MacGyver of Modern Learning: 8 Ingenious Ways to Re-purpose Online Training Content

You may not be able to combine a toothpick and a piece of chewing gum to whip up a metal detector, but you can convert existing online training materials into memorable online training activities for modern employees. All it takes is a bit of imagination and your current L&D repository. Straight from the pages of the MacGyver playbook, here are 8 ingenious ways to re-purpose online training content.

1. Webinars Become Microlearning Online Training Resources

Turn that lengthy webinar you hosted last year into a collection of microlearning online training resources. Use a video editing tool to break the recording into bite-sized online training activities or presentations. Ensure that every resource centers on a specific topic or task so that it’s easier to categorize. For example, the first five minutes of the webinar becomes an online training tutorial to help your sales team build their negotiation skills. Re-watch the recorded event and make timestamp notes. Match each section with current objectives or desired outcomes.

2. Customer Personas Become Emotionally Compelling Stories

An outdated online training resource features customer personas or profiles. They might appear in branching scenarios or charts intended for sales staff to identify consumers’ needs. However, you can turn them into emotionally-compelling stories that improve the value of your online training course. For instance, a persona serves as the basis for a real-world example that enhances COI compliance knowledge or an engaging story that highlights the importance of interpersonal skills on the sales floor.

3. Task Manuals Become Infographics

Take the raw data from task manuals and transform it into interactive infographics. A text-based walk-through becomes a visually engaging graphic that highlights every step. You can even include detailed diagrams or images to highlight various stages of the process. Infographics serve as a valuable “moment of need” reference that employees can use on the job to improve performance. However, you’re able to use them for product knowledge and compliance online training as well. Look for infographic templates to save time and avoid starting from the ground up.

4. Case Studies Become Branching Scenarios

Case studies help employees connect the subject matter to real-world applications, but they aren’t the most engaging online training tools for visual and kinesthetic learners. Fortunately, you can turn case studies into interactive branching scenarios with a bit of MacGyver-esque ingenuity. Use the case study as a guide to develop the eLearning storyboard, characters, and script. Then create a branching scenario that brings the case study to life. Incorporate realistic dialogue, sound effects, and image to make it more immersive. Your rapid eLearning authoring tool library may already have the bulk of what you require.

5. Product Spec Sheets Become Video Demos

Product spec sheets offer a general overview of the features and physical properties, such as which operating system the product uses or its dimensions. On the other hand, video demos showcase these specs in vivid detail, which makes it easier for employees to remember and craft the perfect sales pitch. You can opt for live actors or animations to display the product and how to operate it, as well as provide tips on proper maintenance. You can always pair the conventional spec sheet with your video production to cater to diverse learning preferences.

6. Compliance Modules Become Immersive Online Training Simulations

It’s a proven fact that the human mind retains more information by doing. Online training simulations allow employees to build experience and apply their knowledge in a practical context. Instead of merely reading about the compliance issue, they live it. For example, handling emergency situations, or dealing with workplace discrimination or harassment. Some rapid eLearning authoring tools have built-in templates that you can use to develop online training simulations, even if you don’t have prior experience.

7. PowerPoint Presentations Become Mobile-Friendly Tutorials

Convert that impressive collection of old PowerPoint presentations you have lying around into mobile-friendly online training tutorials. This requires a robust eLearning authoring tool and a responsive LMS that allows you to deploy easily accessible online training content. You may also have to add engaging elements to the mix. For example, clickable online training activities or supplemental resources that enrich the online training experience and improve understanding.

8. Audio Narrations Become Convenient Podcasts

Audio narrations featured in previous online training courses can be converted into on-the-go podcasts. For instance, the audio story or case study from last year’s compliance module that explains the significance of company policy. Once again, they’ll be a great addition to your microlearning online training library. Use an audio editing tool to add sound effects and remove background noise. You might even consider an ongoing podcast series if you have a good amount of audio in your database. Develop a posting schedule so that employees know when to expect the next episode.

Insider Secret to Modern Learning MacGyvers

Evaluate your existing online training assets with an open mind and a list of learning objectives at the ready. You need to look at every online training resource as a lateral thinker. Brainstorm ways to dissect, edit or add on to the online training content to support your current learning outcomes and goals. Modern employees are looking for interactivity, collaboration, and immersion. This means that you must revamp text-based resources by incorporating visuals, graphics, and activities. You should also research their preferences and backgrounds to find the best way to reuse your online training materials. Conduct eLearning assessments, online surveys, and analyze LMS metrics to determine what they need and how to address gaps through online training.

Re-purpose online training content to cut costs and reduce eLearning development time. Use these 8 tips to step into the shoes of an 80’s pop culture icon (minus the mullet), and breathe new life into your outdated online training assets. You may even find some hidden gems tucked away in your online training archives that don’t require much fine-tuning.

Searching for additional ways to put your old eLearning content to good use? Read the article 7 Tips & Tricks for Re-purposing eLearning Content to learn tips and tricsk for transforming  your existing eLearning content in order to make it fresh, engaging, and relevant to your current audience.

About the Author:

Christopher Pappas is founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning Industry. Christopher holds an MBA, and an MEd (Learning Design) from BGSU.

eLearning Blogger • EduTechpreneur • eLearning Analyst • Speaker • Social Media Addict

 

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Tools and Tips for Transcribing Videos Faster and Easier

Audio transcription – the process of converting recorded speech into text – isn’t the most glamorous topic. But there are many good reasons for transcribing  videos. Here are just a few of them:

  • Transcripts are easily indexable by search engines, increasing your opportunities to rank for long-tail keywords.
  • Adding a transcript below your video content makes it more shareable, especially in combination with click-to-tweet plugins.
  • Many people prefer to scan a summary of the video content before deciding whether to watch it.

Aside from marketing-focused benefits, one of the best reasons for transcribing videos is to make your content accessible to all your users, including people who can’t hear the audio or see the video.

Posting a transcript alongside a talking-head video, for instance, makes it possible for users with disabilities to read the text or listen to it using screen-reading technology. Transcripts can also be converted into captions or subtitles and synced to the video for an even better user experience.

The downside of transcribing videos yourself is that it can be a long and tedious process, cutting into time that might otherwise be spent creating.

So I’m going to share a few of my favorite tools and tips for transcribing faster that I’ve picked up in my work as a professional transcriptionist. The tools covered here range from free to under $100 USD, and they can dramatically improve your transcription speed, saving you hours of time.

Tools for Boosting Transcription Productivity

Even with a crash course in touch typing and lots of practice, you may never be able to reach pro typing speeds of 80+ wpm. But with the help of technology, you can “artificially” increase your typing speed – in some cases by multiple times.

Here are five tools you can use to do this:

1. Transcription software

If you’re transcribing videos yourself, at the very least you’ll need to install special transcription software to enable audio playback using just your keyboard or a foot pedal. This eliminates the frustration of constantly using your mouse to start and stop the audio.

The following transcription programs have limited free versions with affordably priced upgrades:

2. Transcription foot pedal

Using a foot pedal to control playback is the easiest and fastest way to ramp up your transcription efficiency. I’ve heard several people, initially skeptical, say they don’t know how they ever managed to transcribe without one.

Foot pedals take care of audio playback without the use of a mouse, eliminating the need to multitask with your fingers while transcribing. Many of today’s foot pedals, like the popular Infinity USB, are plug and play, so you can benefit from the extra speed boost immediately.

If you decide not to invest in a foot pedal, you can configure your transcription program to control audio playback using the numeric keypad or function keys, which is still more efficient than using a mouse.

3. Word expander software

Word expander programs, such as Instant Text by Textware Solutions and Shorthand for Windows by OfficeSoft, are another tool of the trade for professional transcriptionists. Used properly, they can increase your typing speed by an estimated 30%.

Word expanders let you define your own text shorthand for commonly used words and phrases, eliminating tons of keystrokes. For example, you might tell the program to expand “tsm” to “thanks so much.”

If you don’t want to pay for a word expander program, you can also use your computer’s autocorrect feature to achieve the same thing – it works the same way, just with fewer features.

4. Noise-canceling headphones

If you’re transcribing in an environment with high levels of white noise, a pair of noise-canceling headphones, like Bose QuietComfort or the Sony WH-1000XM2, can work wonders for your productivity (and your sanity).

5. Voice recognition software

If you find that your fingers get fatigued during long typing sessions, try the “echo dictation” technique by re-dictating the audio and letting a VR program do the actual work of typing.

While there are built-in speech recognition features for PC and Mac, I’ve had the most success using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. You can ask the software to scan specific documents to learn any jargon and unconventional spellings that you use often.

The latest version of Dragon, v15, costs a hefty $300. I’ve used several versions, and everything from version 11 onward works well. So, if you’d like to get your feet wet with echo transcription, consider getting an earlier version of the program for closer to $50. (Make sure to check for compatibility with your current setup.)

Tips for Transcribing Faster

Great tools can make your job a lot easier, but good technique is just as important. Here are some quick tips for further improving your transcription efficiency.

