Tag Archives: educational video

Edit, Reshoot, or Ignore? How to Deal with Mistakes in Educational Videos

This post was co-written by Kristen Tracey.

Scalability vs. Perfection: that’s really the issue at hand any time you need to make a large number of videos. Of course, we want every educational video we make to be perfect — clear, engaging, and without any stumbles. However, the reality of producing lots of videos is that you simply can’t always fix everything.

Editing educational videos, like any other web videos, is all about balancing scarce resources with quality. If you notice flaws in your footage, you might consider how important the error is, how central to the course the video is, and how much time it will take to reshoot.

Then decide: edit, reshoot, or ignore?

Sound issues

Jess speaks into a microphone to record a voiceover in our studio with a greenscreen and lighting poles in the background

Outside noise, static from the mic, random glitches in the file: these things happen. Sometimes static or hissing can be improved with tools like the De-crackler or De-hummer in Adobe Premiere, one of the editing programs we use at Knewton (there are similar tools in almost every pro or semi-pro editing program). Often, though, it’s impossible to remove noise issues completely. If the sound issues will be distracting or impede understanding, reshoot. But if it’s just a random short glitch, fix it up as best as you can and then move on.

Tip: One way we deal with sound issues at Knewton is to have two teachers in the room while filming. The second teacher listens through headphones attached to the camera, hearing exactly what the microphone is picking up, in order to immediately catch any audio issues. That way, we can reshoot instantly before any editing resources have been wasted.

Tip: “Hollow” audio (a recording that echoes or sounds like it was recorded in a big empty room), is nearly impossible to fix after the fact. Just reshoot in this case. Prevent that type of sound by doing a test recording beforehand. Recording in a smaller room, or one with sound-absorbing material like thick curtains, can help, as can moving the microphone closer to the person speaking.

Verbal missteps

Teachers are human; like anyone else, they sometimes make mistakes when they talk. What to do in these cases depends largely on context, so make sure that the video editor understands the lesson content.

Always fix any error that it central to what’s being taught or might cause misconceptions. In our experience, students can ignore small missteps and flubs if they’re irrelevant, or if the teacher immediately corrects herself, but can be easily confused if, say, a teacher says the wrong number in a math problem.

If you do decide to fix a mistake, you can try to use cutaway visuals to skip over the error — try cutting to a full-screen version of the question to cover the fact that your video just skipped a few frames. You could also re-record the word or sentence and dub it over, but if the audio isn’t exactly the same, it might seem strange and distracting to students.

Tip: In our Math Readiness Course, none of the videos are more than 5 or 6 minutes long. That length is great for lots of reasons — one being that if we make a mistake, it’s only 5 more minutes to get a whole new take. For these videos we vastly prefer reshooting to trying to edit out an error. If you’re having trouble getting through an entire video without flubs, try making several shorter videos instead — your video editors (and students) will thank you!

Visual issues

This is a more complex set up we used for some interview-style videos. We turned off the overhead lights and used bright studio lights to get an even, controlled lighting setup.

From poor lighting or dropped frames, to typos in visual aids, to accidentally leaving a half-eaten meatball sub in the background of the shot (whoops!), visual issues can be a tough call.

You can often fix lighting issues using image controls in your video editing program, or crop out that sandwich stub. For other visual problems such as typos, just like with teacher error, we recommend not worrying too much unless student understanding is compromised. That said, if you’re planning to put this video out in the world for hundreds or thousands of students, it’s probably worth fixing by reshooting or replacing that portion of the video with a corrected visual.

You do need to take into account that some people may be watching your video on an iPhone or a low-quality web connection. If you can’t get the video to look clear on your own monitor, consider a reshoot. And seriously consider if dropped frames or other technical glitches will be distracting to students who need to be paying attention to the lesson, not the quality of your video.

Tip: More light is generally better than less. Lights that seem incredibly bright in your studio will probably look great on-screen — alternatively, that faint shadow that you barely notice in person might become a distracting issue once you’re looking at it on a computer monitor. As with almost everything in video, it’s much easier to get it right in the original shot than to try to fix it later with editing. Take the time to set up good lights in the beginning, and reap the rewards of easy editing later.

Final note

With all of these decisions, anything you decide to ignore can always be added to your to-do list for later. Knewton’s all in favor of iteration — release a product that works, but continue to improve it until it’s the best it can be.

Good luck, and happy shooting!


Educational Video Formats: Style Advice from Knewton’s Video Team

This post was co-written by Jess Nepom

There has been a lot of talk lately about creating educational videos for your students, whether you mean to use them in class, on the web, or both. Fewer people really talk about the different options for the format of your video — by which I don’t mean the technical file format, but rather the actual style of what will be on the screen. Should you use an on-camera teacher? Animation? Screencasts? You have lots of style choices when you’re making educational videos.

