

Blue screen backdrops are also available, but they can cause problems if the person on camera has blue eyes or clothes.

If you don’t want to mess around with hanging a cloth, a collapsible panel is a nice option.

Since it’s not too big (5′ x 7′), it’s perfect for when you need to travel for a shoot. We’ll discuss shadows more when we get into lighting, but for now, remember to stand as close to the backdrop as you can without casting a shadow on it. This is usually around two or three feet. Also make sure to keep your hands close to your body. Any part of your arm or hand that extends past the backdrop will look cut off in your final video.

Step 2: Pick your camera

Next, you’ll want to pick a camera that shoots HD quality video (720p or higher). Make sure your camera saves out files in a format your green screen software can import. We’ve had good success using an iPhone, but most any digital camcorder will work.

If you do choose to record on a mobile device, you can import your footage into Camtasia using our free app, TechSmith Fuse. Fuse adds your videos from your phone straight to Camtasia. You don’t have to worry about getting the files from one place to another.

When you’re just starting out, recording footage on your smartphone might seem daunting. We’ve put together some tips and advice for shooting videos on your mobile device. We cover everything you need to know about audio, shot composition, and lighting.

Step 3: Set up your lighting

The next step is optional, but recommended. One thing you should keep in mind as you shoot your green screen footage is to cut out shadows. You want a flat green background, no shadow puppets! The flatter the green, the easier it will be to remove the screen.

Don’t worry too much about getting a perfectly lit set though. The remove a color effect in Camtasia is quite forgiving of background shadows. Spend a few minutes tweaking the settings a bit and you should be good. If you’re having trouble getting the background to disappear or there’s a slight halo around the person, try to upgrade your lighting. The more even your lighting, the better the effect will be.

The easiest thing to try is a couple of hardware store clamp-on work lights with high-output CFL bulbs. You’ll also need something to clamp them on. Aim the lights so that the green screen doesn’t have dark areas and bright areas. Focus your efforts on the area directly behind the person. You’ll be able to crop out the excess space around the person later.

To throw a lot of light, you need a few bulbs in each fixture. You could build your own video lighting rig for less than $100 (see video below). Or if you’re not into DIY projects, you can shop around for a video softbox. CowboyStudio is a good place to start. Look for “continuous lighting” as opposed to flash or strobe lighting. Whether you buy or build, it’s best to use a diffusion filter for each light. That will help keep your lights from throwing shadows.

This quick video shows you how to build your own lighting kit on the cheap.

(You can also get a few tips of the trade for making your subjects look more natural.)

Step 4: Get the right software

In the Camtasia video editor you can remove your green screen with just a few clicks. Below are some tips on how to use the green screen software:

Green software can be intimidating for many people, but there are simple and effective solutions that allow you to save time and make fantastic videos quickly. We should note that there are many different types of video editing software out there. If you’re just getting started we recommend finding the easiest and most user friendly software possible.

The first thing you will need to do is select the software you want to use for your green screen video. Camtasia includes a click and drag “remove a color” feature that allows you to quickly replace the background. It is really that simple. We’ll be using Camtasia below in our examples.

Step 1 – Drag and Drop

Select the “remove a color” feature in the visual effects menu in Camtasia. Then all you need to do is drag and drop on the clip. Simple as that!

Step 2 – Select Color

Select the color you want to remove from your scene. This usually works best with green or blue in your scene. Fun fact, filmmakers have used many different colors including red, yellow and black to replace backgrounds, but often green and blue work the best.

Step 3 – Replace the image
Replace the image or background in your scene with your desired footage, background or image. In Camtasia, you can adjust the replaced image using the rotation tools in the properties panel to easily scale your image.

As you can see, green screen software can be very easy to use. With three simple steps in Camtasia you can replace a background using the “Remove A Color” feature.

For more information on getting your DIY green screen set up check out another TechSmith blog post called The Green Screen Effect- TechSmith Tips.

You can make these same videos for your company. Even if you don’t have your own copy, you can try Camtasia free for 30 days. Give it a try and let us know how it goes on Twitter or Facebook.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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