Boost audio quality.

If you know what you’re doing, you can fine-tune audio quality using an audio editing program like Audacity or WavePad before importing it into your transcription software.

That said, you don’t have to be an audio wizard to enhance the audio quality of your videos: Some transcription programs ship with features designed to do just that. For example, to access the audio enhancement features in Express Scribe, go to File > Special Audio Processes.

audio_quality_express_scribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three options are:

  • Background Noise Reduction. This feature works by eliminating sound below a certain volume threshold. It’s useful for when the background noise is quieter than the speakers.
  • Extra Volume Boost. This setting boosts the volume by 10%. This feature comes in handy when you’ve maxed out the volume controls on your computer and you’re still straining to hear the audio.
  • High Pass Filter. This setting is similar in functionality to Background Noise Reduction, but instead of differentiating sounds by a volume threshold, it differentiates by pitch, filtering out frequencies below 450Hz. Experiment with this feature on “muddy” sounding files, when the background noise is competing with the speakers.

Easily insert timestamps.

There may be times when you need to make note of the current time position in a video so you can go back and review it later. To do this, you can insert a timecoded tag into the transcript, such as such as [?? 00:07:02]. Typing out lots of timestamps manually is a hassle, but fortunately there’s an easier way.

Using your transcription program’s timecode feature, you can copy the current audio position to the clipboard and insert it using a keyboard shortcut. Since I’m using Express Scribe, I’ll use it as an example here, but you can do this with any good transcription program.

Go to Options > System-Wide Hot-Keys. Click “Add.” From the Command dropdown menu, choose “Copy Time.”

copy_time_express_scribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click “Change” and assign the program a key or key combination of your choice, such as one of the function keys.

Now, whenever you press the assigned key, Express Scribe will make note of your current time location in the file (e.g., 00:07:02) and copy it to the clipboard.

Then, whenever you want to paste the copied timestamp into your document, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V.

Use autocorrect to transcribe speaker labels.

Repetitive typing of speaker labels can be a nightmare in video files with multiple speakers and lots of dialogue. Using the built-in autocorrect function on your PC or Mac’s word processing program, you can automatically insert generic speaker labels, such as Speaker 1: and Speaker 2: tags.

Here’s how to do this in Word 2016:

Navigate to File > Options > Proofing. Click on “AutoCorrect Options.”

autocorrect_word_2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the AutoCorrect tab, the “Replace text as you type” check box should be selected. Here, you can enter shorthand text, which will be replaced with text of your choice whenever you press space or tab. Click “Add,” and then click “OK.”

transcription_shorthand

In the above example, I have set the keyboard shortcut as “sa.” (I used “sa” because it feels good to me, but you can use any key combination that’s comfortable for you.) Now to insert a Speaker 1: tag into the transcript, all I need to do is type “sa” and press tab. I could use the shorthand “sq” for a Speaker 2: tag, and so on.

This only takes a couple minutes to set up, and it’ll save you thousands upon thousands of unnecessary keystrokes for future video transcriptions.

Using the above tools and techniques, I’ve managed to vastly improve the speed in transcribing videos with only a short learning curve. I hope you find them useful when it comes to transcribing videos, so you have more time to focus on creating good stuff.

About the Author

Chloe BrittainChloe Brittain is a freelance writer and transcriptionist. She is the owner of Opal Transcription Services, a company providing transcription and captioning services to clients in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. Connect with Chloe on LinkedIn and Twitter: @opaltranscripts.

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Frame Rate: A Beginner’s Guide

As you get started with video, you may hear intimidating, super-technical terms like frame rate. What is frame rate and why does it matter?

What is frame rate?

Remember those cool little flip books where a pad of paper had an image on every page, and when you flipped through the pages quickly, the image would appear to animate and move? This is essentially how video works. Whether digital or old-school film, video is a series of still images that, when viewed in order at a certain speed, give the appearance of motion.

 

Frame rate is the speed at which those images are shown, or how fast you “flip” through the book and it’s usually expressed as “frames per second,” or FPS. Each image represents a frame, so if a video is captured and played back at 24fps, that means each second of video shows 24 distinct still images. The speed at which they’re shown tricks your brain into perceiving smooth motion.

Why does frame rate matter?

Frame rate greatly impacts the style and viewing experience of a video. Different frame rates yield different viewing experiences, and choosing a frame rate often means choosing between things such as how realistic you want your video to look, or whether or not you plan to use techniques such as slow motion or motion blur effects.

For example, movies are usually displayed at 24fps, since this frame rate is similar to how we see the world, and creates a very cinematic look. Video that’s broadcast live or video with a lot of motion, such as a sporting event or video game recording, will often have a higher frame rate, as there’s a lot happening at once and a higher frame rate keeps the motion smooth and the details crisp. On the other hand, people who create animated GIFs will often sacrifice detail for a smaller file size and choose a low frame rate.

Visual showing the difference between 60 and 30 frames-per-second

How do I choose the best frame rate for my video?

First of all, there is no best frame rate. As I pointed out above, different frame rates yield different results, so to choose the best one means going with the option that best fits what you’re trying to create. Even though frame rate is a pretty straightforward concept, there’s a fair amount of controversy around which rates provide the best viewing experience, and there’s research that builds the case for just about any frame rate. Controversy aside, here are four things you need to keep in mind when choosing a frame rate.

Style/Realism

The frame rate of a video greatly impacts the look and feel of a video, which in turn determines how realistic the video appears. This concept is tied directly to how we naturally see the world. When we see motion, such as a person throwing a ball or a car driving by, we naturally see a certain amount of motion blur. Ideally, the frame rate you choose will mimic this motion blur, keeping the experience as realistic as possible. If you choose a frame rate that’s too high, things will start to look unnatural and the video will suffer from what’s called the “soap opera effect.” Essentially, the video actually shows too much detail, which makes the video look unnatural. On the other hand, if you choose a frame rate that’s too low, the video will start to look choppy and will provide a poor experience. To help figure out which frame rate is best for you, let’s look at a few common options and how they’re used.

24fps – this is the standard for movies and TV shows, and it was determined to be the minimum speed needed to capture video while still maintaining realistic motion. Even if a film is shot at a higher frame rate, it’s often produced and displayed at 24fps. Most feature films and TV shows are shot and viewed at 24 fps.

30fps – this has been the standard for television since the early days, and is still widely used despite producers moving toward a more cinematic 24fps. Videos with a lot of motion, such as sports, will often benefit from the extra frames per second. The reasons for using 30fps is strangely complicated and it mainly has to do with television and electricity standards set a long time ago. If you want learn more, check out this article on frame rate and jump down to the section titled “modern video standards.”

60+fps – anything higher than 30fps is mainly used to create slow motion video or to record video game footage.

Motion

The next key variable to take into consideration when choosing a frame rate is the amount of motion in your video. This one’s pretty straightforward. If you have a lot of motion in your video, you’ll probably want to capture at a higher frame rate. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to produce at a higher frame rate, but capturing at a higher frame rate ensures a higher level of detail for the amount of motion captured. The higher frame rate also allows for more flexibility when editing. To help you decide what’s best for you, here are a few common options.

24fps – as stated above, this is the minimum speed needed to capture video while still maintaining realistic motion. If you capture a really busy scene at 24fps, you’ll see a lot of motion blur.

30fps – with six more frames a second than 24fps, you’ll see more detail during scenes with high motion, however, the motion will start to look a little unnatural and suffer from the “soap opera effect.”

60+fps – anything higher than 30fps is usually reserved for recording busy scenes with a lot of motion, such as video games, athletics or anything you want to show in slow motion. Video gamers record at this rate because there’s a lot happening on their screen at once and more frames equal more detail. Sports are often recorded at a high frame rate so they can be slowed down to show replays, while still maintaining crisp, clear video.

Delivery

The way a video is delivered, such as YouTube or broadcast television, and the device a person uses to view your video can greatly impact the options you have for frame rate. Not all devices and delivery methods support all frame rates and so it’s best to look in to this before you start filming. To help tackle this, let’s look at a few of the most common places people watch video and how the video is delivered.

Streaming video on the Internet: This is quickly becoming the most common way to deliver video and many streaming services support a wide array of frame rates. People tend to be a little more relaxed about frame rate online, however, it’s important to keep in mind that older TVs and computer monitors might not have a screen refresh rate that can handle higher frame rates.

Television: When you produce video for television, it’s best to stick between 24 and 30fps. This ensures your videos look realistic and fit what people expect from broadcast television. Live broadcasts, such as the news and sports are almost always shot at 30fps, where TV shows and movies are usually shot at 24fps.

Film Projectors: Movie theaters and projectors in general are still an incredibly popular way to consume video, and like TV broadcasts, the frame rate should be kept to 24fps. This will give it that “cinematic” look and you can feel confident the video will show properly with most projectors.

