6 Ways to Spend Less Time Updating Your Course Videos
As we've shared before, Ben and I initially brainstormed the concept for WP Courseware WordPress course builder plugin when we were building our very first online course several years ago. There were no learning management system plugins for WordPress at that time, so we set out to build our own solution for structuring and managing course content.
Our course consisted entirely of tutorial videos.
We had dozens of video lessons spread out over eight different course modules. I’m not sure exactly how much time we put into creating those video lessons for the initial course launch, but I know that it was north of 200 hours for each of us.
And we weren't the only ones!
During our last WP Courseware user survey, we learned that over 90% of our 20,000+ users rely on video to deliver the majority of their training content as well.
The Course Creation School of Hard Knocks
We learned many, many lessons about how to effectively create and edit video training. Fast forward a few years, and either one of us is comfortable sitting down and producing video content efficiently and effectively because of all we’ve learned.
We know which recording and editing platforms we each like. We have our audio and microphone setups dialed in so they’re always ready to go. We each have our own editing workflow that allows us to polish videos up quickly. Overall, we’ve just found processes that work for us.
Why Am I Telling This Story?
With all of the things we’ve learned about the technology and processes we feel are best for us when we're producing videos, there was a more important lesson we learned. A lesson which, once we began addressing it, ended up saving us countless hours.
So what was this important lesson?
Our initial course offering included several hours of video content illustrating how to use various software programs which were constantly being updated. We also taught various marketing strategies which were changing as advertising platforms such as Facebook or Google evolved.
And with almost every video training course we’ve seen our users deliver, some content within that course will need to be updated sooner than later.
One of the most important lessons we learned about creating video training content was this…
We learned how to record our training content in a way that made it much easier to update later.
So today I wanted to share a few of the practices we’ve learned to use to ensure that updating our video training content is as painless and efficient as possible.
1. Be aware of the past, present, and future when speaking.
This may seem obvious, but anyone who has recorded video training knows that once you get into the flow of speaking you sometimes neglect to focus on some of the small details of your dialogue.
And some of those “details” may seem glaringly obvious to your students upon playback. Let’s say you’re teaching a course on SEO for web developers. You’re probably going to want to avoid saying things like this…”Google has mentioned that in its next search algorithm update that it may begin placing more emphasis on this factor.” You can see why a statement like that is going to be a liability later on.
Be mindful of the past, present, and future when speaking in your video training lessons. Try to avoid making statements or mentions which could become contradictory or irrelevant a few weeks or months down the road.
2. Keep a time log document which lists the major points within your videos.
This suggestion is certainly a little cumbersome and you may want to very eagerly skip it in the interest of speed and efficiency when recording your content. But you might thank yourself later. I know I did.
Although Ben and I created dozens of individual videos for that original training course, for every one those videos I put together I kept a simple text document which told me the time stamp for all major points listed within the video.
This doesn’t need to be precise down to the second to be effective and you don’t need to include more than a few major talking points to provide reference. But one of the single-biggest time wasters when updating video is watching too much of it to figure out where and what you need to edit. Just a simple “2:38 - start talking about topic X”, “5:43 - start on topic Y”, etc. will do.
If you'd like to download the template that I use when creating new videos, just click here for a PDF version.
3. Keep your audio and video tracks separate.
I really cannot stress this one enough. No matter what, do yourself a favor and invest in a recording and editing software package which will split your video and audio into two separate tracks.
I’m sure many of our WP Courseware users will be familiar with our video tutorials. We’ve recorded a lot of them. Ben and I both use Screenflow for Mac for those. When we record our screens and speak into a microphone at the same time as we’re demonstrating a feature, Screenflow captures them as two separate tracks.
Why is this important?
Speaking from experience, you’ll often find times when the visual you were demonstrating is still relevant but you need to update something you said about that visual. And vice versa, sometimes your audio may still be spot on but something small in the visual has changed, such as the UI for a software package.
Keeping these tracks separate allows you to easily splice in precisely what you need to without re-recording everything.
4. Keep your videos as short and concise as possible.
Again, this might seem like an obvious approach, but once you get rolling it’s incredibly easy to just include as much content in one video as possible.
Try to get used to keeping your videos somewhat brief and concise. Not only will it help improve engagement when watching your video training, but should you need to replace an entire topic with new information you can toss out the old video and record a new one.
We’ve heard from many WP Courseware users who keep their video lessons under five minutes each and they’ve told us over and over that it works out better for them and their students. Sure, this can’t apply to every training topic as some just can’t effectively be explained in five minutes.
But remember…I said as short and concise “as possible”.
5. Get used to saving those pre-export files.
As I mentioned before, Ben and I both use Screenflow. But almost any video software will have a working document where your video and audio will be dumped for editing and splicing.
You piece everything together the way you want, adjust the audio, polish it up with your intro and outro, and then export to a viewable media file such as a .mov or .mp4 file.
But once that media is exported, a lot of people discard the raw file which was used to produce the exported video. Sure, if you delete it after exporting you can always re-import your final .mov or .mp4 file, chop it up, and then edit what you need to.
However, this whole process is far more efficient if you can go back to the original raw file and just replace exactly what you need.
And I’m not going to sugar coat it…you’ll use some serious disk space for this. For our courses we use Amazon S3, but you may have to allocate a significant portion of a DropBox account or other to save both the final video and the raw file.
However, if your business relies on these videos to generate income, you shouldn't be too concerned with spending a few dollars a month on a robust cloud storage solution.
6. Start breaking your recordings up into “mini videos”.
I tend to take this one toward the extreme. And this technique requires that you’re adhering to the last point I just presented…saving your pre-export files.
But remember when I said that you should keep your audio and video tracks separate? Well, it’s also helpful if those two separate tracks are broken up into several different audio and video tracks.
Anyone who has recorded a video training series will tell you that the most efficient approach is just to power through your videos without worrying about every detail being perfect. And that’s largely true.
But my approach has always been to record small portions of content, save it, and record another small portion of content. For one, it allows me to re-record short segments if I missed a visual cue, said something inaccurate, or maybe even just sneezed in the middle of recording.
But when I go back to make updates to longer videos, it’s much, much easier if I’m working with a file that has multiple segments which I can replace if necessary.
So there you have it…the 6 strategies we use to cut down on the time we spend updating our videos. Do you have suggestions or other techniques that you use? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!
Thanks, Nate – I especially like number 6 – mini-videos!
What are your tips for keeping audio volume and characteristics consistent between videos? Like you, I have a lot of short videos and I keep the audio clips separate from the video until I’m ready to produce the final. But, I have not found a way to get the sound quality and volume to be exactly the same between each audio “take.” I am constantly futzing with the sound in post, and it still never turns out consistently across videos. Any tips? Thanks!
This is a great question. Most video editing applications should have a method to “normalize” the audio. When you normalize, raises the volume of audio to the same levels. It also adds more of a full sound.