As a seasoned video professional, you might find it surprising to hear me say you can make great learning video with almost zero technical ability. I see lots of blogs giving tips to video newbies in which the emphasis is on the technical. I’m concerned that this can act as a barrier to entry for a lot of people, not only because they find technology daunting, but because technique becomes the principle measure of success. My empowering message to you is – if the voice track is comprehensible and that the viewer can tell what you’re pointing the camera at, you have a technical success. Master the basics and allow your intrinsic strengths as a learning expert to come across.
Don’t forget, some of the world’s most popular videos are made by people with very little technical ability. Disneycollector makes videos of unboxing Disney toys. In this clip, with one fixed camera position, she unboxes six Play Doh Sparkle Princess. It’s had over 500 million views. The latest Game of Thrones US premiere only got 16 million viewers!
Of course, many of Disneycollector’s viewers are children, so what about car fixing vlogger Chris Fix? His video about cleaning your headlights with toothpaste has the most basic of production values and has had 13.5 million views!
Now, I wouldn’t say either of these people is charismatic or endowed with any unusual talents. What they share is an enthusiasm for their subject. They don’t shout about it, but they engage wholeheartedly, which means they enjoy what they are doing and that comes through. Enthusiasm shines bright with or without whizzy production techniques.
On the audience side – these vloggers have plenty of learner incentive. People want to know about this stuff and the production values simply don’t matter to them.
There are plenty of examples of vloggers whose output has become more polished, but usually this is because they’ve become successful and paid other people to make the videos for them. And this happens in learning as well – if you’re successful with your video content you’ll get noticed and attract more budget. Then you can get other people to do the technical stuff. And relax!
Now, of course, you probably don’t want to be a vlogger. Perhaps you want to film some interviews with experts and cut them together into a presentation. The same principles apply. What do these people say that you are excited about? Take that and deliver it to others and don’t worry about the finer points of technique. Use jump cuts, don’t worry about continuity or wipes or slick graphics, leave the technical wizardry to people who do that stuff for a living and focus on the part where you have an edge over them – your subject. You know what needs to be communicated. And you know your audience.
In fact, I’d argue that filming techniques aren’t really what distinguish a professional video maker either. You can film a great script on a smart phone and watch it on a black and white tele and as long as you can hear the dialogue and see what’s going on it’ll carry. You can film a bad script with all the cameras and lights available to a Hollywood producer and it’ll still be unengaging. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for higher production values – there is, and I love working with them, but the greater challenge and the smarter play is to work around their absence.
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