File Size & Export Times

The final things to consider when choosing a frame rate are file size and export times. These two are pretty straightforward. The higher the frame rate, the more still images are packed into each second of video. More images means more information. More information means bigger files and longer export times. This is especially important to consider when uploading videos to online streaming sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Screencast. Higher quality video is always the most desirable, but larger file sizes require better internet connections and computer hardware to stream at its highest quality. This means that people who aren’t on the most modern equipment or fastest services might suffer from a poor experience.

Final thoughts

Choosing a frame rate requires some thought and if you take into consideration the four key points outlined above you should find success. If you’d like to play around with frame rates and see a little more about how they work, this site offers some fun ways to experiment.

If you have further questions or just want to offer suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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

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5 Proven Ways To Create Great Help Content

Imagine a giant net under a trapeze rig, ready to cushion a flyer if he or she falls.

Without the net, would the trapeze artist have the courage to fly at all? Or would they bail out entirely?

Now imagine your company’s help content as that safety net.

Whether or not it’s needed or ever used, many users (and businesses) evaluate help during their product purchase decision. If there’s evidence of good user assistance, it can help to sell your brand. Conversely, the absence of good help could damage your brand and hurt your bottom line.

With all that in mind, here are a few proven ways for content and support teams to create high quality help and build rapport with their customers.

Trapeze artist practices in the rig.

Good help is like a safety net on a trapeze rig.

How to create help content that is useful?

The job of a help author is to make the complex topics simple: to structure high and low-level information in a way that’s easy to discover and digest.

Practically speaking, if you can explain concepts in plain language with task-based steps, you’re on the road to developing good help. If the task is a process that involves more than a handful of steps, it’s best to break the task into smaller chunks of tasks.

Include a high-level process overview at the top of each topic to explain how the sets of tasks function in the larger process. At that point, users can identify which part of the process they’re stuck on or interested in and navigate to the low-level information they need. As the writer, this activity of outlining the process is helpful, too, because it uncovers gaps or holes you may have in your task-based documentation.

1. Provide a clear path for the user, even when one doesn’t exist.

Linear processes are easier to follow than non-linear ones, and I believe that users who have sought out help want to be led. When a technical communicator documents a process or function well, they provide a happy path for the user to follow.

With that in mind, even if you can technically execute functions A through D in any order, try to turn functions into progressive tasks. Do that, and you lead your users through an efficient workflow and resolve questions about order and dependency. Since you’ve made a bunch of decisions for them, it will make them more successful, faster.

2. Choose user-driven language

Generally speaking, be concise and write with an active voice. Use words and phrases that users search for, not terms a developer used to describe the thing to you.

Remember your audience. If you have data to help you understand how your audience talks about your product, then use that to inform your decisions about terminology.

Even if your product is complex and technical, your help doesn’t need to be. Break it down, and decode it for your readers. Use conversational and controlled language. They’ll appreciate it.

To learn more about how to write in the active voice, check out this writing resource published by Duke University.

3. Optimize for search engines

Good help content shows up when and where you search for it. Sometimes that means in a product, and other times that means on the web.

If your users open Google to search for answers, you want them to find your help since you’re the authority (or, you’d like to be).

If they open an internal site search, you still want the right article to come to the top of the results. That means you have to pay attention to how search engines catalog and rank pages, and write your help articles with that in mind.

Whether your output is a PDF or a webpage, there are things you can do to optimize your pages for search.

4. Cross-reference related articles and resources

If your topic has related support articles, blog posts, or tutorials, it’s a good idea to cross-reference them on your page.

Often these other resources will approach the subject matter in a slightly different way, or provide a more technical or instructive perspective, which could help a user be successful.

5. Thoughtfully include visuals to support and supplement text

Finally, even though there are dozens of other things I could discuss about good help, I want to touch on visuals. Images and video can improve help articles, but bad visuals can definitely turn good help bad. I do recommend the use of visuals in documentation as a means of reinforcing and supplementing written content. However, keep in mind that if you do incorporate images, videos, or animated GIFs in your help, you should maintain consistency in your formatting and styling to keep things scannable, organized, and easy to digest. Visuals should add clarity, not create more questions.

So whether you’re on a customer support team, a content marketer, or someone in between, these tips will will help you produce help content that makes more successful users.

To learn more about improving your help content with great-looking visuals, check out 10 Ways to Make Better-Looking Visuals for Your Technical Guide.

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What Online Video Platform is Best for Screencasts?

At TechSmith, we’ve helped customers publish over a hundred million videos over the last decade using our desktop products Camtasia, Snagit, and Jing.

We have helped our customers share videos to their storage destination, and learned a lot in the process. Many of our customers place content in learning management systems, knowledge bases, and self-hosted solutions specific to their company or institution. But a large number rely on individually accessible cloud platforms, primarily online video platforms (OVPs). Our customers’ three most popular OVPs are YouTube, Vimeo, and Screencast™, with YouTube by far being the most popular. In the last year, Camtasia users alone have published over one million videos directly to YouTube, and we estimate there are tens of millions of videos on YouTube made with Camtasia.

Note that ‘All Other’ includes more than 50 other choices ranging from social media sites (Facebook), online course providers (Udemy), cloud storage (Google Drive), and other OVPs (Wistia). It also should be noted that as cloud storage and other platforms invest in video specific features, there is an increasingly grey line between these and OVPs; however, this article is limited to the latter.

Which online video platform is best for my screencasts?

Next, we will compare feature sets of the three most popular OVPs, emphasizing the differences between free flavors of the platforms as it relates to educational, how-to, and training screencast videos. Screencasts are videos created by recording what is taking place on your computer screen, which is the primary use cases of TechSmith customers.  Unless specified, all functionality statements refer to the free versions – “Vimeo” refers to the free Vimeo Basic plan.  “Screencast” refers to the free Screencast™.

What free online video platform is right for my screencasts?

decision process for screencast hosting solutionsThe above chart summarizes the most common decisions that result in a free platform choice by TechSmith customers. However, it may leave an incomplete understanding of all the considerations. Reference the following chart and detailed comparison for more information:

screencast hosting feature comparison chart

Third Party Advertising and Monetization

Screencast is the only platform that does not include any third-party advertising at all. Vimeo does not have pre-roll, post-roll or overlay ads within videos. However, Vimeo does have third party advertising in the form of banner ads on Basic and Plus member pages (removed with a PRO plan at $240/yr), which can be a barrier for some not-for-profit, government, and educational customers. All three platforms advertise their own brand to consumers, Screencast and Vimeo provide additional custom branding control at a paid level, and Vimeo providing the most branding control.

YouTube is loaded with third party advertising – pre-roll, mid-roll, banner ads, search ads, homepage banner ads, and in-video text-overlay ads. It is also known for the ‘rabbit hole’ of serving up a continuous stream of videos to your audience based on that consumer’s search history, often including competitor videos. It is currently possible to turn off some kinds of ads (you must disable monetization, as well as have no copyrighted material within your video). By doing this, you will not be allowed to have in-video links to any external website (though you still can use links in the video description). However, there is no guaranteed way to make your videos completely advertising free.

Of course, the benefit of an advertising platform is that YouTube allows you to monetize your original content videos by running ads on them. If ad monetization is your goal, then YouTube is the only option. Your video will need to reach a pretty high threshold of watch hours and subscribers to be eligible for their Partner program.

Access to a Large Audience with Analytics

YouTube’s community comprises over 1 billion users. They provide expert advice, and even physical filming spaces to help creators grow an audience. They also have the best SEO optimization and localization accessing 95% of the world’s internet population, but be aware that there are still a handful of countries that block YouTube. YouTube also offers the best free analytics including traffic sources, gender, devices, and audience retention. It’s the #2 most visited website per Alexa with nearly 3 million sites linking to it.

With that large of a community comes risks. YouTube is associated with unprofessional, even offensive comments from trolls and spammers. Vimeo by contrast has a smaller, moderated, supportive community that is attracted to higher quality content characterized by artistry, film making, and music. It has about 170 million viewers, 70% international, and is a top 100 most visited site on Alexa with close to a half million sites linking to it. Vimeo offers some basic analytics including plays, finishes, and comments, with additional analytics in paid plans.

Screencast does not have the advantage of a built-in community or marketplace. Screencast customers are typically self-marketing and distributing videos by embedding links on websites, social media, knowledge bases or via email. Screencast folders marked Public are indexed by Google. Screencast itself provides limited analytics today, such as number of views and comments. Screencast also provides an integration with Google Analytics, providing real time traffic information, as well as historical data. You can view demographics, geographic location, traffic sources, and how many people finished watching your videos. Its Alexa US rank is about 2200, with over 14 thousand sites linking to it.

Permits Commercial, Product Demo and Tutorial Content

Vimeo does not permit commercial content and shuts down violating accounts. Further, Vimeo specifically lists “product demo and tutorials” as forbidden content, which unfortunately is a top use case for TechSmith customers. Vimeo requires “businesses” to enter at the PRO level ($240/yr) and this is the same level of subscription required for content monetization. See Vimeo’s commercial content guidelines for further clarification and exceptions.

YouTube and Screencast do not place limitations on commercial content. Screencast does not directly assist with selling content, but doing so (e.g. selling password protected links) is permitted in TechSmith’s terms and conditions. YouTube has recently phased out some direct paid content support, but indirectly supports it.

Retains Inactive Content Indefinitely

In a recent change to retention policy, content in free Screencast accounts is deleted if inactive (not viewed) for one year. Many TechSmith customers leverage free Screencast just for the academic school year, for peer review or collaboration, or for one-time sharing of deliverables with customers or coworkers. In these cases, the automatic deletion is helpful to free up space in the account. An upgrade to Screencast Pro ($99/yr) is required for indefinite storage. Also note that TechSmith has introduced a product for video review as another paid option for review with indefinite storage.

Vimeo and YouTube store content indefinitely. If you use Vimeo or Screencast paid accounts and later change your mind and downgrade to free accounts, some of your content may eventually be deleted. This is not a risk on YouTube, so consider your long-term intent.

Storage of Original Quality/ Source Video

Screencast retains and distributes the original source video file uploaded. By contrast, both Vimeo and YouTube delete the original source version of the video uploaded, and replace it with lower resolution flavors to save on storage costs, as well as to optimize for multiple types of delivery scenarios. Lower resolution versions often provide a better viewing experience for consumers (e.g. less buffering). This is particularly true for large videos consumed over low-bandwidth connections; this is not an issue for Screencast customers with use cases targeting consumers in business or high-bandwidth environments. In addition, this kind of re-encoding is necessary to support consumption on certain specialized device types like Roku or Xbox; these are unsupported by Screencast.

Unfortunately, re-encoding screencast videos effectively is challenging. Currently, the compression that comes along with re-encoding video for low-bandwidth environments leads to blurry text. It is especially apparent with text on buttons, recordings of bulleted PowerPoint slides and added text annotations- rendering the video ineffective for educational use. This problem is less of a concern for the type of content found on Vimeo and YouTube, which consists mostly of real world or simulated camera shots ranging from more artistic content on Vimeo, to the comedy, music videos, gaming play- throughs, and product reviews found on YouTube. Note that Camtasia specifically optimizes screencast videos to preserve clarity on all three platforms as best as possible, but this works best with Screencast since it retains the source file produced by Camtasia.

If you want your consumers to be able to download the video source files for local viewing, only Screencast can support this. Vimeo won’t have video source available for download without an upgrade to PLUS ($84/yr), which also supports high resolution HD video uploads. YouTube also doesn’t have the source file, plus consumers cannot download videos at all (unless the consumer subscribes to YouTube Red ($120/yr) which allows download to mobile devices.

Password Protected and Unlisted Videos

YouTube and Screencast support unlisted links such that only users who have the link can see the video. Vimeo does not offer unlisted links (what they refer to as “private”) without an upgrade to Plus ($84/yr) which enables you to hide the video from the Vimeo site. That upgrade brings additional security functionality for embedded videos, such as domain-level privacy (limiting where content can be embedded).

Note that if an unlisted link is shared (or posted on social media), then anyone who sees the link can view the video. Due to that risk, passwords might be better for your purpose. Screencast and Vimeo provide capability to password protect videos, YouTube does not. In Vimeo this is done at an individual file level, in Screencast it’s done at the folder or playlist level. Passwords are useful for protecting your intellectual property.

All three platforms allow distribution to be limited to named members of the community. This is what YouTube refers to as “private”, Screencast refers to as ‘authenticated’, and Vimeo refers to as ‘only people I choose’.

Unlimited Storage and Bandwidth

YouTube offers unlimited storage and bandwidth. By default, videos must be shorter than 15 minutes, but this can easily be increased. You never need to worry about additional cost (or problems) if your video goes viral – its top ten videos (9 of which are music videos) have billions of views.

Vimeo allows 500 MB per week of video loaded (up to 5 GB total) and unlimited bandwidth. Storage increases with an upgrade to paid plans. Its 10 most popular videos range between 2 million and 75 million views.

Screencast offers 2GB of storage and 2GB of monthly bandwidth in its free plan and more with paid plans. Additional Screencast Pro account bandwidth can be purchased. These are the smallest limits of the three platforms. A typical free Screencast account for a Camtasia user contains around 100 pieces of media, or 1,500 pieces of media for a Jing user. Screencast is not intended for viral videos, with the most viewed videos typically having 3-4 million views (we do have one GIF with 30 million views.)  TechSmith is currently investing in a significant platform upgrade of Screencast so the scalability and performance will be increasing in 2019.

Video Replacement/ Keeping the Same URL

Have you ever uploaded a video, shared the URL, then needed to make a change to the video? Both Vimeo and Screencast allow you to replace a video after it has been uploaded without changing the URL.

YouTube does not support replacement of a video with a new version, and it’s one of the biggest challenges for our customers producing technical content like software training screencasts, which often need repeated updates. YouTube does allow you to make limited enhancements after publishing such as color, speed changes, and basic trimming. YouTube used to support limited post-production editing as well via their editor, but have since retired it.

TechSmith Product Integration, Interactivity and Captioning

Both Camtasia and Snagit provide output options to YouTube, Vimeo and Screencast (Camtasia Mac doesn’t have a direct output to Vimeo). Jing is TechSmith’s free screen capture product and while its images can be stored anywhere, its upcoming new mp4 video output can only be sent to Screencast (but videos can be downloaded from there.)

Screencast provides advanced player integration with Camtasia interactivity including interactive quizzing and hotspots. These Camtasia features are not supported by the Vimeo or YouTube player. But YouTube, which retired clickable annotations in 2017, does support ‘end screens’ and ‘cards’ for mobile-friendly interactivity. Vimeo offers ability to prompt for email addresses at the Business plan level ($600/yr).

Camtasia’s caption editor works with all three platforms. If your video creation tool does not provide captioning, which is becoming increasingly important due to accessibility laws, YouTube and paid Screencast provides a caption editor as well.  Vimeo does not provide a caption editor, but provides integrations with paid third-party captioning services.

Other Considerations

Do I have copyrighted content in my video?

YouTube has automated functionality to detect and turn off videos with copyrighted content. Sometimes videos are mechanically flagged for copyright infringement without a clear explanation, and our customers don’t agree with the automated analysis (or have purchased rights to the image or music already) and become frustrated with a lack of response from YouTube customer service. Also note that the owner of the copyrighted content can choose to advertise on your video.

Vimeo reviews and removes content that  “rips off movies, music, television or any other third party copyrighted material.” Screencast removes violating content based on take down requests.

Do I need to store other media (or file) types?

There are situations where it’s inconvenient to use different repositories for images than videos. Both types of digital media content may be produced by the same creator, using the same tool (such as Snagit or Jing) and links embedded in the same output (e.g., Zendesk, online course platform) for use by the same consumer. This is especially true for support, documentation and training content. Screencast is the only platform of the three that also supports images (as well as other content) making it a useful one-repository solution in these cases. Some customers also use Screencast for podcast storage.

Is customer service important to my success?

YouTube largely relies on a customer forum for support of its masses of users, and is not known for responsive customer service outside of its Partner program. Vimeo provides a three-day response time via email. Screencast provides a one-day response via email as well as a monitored customer forum. Vimeo provides faster email response time at the paid level, but does not provide phone support and only provides chat support for live streaming events at the Premium ($900/yr) level. Screencast offers phone support at the Pro ($99/yr) level in addition to chat and email.

We hope that analysis of screencast hosting solutions is helpful. Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment if you’ve found this valuable or have any questions for us.

 

The post What Online Video Platform is Best for Screencasts? appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

50 Tips for Better Video

Straight from the studio, we’ve put together this infographic of fifty practical tips that will drastically improve the quality of your videos. Learn tricks to shorten project time with specific pre-planning techniques, the key components of audio, lighting tricks to create more engaging videos, and where you need to allocate your equipment investment for better video. Download the infographic, and read on for further details. Let’s dive in!

Preparation

If you’ve ever painted a house, you know the supreme importance of prep work. It’s just as important (if not more so!). Pre-production prep is a crucial process in creating better video.

1. Plan your video. We all know planning is essential for any project, but when it comes to video it can pay off tenfold. Take the time up front to make sure you have what you need. You’ll save time, money, and prevent a myriad of issues.

2. Practice a video workflow. What process works for you? If things tend to go more smoothly with a script, then make that part of your workflow. Use checklists to keep track of what needs to be done, and help you stay on track. If you’re not sure what your workflow is, that’s fine. Google some common video workflows, or just experiment on your own, until you find your groove.

3. Know your goal. What’s the purpose of the video you’re going to make? Whether you’re goal is to increase brand awareness, educate viewers about your services, or share who you are as an organization, once you get clear on this other parts of the planning process will more readily fall into place.

4. Learn about your audience. Who are they, and what is their frame of reference? Are they internal staff, external clients, or potential clients? What reaction or emotion are you looking to get from them? Consider the platform where you’ll deliver your video, as that can make a difference in how it’s viewed, shared, and received by your audience. You may want to make a different version of the video for Facebook, YouTube, etc., and adjust your messaging based on their frame of mind while on each platform.

5. Write a script. It’s easy to just turn on your camera and start rolling (especially if you record with your smartphone).  Unless you’re doing strictly live events, though, you’ll want a script. The act of writing it down encourages your mind to get specific about how you want to structure your video. It’s a lot easier (and less expensive!) to plan it out on paper, as opposed to later in post-production. Once you try even a rough script, you might be surprised by how much clarity, consistency, and consciousness you get out of the process.

6. Make a storyboard. Don’t worry, no drawing skills required! Stick figures and basic shapes (circles, squares) are completely fine. In tandem with your script, this helps you plan the visual aspects of your video. Instead of guessing which types of shots you need in the moment of shooting, sketch out what you need ahead of time. Figure out which angles you need, which ones should be close or far, and which people or things should be in each shot. This visual pre-creation step will save you countless hours of recording and editing time, and you’ll be much happier with the final result.
Make a storyboard for better video

 

7. Gather assets upfront. Where are those logos? Are there visuals or music that you’ll definitely need?  Your editing process will be much easier if you collect assets now, instead of hustling to find them during post-production.

8. Get feedback on your script and storyboard. Not from your mom, either. Instead, you want critical, constructive comments that will help identify gaps in your storyline/script or any other showstoppers that you’d be best to fix early on. This is also a great time to make sure you’re staying on brand, using any key company phrases or taglines, and avoiding anything that your clients or viewers won’t want to see in the video.

Audio

Video may have killed the radio star, but believe it or not, sound is fifty percent of the value of your video. Whether you’re using narration, music, or dialogue, it’s by far one of the most important video production aspects of better video. Viewers are turned off by bad audio more than anything else, so don’t skimp. Take the time to get quality audio.

About voice recording

9. For videos that don’t feature people, record voiceovers first. Then, match visuals to the pace of the audio. This works great for screencasts, PowerPoint presentations, product demos, and many types of training.

Why is this easier? Because audio files are less flexible than visuals. You can easily throw in some b-roll to lengthen a section, or remove clips to sync things up. Changing narration or dialogue timing, however, is much tougher. Realizing that you need to lengthen audio in the middle of someone’s sentence, or somehow shorten their speech is very difficult, time consuming, and best avoided.

10. Use your own voice for voiceovers. We know you think it sounds bad, but to other people your voice on video sounds just like you in person. Your voice sounds fine (maybe even great!). Most importantly, it sounds uniquely you. Using your voice not only saves on talent costs, it also can serve as a recognizable point of authority.  If you want to become known as an expert in your field, your authentic voice is an important way to establish your personal contribution.
Lead by example to encourage knowledge experts in your organization to record their own voiceovers, too.
11. A few hours before recording voiceovers, put down the coffee (no milk chugging, either)! Skip caffeine and dairy in favor of just plain water. This will loosen up your vocal chords so your voice sounds its best. Stay hydrated during recording, for a consistent sound quality. And please don’t record hungry. Skip the doughnuts – opt for healthy foods so you don’t have a sugar crash halfway through recording.

12. If you make a mistake when recording, pause, then clap twice. Double-claps leave visual spikes in the editing timeline. They’re a great visual cue of where the mistake is, so you can easily go back later and edit it out.
Narration appears as fluid waveforms while double claps show up as spikes, so you know where to edit out a mistake.

 

About microphones

13. Invest in a good microphone. USB mics are much better than the mic built-in to your machine, and they’re affordable. Shotgun mics work well when you can stay still. Don’t move your head, or you’ll lose sound (remember Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain?), since they pick up very narrow-focused area; not anything from the side. These work well on a boom mic. Headset mics are a solid choice, and wireless lapels work well, too.

Whatever you get, make sure your mic lets you stand up when recording. A mic that’s easy to hold or use with a mic stand lets you stand tall, fill your lungs with air, project your voice, and get sound quality that’s open and full.

14. Use a pop filter on your mic. Also known as “spit filter,” this little shield softens plosives, or popping sounds (like T, D, and P consonants) made when speaking or singing, that can otherwise end up sounding irritatingly sharp in your recording.

Pop filters are affordable, at around twelve dollars. Or, make your own for even less.
15. Check your mic (then check it again). It’s another one of those things you can do ahead of time to make sure you get that ever-important audio quality.  Get your positioning just right. Too close to the mic sounds distorted. Too far sounds hollow and distant. The distance of your thumb and finger between you and your mic is usually good, but test to make sure.

Listen for any background noise that might interfere. Fluorescent lights, HVAC units, and other electronic devices are the usual offenders. You can’t eliminate all background sounds, but do the best you can (at the least, don’t record near shipping docks or under flight paths).  Some people have been known to retreat to libraries, closets, or under blankets. Whatever quiet place you can find is better than trying to edit out noise later.

16. While recording, test audio input levels, and adjust them in your system properties. Make sure your audio doesn’t ‘peak out’, which clips off the top of your sound and wave form. This makes things sound “hot” or distorted and garbled, and it’s tough to fix after the fact. If levels are too low, then audio is hard to hear. Fix it before you get too far into recording, and you’ll thank yourself later.

17. Set the mood with music, but turn it down. Good music placement blends into the story, unless it’s the sole focus. You want it to be loud enough to hear, but not overpowering. When in doubt, skip it. It’s not necessary at all in most training videos, for example (except maybe in an intro/outro).

18. When you’re done, test playback. It should sound consistent across on several devices. Does it sound “hot” through your headphones? How’s it sound on desktop speakers? Know your audience and how they will typically listen to it, and optimize for that experience.

Production

What you do in this step is the toughest to recreate. Here are ways to make your time count avoid re-shoots, for better video.

About shooting

19. Remove ‘shine’ from faces. Rice paper works great. Blot foreheads, cheeks, and any place on their face that you notice is reflecting light. You’ll make talent look their best and will have an easier time getting lighting that works.

20. Get some good lighting (no old-school fluorescents allowed!). It will remove shadows and bring out the best in your talent. Three-point, soft lighting is usually the most flattering. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are okay, too. Lighting is one of those magical things that can completely change the mood or feeling of the shot. Set the tone with lighting that tells you story.

21. Hide microphone wires under clothes. It looks more polished and less cluttered.  This goes for lighting wires, too. Eliminate them from your shots, whenever possible.

22. Don’t have a big budget? Rent gear. You’ll be able to test things out and decide what you like. Use different cameras, brands, jibs, lenses, and other equipment to find out whether you want to actually invest in it later. Renting is also great if you need specialty equipment for just one shoot, without the hefty price tag. One word of caution – only rent what you’re willing to learn to use properly.

If you won't use it regularly, renting is often better than owning.
23. Remember the rule of thirds. Imagine a three-section, vertical grid on your frame, and position subjects in the outer thirds of your shot. Don’t always place them in the center. It looks more aesthetically appealing to have your subjects in the outer thirds, or at least to have a variety of placements within your video.

It’s more visually interesting to align subjects in the outer thirds of your frame, as opposed to centered.

It’s more visually interesting to align subjects in the outer thirds of your frame, as opposed to centered.

24. If you have more than one camera, record two cameras at once. This lets you mix and match shots, from different angles. You’ll have more options when editing, adding visual interest and feels more natural than just one perspective. You don’t need two DSLRs to do this. Use a “nice” camera for the first angle, and your smartphone for the second.

25. Shoot a lot of b-roll. It’s easy to overlook this, but this extra footage goes a long way towards telling your story. Get some shots that help set the scene, show the environment or culture, and portray supporting elements that explain more about your a-roll (the primary footage), or even do a time-lapse. You’ll need more b-roll than you think, so get creative. You can often pre-record some of most of this before shooting your primary a-roll footage.

26 and 27. Get your camera closer than you think. Focus on your talent’s face for a more visually interesting interview, or move in on other elements of your shot. It may feel uncomfortably close at first, but in the end you’ll be glad to have a variety of shots to choose from that truly capture your subject matter. Avoid digital zoom, though – it looks pixelated, and you won’t be happy with the results. Just get closer physically, or use optical zoom (adjusting your lens).

Get your camera close to your subject, for better video.
28 and 29. Keep clips short. They’re easier to manage and edit. The exception to this is interviews. You never know when your interviewee will say that amazing quip, so keep the camera rolling. Movement is essential in video, so mix things up. Shoot a variety of different angles, scenes, close shots, far shots, and b-roll, to tell your story.

About color and text

30. Add annotations & text on the screen. You can do this to draw attention to what someone is saying in the video, to enhance what’s being conveyed, or to add completely new information. Be careful, though, not to put text on top of unrelated audio. Viewers can only process so many streams of information at one time. Trying to read text and listen to spoken words at the same time can lead to cognitive overload, distracting from your storyline.

31. Sometimes what you see through the lens doesn’t look quite the same once it’s on film. Color correct during editing, if needed. Usually, you want to make footage looks as natural as possible.  White-balancing can help offset a yellow light while recording, for example. Sometimes color enhancement can help tell your story (black and white for scenes in the past, or greenish hues for sci-fi).

32. When showing a PowerPoint presentation with a person speaking, don’t frame them in a floating box (picture-in-picture).  Instead, cut back and forth between the presentation slides and the speaker. You’ll show your expert in a much better way, capture their facial expressions, gestures, and provide a much more authentic experience.
Don't put your speaker in a box, unless to include an ASL (sign language) interpreter.
33. Use color and design as a palate inside your video. Play with different background colors, clothing, fonts, and props to help convey your brand, emphasize your points, and tell your story.

34. Callouts are fine, but use blocks of text sparingly. Watching and reading is tough to do. Done well, however, text can keep things interesting and emphasize your points, for better retention of your message.

About transitions

35 and 36. Choose simple transitions, like cut, dissolve, and fade to black. Most other transitions usually end up looking kind of tacky. Star wipes? Please, no. If you do use ‘wacky’ transitions, make sure they have a clear visual purpose that supports your video’s storyline. For example, you can use a clock wipe to show time passing.

About green screen

37. Green screen is cool only if it looks good. It needs proper lighting on the screen, on the talent, and it’s easy to mess it up (rogue shadows, green color partially removed, ‘floating head effect’, etc.). It can definitely be a lot of fun, but make sure you’re not doing it just because you can. Like other parts of your video, make sure you use this technique with a clear purpose – it needs to support your video’s goal and help make your point.

You can use green screen to show interaction with apps and programs.
38. Don’t just replace your background. Find creative ways to use green screen – add interaction (pointing or “pinching” to give the illusion of using larger-than-life apps), do reverse-color silhouettes, or other ways of engaging with the background.

39. Speed up or slow down clips. Use this technique to exaggerate time or bring clarity, or to show long processes quickly, or to set the scene. Used wisely, they can dramatically change the dynamic of your video.

40. Caption your videos! They’re particularly important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), since search engines like Google can only read the searchable text associated with videos (title, description, tags, and captions). Captions help your video get found, and, most importantly, let they improve accessibility so people of all hearing abilities can access your video. Don’t forget, too, many people prefer to watch videos with sound turned off. Captions give them access to any dialogue or narration so they can get the most from the video, the way you’ve intended.

41. Record at the right size. Where is your video going to hosted? What size will it be when it’s viewed?  Check these dimensions ahead of time, and optimize for that size. Specifically, make sure your recording dimensions are proportional to your output. If your final video will be viewed at 1280×720, record at that size, or larger, proportionally.

Screencasting

Recording what’s on your screen (including smartphones) is a great way to make tutorials, how-to videos, and show process workflows. Creating tutorials about your company’s products or services builds brand awareness and establishes client trust.

About clean recording

42. Create a ‘clean’ desktop profile for recording.
Using your everyday profile means you have to clean up desktop icons, any distracting background images, close all those lingering browser windows…and then you have to get everything back to ‘normal’ again when you’re done. Instead, make a new desktop profile that’s only used for recording, so personal info isn’t there. You’ll save time and makes your life a little bit easier, especially for ad-hoc recordings.

43 and 44. If you are using your own profile, make sure to only show programs necessary for the recording. Hide or close anything else on your desktop or dock. Anything else will distract from your message.  This goes for anything that shows within your recording window. Hide toolbars, bookmarks, the URL bar, and other browser ‘stuff’ that clutters up your screen. Minimize or close what you don’t need (you can restore it to your desktop afterwards).

45.Turn off notifications before recording. Email, Twitter, Facebook, and other apps can all ruin a great recording when they pop up alerts on your screen right in the middle of an important point. Disable them before you record (you can also enable them again later…or not).

46. Another pragmatic thing we recommend is to plug in your laptop. Mid-presentation is a bad time to lose power, not just because it interrupts your train of thought, but you can also lose a portion (or all) of the video you’ve been recording. Even if you think you’ve got enough juice, plug it in from the start, just to be sure.

About cursors

47. If you’re recording your cursor, do you viewers a favor and slow it down
in your system settings. It may seem too slow at first, but you’ll end up with smooth, deliberate movements that your viewers can follow. Clicking around too fast is a sure-fire way to make your viewer’s eyes glaze over and ‘lose them’ in your tutorial video. Move your mouse at a pace they can follow and you’re in a much better place to keep them engaged, for a better video result.

48. Mark your cursor location when you pause. Put a sticky note on your screen to mark exactly where your cursor was when you stopped recorded. When you’re ready to begin again, you can place your cursor exactly where you left off. This way, your cursor won’t ‘jump’ when you resume recording.

Mark your cursor's location with a sticky note, so your mouse doesn't jump, for better video.
49. When you’re talking about something on your screen, don’t point & circle with your mouse. It’s not a laser pointer, and it that repetitive action will not serve you well in keeping your audience engaged.

50. Make your cursor bigger. This may seem strange to you, but, again, this will actually be a big help to viewers in actually seeing your movements and where exactly you’re clicking. Pro tip: Some screen capture programs actually
let you change your cursor size after recording, as well.

 

What are your favorite tricks to make great videos? Add them to the comments. Ready to get started with video? Camtasia lest you import footage, edit the way you want, add animations, titles, and more, then share easily.
Get your free trial.

 

The post 50 Tips for Better Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

New Research Reveals Failing to Focus on Visual Communication Threatens Productivity and Engagement Levels

Millennials are transforming the workplace in many ways, but one of the most important ways is how they prefer to communicate.

However, new research commissioned by TechSmith reveals that many businesses are failing to adapt to younger workers’ preferences for more visual forms of communications.

TechSmith has been developing software solutions that help companies and individuals create and communicate with visuals for more than 25 years. As such, when we set out to research the value of communicating with visuals, we we anticipated some likely results:

  • People — especially younger workers — prefer communications that include visual content.
  • People understand and perform better when visuals are included, especially for complex ideas.

However, the results of the study were even more compelling than we expected, highlighting the extent to which visuals help everyone, not just younger workers, understand complex ideas, retain information, and carry out tasks.

The findings

In a survey of 4,500 office workers across six regions, we found that younger workers tend to prefer more visual content in their communications. They’re much more likely to use visual content to communicate on their own time (think Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.), and would prefer more visual content at work.

Additionally:

  • Millennials are twice as likely to want to use more visual communication methods at work compared to baby boomers.
  • More than 64% of millennials say they understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, vs. just 7% who don’t.
  • 58% say they remember information for longer if it has been communicated visually, vs. just under 8% who don’t.
  • More than 54% say they remember more from visual content than from text alone, vs. just over 9% who say they don’t.

Companies are failing in communicating with younger workers

The research also revealed that businesses are missing the mark in communicating with younger workers, with 44% of millennials saying their company’s communications are outdated, vs. just 29% saying they’re not.

With millennials now the largest generation in the workforce, this can be a serious problem for businesses.

Visual content helps nearly everyone — not just millennials

But this goes beyond preferences. Our research reveals lack of visual communications threaten productivity and engagement levels — and not just with millennials, but with workers of all ages. In other words, everyone benefits from more visual communications.

Our study of 125 office workers performing real-world tasks found that communications that include visual content such as screenshots, screencasts, or videos are better, faster, and more engaging than text-only communications for nearly everyone in the workforce. People perform better and feel more engaged than with plain text — and that could boost productivity.

In fact:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of employees are better at completing tasks when information includes text with images (screenshots) or video than by communications featuring text alone.
  • Employees absorb information 7% faster when it’s communicated using text with static images than when it’s provided only with text.
  • Overall, companies would see an 8% improvement in accuracy by using text coupled with visuals — and a 6% improvement by using video.

67% of respondents were better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with static images than by text alone. 33% of respondents were not better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with static images than by text alone.

On a per-task basis, 7% or 8% improvement may not sound like much. But what if you think about it in terms of an entire workday, work week or an entire year?

Suddenly those small productivity gains start to add up. And that’s just for one employee. What if you have 200 employees? 2,000? 10,000?

In those terms, that could spell real consequences for the companies that fail to adapt.

Our research methodology

TechSmith helps anyone create professional, impactful videos and images to communicate and share knowledge with others, so we have a vested interest in making sure our products help people do what they need to do. A survey of our user base would have yielded results, but only from people already creating images and video.

We wanted real, independent, verifiable data on how visual content, such as screenshots, screencasts, images, and video improves communication for businesses worldwide. These particular research findings are based on the following two types of research that were conducted by external research firms:

 

The Scientific Laboratory Study

The scientific laboratory test was conducted using 125 office workers in January 2018 by award-winning doctor in behavioural economics, Dr. Alastair Goode.

Scenarios:

Each participant was asked to complete three everyday office tasks:

  • Uploading a post to a website
  • Downloading new software application
  • Filling out an expense form

Method of instruction:

For each task, one-third of the test subjects were communicated with at random by each of the following instruction methods:

  • Plain text (for example a text-only email)
  • Text with static images (for example an email with text and annotated screenshots of the tasks)
  • Video (for example a recorded walkthrough of the task with voiceover)

Participants were measured on their understanding, recall and speed, and the results for each type of communication were compared. Participants were also examined on their engagement levels and questioned on ease-of-use.

The Opinion Research

For the business opinion research, 4,500 office workers across six countries/regions were surveyed in December 2017, including – Australia (500), Canada (500), DACH region (1,000), France (500), UK (1,000), US (1,000).

The generational data was analyzed according to age and gender (split by generation: Before 1928, 1928 – 1945, 1946 – 1964, 1965 – 1980, 1981 – 1997).

How can companies easily add more visual content to communications?

Change is hard. But there are a number of ways to begin adding visual content that doesn’t require a culture shift to achieve.

We have several blog posts that provide ideas on how you can start incorporating visuals into existing workflows and processes:

 

 

What’s next?

Follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our email newsletter to learn more and ensure you don’t miss more research findings that we will be sharing throughout 2018.

 

The post New Research Reveals Failing to Focus on Visual Communication Threatens Productivity and Engagement Levels appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

Simplified User Interface: The Beginner’s Guide

It can be difficult to onboard users to new and complex interfaces and workflows. Too much information can easily overwhelm the user and make it difficult to keep the focus on the essential feature or functionality.

Additionally, software updates tend to be frequent. These regular updates, coupled with localization processes, can make documentation work in the software industry quite demanding for technical content creators. How can we face these challenges without having to constantly update supporting content?

What if we designed our visual content in a way that is easy to follow, and is able to withstand future UI tweaks?

Let us introduce a design technique used by TechSmith’s User Assistance team and others – it’s called simplified user interface.

Simplified User Interface: What is it?

A simplified user interface (SUI) is a visual representation of a software interface that removes  unimportant elements and reduces them to simpler shapes.

Simplified User Interface graphic showing PowerPoint UI

An example of SUI (pronounced “sue-ee” by the TechSmith User Assistance team).

The elements that are fundamental to the instructions or for the user to understand are purposefully kept visible and the SUI graphics serves as a visual aid to support the instructional content given via the sub- or figure text. Using this method, we can create easy-to-follow instructions that help the reader to get to the point and avoid distractions.

SUI graphics allow for easy-to-follow instructions which enable the reader to get to the point quickly and avoid distractions.

 

Keep it simple, Stupid!

SUI graphics leverage the famous K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, Stupid!) principle: systems perform better if they are kept simple and when unnecessary complexities are avoided. By reducing the graphics to a simpler state and by removing distractions, we can allow the user to focus on only the essential information, which creates a better experience.

Josh Cavalier,an eLearning expert, describes cognitive load as the “amount of information being processed by the brain”. When you reduce the amount of distractions for your audience, they are better able to focus their attention on what is important.

Simplified User Interface graphic with one menu item exposed

In this example, only a single menu item is shown so as direct user attention to something specific.

In a recent blog post from The Interaction Design Foundation, it’s explained that a user is focused solely on how useful something will be for them. This is true for both the product design itself but also for the how-to documentation and instructions.  If it’s hard to understand how to use a product, the value that it has to offer, or how a product can solve a particular problem, then users will struggle.

SUI graphics build upon these principles: Using a simplified user interface in help documentation can aid in user success by giving them only the information they must have in order to be successful, increasing their success and satisfaction with a product.

 

Keeping content up to date

Keep your content current, longer. A quick survey with attendees at STC Technical Communication Summit revealed that keeping content up to date is one of the biggest challenges faced by technical communicators today. And that makes sense, if we look to software as an example: release cycles are shortening and new features and functionality are being added frequently. And with each feature addition and related tweaks to the user interface, the instructions that the technical documentation team laboriously put together are at risk of becoming quickly out of date, even if only slightly. So what is a technical communicator to do?

Again, simplified user interface graphics can play a strategic role in one’s content strategy. The removal of a button or addition of a feature will easily confuse the user if this change is not reflected in a precise screenshot. However, a simplified user interface graphic can often sustain multiple software versions and updates before needing further updates. The simplified design is more forgiving to minor interface changes and additions as it is already an abstract representation of the interface. Technical content creators can use this technique to extend the shelf-life of their visual content or even for repurposing content in similar scenarios.

 

Faster content localization

Any content creator who has been through the localization process knows that it can be time-consuming and expensive to create screenshots and graphics for each locale. Yet, the localization of onboarding materials and other graphics can be trivial for any organization that wants to be successful internationally. As Day Translations points out, we should all “scrap the idea that English is the language of business”. It’s important to cater to different customer bases by providing them with content that speaks to them…in their native language.

Most technical communicators know the effort it takes to create and manage unique screenshots for each language. In order to simplify this task, one can design the content to use SUI images instead of language-specific screenshots. The same graphic can often be repurposed across multiple languages with little to no adjustment. Additional information or instructions can be conveyed through the sub- or figure text.

Simplified User Interface used in both German and English dialog boxes.

In this example, the same SUI graphic is used in the software preference dialog for all languages.

Again, this is another area that helps to reduce creation and maintenance efforts while still providing the user with clear instructions.

 

How to create a Simplified User Interface Graphic

Creating a simplified user interface is a manual process that can take some time. We find it easiest to start with a real screenshot, and transform it into a SUI graphic. For this, you will need a screen capture software and image editing software.

At TechSmith, our current tool of choice for creating SUI images is Snagit, though any other capable image editor will also do. Below, you’ll find the process we typically follow.

 

Step 1: Capture the screenshot

Using Snagit, capture a screenshot of the user interface you want to turn into a SUI graphic and open it in the Snagit Editor.  Edit the screenshot down to the right area and dimensions so it reflects the desired output.

Screenshot showing a screenshot of Skype for Business within the Snagit editor

Step 2: Simplify the screenshot

Once the screenshot and the colors are set up, it is time to simplify the graphic. First, remove visual noise like unrelated menus, buttons, or tool tips to reduce the complexity. This is easily achieved using the Selection Tool in Snagit, with Background Auto-Fill enabled.

GIF showing the selection tool in Snagit

Step 3: Add shapes

Use the shape tool to place colored rectangles over blocks of text and labels. Use other shapes, such as circles, to simplify other screen elements. Remember to keep elements or features that you need to highlight visible in their original state.

GIF showing shapes being added to a screenshot in Snagit

Bonus Tip: Set up a Quick Style Theme in Snagit. A theme is commonly used to save brand colors, but you can also save any effects to tools, such as the thickness of shapes. Pre-load the colors you plan to work with, so you can easily and consistently select the necessary tone. Plus, once a theme has been created, it will be available for you to use in the future.

Step 4: Save it

When you are done, save your file as a .png or .jpg file to be used in your documentation. We highly recommend also saving your final image as a .snag file. This is the Snagit project file type that will allow your future self to reopen the project and edit and adjust all simplifications. This makes potential updates and graphical variations easy and you won’t need to recreate your SUI image each time.

Bonus Tip: use a tag to easily access this file within the Snagit library at later time.

 

Key takeaways

The benefits of using Simplified User Interface graphics in your technical documentation is twofold: One the one hand, these graphics can visually enhance your instructions and improve the onboarding experience for your users. On the other hand, the graphics also benefit technical communicators as they can reduce the need for screenshot updates and aid with  localization. Integrating SUI graphics into part of one’s content strategy is therefore a smart business decision that all content creators should consider, regardless if your favorite aspect is the improved user experience, having evergreen content, or faster localization. Even a few Simplified Graphics can make a difference.

If you aren’t using Snagit yet, download the free trial today, and get started created your own SUI screenshots!

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

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YouTube vs. Vimeo: What’s the Difference?

At TechSmith, our goal is to help content creators take advantage of the power of video in their daily jobs.

But, making the video is just half of the equation.

Choosing where you host your video content is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the planning process.

Today, we pit YouTube vs. Vimeo!

What is the difference between YouTube and Vimeo?

 

YouTube

Vimeo

  • Large mix of users, don’t always get constructive comments, feedback
  • Offer free version to join and a $10/month ad free version
  • Cannot replace a video with a new version and maintain analytics, but you can trim
  • Ads everywhere!
  • Can schedule release times, unlisted & private options
  • Mostly Mature community of users that offer constructive feedback
  • Free, or Paid Tiers: Plus, PRO, Business – Each have varied storage limits
  • You can replace a video without losing stats
  • No ads
  • Password protected option, plus many more

Two of the most popular hosting platforms today are YouTube and Vimeo. They’re both great options for hosting. We offer YouTube outputs from Snagit and Camtasia, and Vimeo from Camtasia (Windows only).

These outputs make it simple to host your videos in the location of your preference.

There are some big differences when it comes to YouTube vs Vimeo and understanding those differences will help you select the right option for you.

The Communities

The first question I always ask myself before I ever push record on my camera: who is my audience? You should ask yourself the same question because YouTube and Vimeo have different communities of users.

YouTube’s community is large, with over 1 billion users that watch hundreds of millions of hours of content – each day! With that many people comes risks. You may run into some questionable, highly offensive users that are not afraid to tell you exactly how they feel about your video.

YouTube’s larger audience produces more content, but keep in mind that quantity doesn’t always equal quality.

Vimeo has a much smaller community. Of its 170 million viewers, about 42 million are in the United States.

Vimeo’s community is generally very supportive, and has many users that offer more constructive feedback than you may find on YouTube.

Another notable distinction between the two is that with a smaller community, you will often find higher production values.

Membership

Vimeo offers four membership options: Plus, PRO, and Business, Premium. They each have different levels of storage and support as you can see in the chart below.

vimeo pricing plan

 

 

Vimeo does offer a basic, free membership, but it limits you to 500MB maximum storage per week.

Alternately, YouTube is completely free with unlimited storage when it comes to hosting. YouTube focuses on making money with their advertising, not monthly or yearly payment plans like Vimeo.

That said, YouTube offers a $9.99/month subscription service called YouTube Red, which allows you to view videos without ads.

In addition to being able to watch videos ad-free, you will also have access to a slate of original programming, the ability to download videos so you can watch offline later, as well as a music app.

Updating your videos

Have you ever uploaded a video, then realized you needed to make a change to it? Vimeo allows you to replace a video after it has been uploaded without losing that video’s stats. This can be very helpful if you realize you made a mistake in your video, or something like a name needs to be updated.

Replace this videoOn the flip-side, when you upload your video to YouTube, it cannot be changed without completely deleting the file and re-uploading. This means that you will lose all of your views and stats in the process.

If you use YouTube, double and triple check spelling and content, because once you post it, you can’t fix it! I have been hoping for a long time that YouTube will activate this feature, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

Copyrighted Material

YouTube will detect copyrighted music and images almost immediately upon upload, automatically disabling these elements if you don’t have permission to use them. This can help make sure you’re not infringing on a copyright unintentionally.

Vimeo on the other hand, isn’t as strict and won’t disable your content. If you choose Vimeo, be aware that it technically is stealing if you don’t own the rights to any media in your video. It is imperative to use good judgement when sharing your work.

Advertising

You may notice that YouTube has ads all over the place both on the website and within the video player. As a marketer, you have tons of options to reach your specific audiences with highly targeted ads on YouTube, but as a viewer it can be overwhelming.

Vimeo takes pride in keeping their site free from ads and you won’t see one playing before, during, or after your content. This is because, as I said before, they make their money on memberships.

Analytics

On the plus side, both sites offer a wide array of analytics for your video that can be extremely helpful when determining who is watching your video and how they are viewing it.

The downside is that you will have to be a Plus Vimeo member to receive the advanced analytic access (you can see a breakdown of stats available in Vimeo plans here.)

Both platforms offer stats on views, comments, likes, shares, total plays, and geographical data, but YouTube offers a little more.

youtube analytics

YouTube also offers insight into traffic sources, gender, what devices your viewers are using, and audience retention. Another feature of YouTube is the ability to add annotations or “clickable hotspots” on top of your video that allows viewers to interact.

Privacy Options

Vimeo offers password protected content. This can be great if you are reviewing content with clients and want to keep it hidden. Vimeo offers a variety of other privacy options as well.

video privacy settings - vimeoYouTube allows three options; public, unlisted and private. Unlisted means only those with the link can view it, while private means only those you invite with an active YouTube account can view it.

So…. Where Should I Host?

In the end, it really depends on the audience you are trying to reach because both platforms offer great resources for businesses who are expanding into the world of digital video.

Where do you host your videos? Which features are most important to you? Let us know in the comments!

Note: This is an update of a post originally published November 2015. It has been updated to reflect changes to the hosting platforms.

*Sharing to YouTube from Snagit is only supported for video, not image files.

Vimeo is TM + © 2018 Vimeo, Inc. All rights reserved.
YouTube is © 2018 YouTube, LLC

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7 Things I Always Try to Build into My Online Courses

I was recently asked, “What top things do you always build into your online course content?” This question made me really stop and think, and do a sort of ‘gut check’. I’ve been teaching a fully online course at Lenoir-Rhyne University as an adjunct instructor for the past four years. I love it. With my education background, I feel very lucky to be able to continue my passion for teaching … and learning. I can honestly say that each semester of teaching this course has continuously evolved. Through the support and guidance of two awesome people, Dr. Jayme Linton (@jaymelinton) and Jessica O’Brien (@jkobrien), I’m constantly trying to improve the course for my students. Here are seven things that I always try to include when I build online courses.

1. A welcome video

Everyone is always a little nervous at the beginning of a new semester, including the instructor. Help reduce some of that anxiety by creating a video to welcome students to the class. To quote my coworker, Josh, who’s done a lot of work with video: “Sprinkle that video with tidbits about things that make you human. If your cat jumps into your lap during the recording, don’t start over or delete that part. Introduce your cat.”

You only get one chance at making that first impression with your students. Invite your students to create a welcome video, too, and post them in a discussion board to start building connections.

2. An introduction video of the course

Along with the welcome video that I create, I always record a separate video that helps introduce the course content to the students. This usually covers an overview of the syllabus, course layout in the LMS, assignments and grading policy, contact information, important dates, and possibly a walkthrough of a specific learning module. I try and cover only the most important topics and not the fine details because I don’t want to overwhelm them when everything is brand new. Ease into it and allow the fine details to present itself when it’s time.

3. Consistent weekly updates and reminders

Build online courses with weekly video updates Whether I like it or not, this class is not the only important thing happening in my students’ lives. They may be taking other classes, have a full or part-time job, family obligations, and the list goes on. One way I try to keep students focused is by posting weekly announcements about what tasks need to be completed in the upcoming week. This announcement is typically a video (screen recording and webcam) of me checking in and walking through where we currently are in the course syllabus. I will point out what assignments are due, and answer any questions from students that came up during the prior week, so that everyone is getting the same response. Even though these weekly videos are only generally between five to seven minutes (or less), it’s a great way to keep that visual connection with students in an online learning environment.

Here’s a recent tweet from a former student sharing how being consistent with updates and reminders has been helpful.

4. Guest speakers and content experts

Having field experts join us to share their experiences and answer questions is definitely beneficial to the learning. My favorite way to do this is during synchronous live chats (we have at least five each semester). This is a time to not only connect and engage with each other, but to bring in content experts to share their knowledge. Students get the unique opportunity to hear directly from individuals in their field of study. It also provides them with a different perspective on the topics we’re discussing.

5. Meaningful feedback

I’ll be honest, this is one area where I need to improve. One of the biggest assignments during the course is submitting three separate mini-literature review blog posts. Students always do a great job with these, and I enjoy reading them. My goal every semester is to provide meaningful feedback on their work, and for these written pieces I’ve tried to include spoken/video feedback as well. Here is my process:When you build online courses, use video to give meaningful feedback on student assignments

  1. 1. Take a scrolling screen capture of their blog post (I use Snagit to do this, with its easy-to-use editing tools).
    2. Use editing tools to insert brief comments and highlight specific areas of the blog to provide more detailed spoken feedback later.
    3. Record the mocked-up image with the video capture tool and share my audio and visual feedback with the student.
    4. Share the video to Screencast, Google Drive, or another favorite hosting site, and send the link to the student, along with the mocked up image capture for reference.

Above is an animated gif (blurred, to protect student privacy) to show you what the blog post capture looks like after comments were added. Here is an example screenshot (also blurred for privacy), and a screenshot of the finished video providing my audio/visual feedback.

6. Let students lead

When I first started teaching online, I had a love/hate relationship with discussion boards. I actually still do in a way, but as I build online courses I’ve tried to make improvements to make them more meaningful and engaging. One thing I’ve tried is to require students to moderate a weekly discussion during the semester. These typically cover a chapter or two of the textbook, and students are each responsible for deciding how the chat is run. They will make the first post during their designated week, and will help guide and encourage the conversation.

Instead of having the discussion board last an entire week, I’ve tried targeting a few days (i.e. Wednesday – Friday) when everyone should be participating. This has definitely helped deter the typical ‘wait until the last day and post something’ tendency that has contributed to the love/hate relationship. It has also given the students a chance to experience moderating, or leading a discussion board instead of only participating. I’m always looking for more ways to improve the discussion board experience, so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you in advance.

7. Participate in learning

One thing is for sure, and that is learning is constant. I think the best thing I can do for my students is to participate and support them in the learning process. I try and do this by staying active in our discussion boards, asking questions, and commenting on individual posts by students. When students email me questions, I often share the question and response (usually in a quick video) with everyone in the class, if they can all benefit from it. This also helps avoid getting asked the same questions multiple times. We learn together and all try to improve and grow for the next opportunity ahead.

Thank you for reading and I hope you found useful information to help build online courses. Reach out any time if I can help you, or if you have any advice for me. I will always welcome it.

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