At Knewton we spend a lot of time thinking about how to make videos that are engaging and effective, but can still be produced in a manageable and scalable way. If you want to create some educational videos but don’t know where to start, here are some elements to consider:

1. Screencasts and slideshows

Slideshows can be exported to a series of images and then narrated by a teacher — an easy, versatile option. All you need is a mic and presentation software. Even better, although you’ll need additional software (for example, Camtasia), is a “screencast” or a digital screen capture: a video of exactly what’s going on on your computer screen. With some programs, you can circle, underline, annotate, doodle on your slides — anything to illustrate what you’re saying and keep your students watching. As a benefit, teachers who are uncomfortable being on camera don’t need to be. No worrying about hair or wardrobe either! The downside is that since you can’t see the teacher in the video, the overall experience can be less engaging for the student, especially if the video is more than a few minutes long.

Tip: At Knewton, we particularly like using simple screencasts with voiceover to demonstrate brief solutions to single problems. As a plus for subjects like math, you can actually write out your solution and allow the students to easily follow along.

A screencast video with voiceover showing the teacher’s handwriting. We used a tablet computer, Powerpoint slides, and a stylus to create this video.

2. Teachers

Having an on-screen teacher is a great way to increase the human factor of a course that is largely online, and it can often increase a student’s engagement. On the other hand, being forced to watch a boring or awkward speaker may actually decrease a student’s interest, so teachers must be telegenic as well as knowledgeable.

You’ll also need to think about how much of the person to show. Is your teacher sitting down behind a desk? Standing at a podium? Can you only see the face and shoulders? Consider both the physical limitations of your space — how much can you light, and how much can you back up your camera? — and the natural motions of your teacher. A teacher standing up could seem awkward, or she may move and gesture more naturally than she would while sitting. A teacher behind a desk may feel more comfortable himself, but the video may be more boring for the students.

Tip: For Knewton’s longer videos (ex. mini-lectures in our Math Readiness courses), we often film one of our super-charismatic teachers using a green screen so that we can put their images in front of a screencast.

We filmed our teacher Jen in front of a green screen, then superimposed the screencast from the tablet she’s writing on behind her.

Tip: In the case of our On-Demand GMAT courses, which are much longer videos, we chose to use a two-teacher set-up, and have them sitting. This allowed us to have room for the large slides, and allowed the teachers to banter and play off each other while teaching. It’s a bit unconventional, but our students really responded to the natural, conversational feeling of the lessons.

In these videos, shown here in our custom video viewer application, two teachers sit side by side while walking through slides in a longer lecture.

3. Camera angle and number of cameras

Putting your teacher onscreen means that you have to come up with a way to deal with errors. Some will be small, but the longer the video, the more mistakes you’re bound to have! A single continuous take lessens the need for editing but might be tough to get perfect all in one go. On the other hand, if you use multiple camera angles or cut between a teacher and a full-screen slideshow or screencast, you’ll need more video resources (cameras, people to film, and people who know how to edit) but you’ll put less pressure on your teachers to be perfect all in one take.

4. Whiteboards and projectors

If you already have a classroom setup available, you can film your teacher in front of a whiteboard, or writing on an overhead projector. This is a nice, cost-effective way to have both a teacher and visual aids in your video. These set-ups are great if you want to replicate the traditional classroom, but don’t allow as much innovation over the classic lecture model. Even with an engaging teacher, your students will likely feel as though they’re in class, but with less accountability since it’s on a computer. Technically, these videos are also much harder to light appropriately — your teacher may be in the dark, or your projector or board might be washed-out and too bright. If you do use a whiteboard, avoid common mistakes: make sure your teacher’s writing is well-lit, large and clear!

An example of a whiteboard video. The text is hard to read and the colors look washed out, but it’s easy to make many videos in a short amount of time.

5. Animation and interactivity.

Some concepts — like surface area, or centripetal forces — might be best addressed by animation or interactive tutorials. Adding animation and interactivity to your course is a great idea, especially for kinesthetic learners. But you’ll need more software, and maybe even additional staff who know how to use it.

Choosing a format isn’t necessarily obvious or simple, but we hope we’ve given you some ideas to think about! Try out some sample videos in a couple of formats, to see which one feels easiest and most natural to you and the subject you’re teaching. Once you’ve chosen a format for your video, gotten your software and hardware ready, and prepared your lesson, you’re ready to start filming.

Good luck!

iphone post photo

How to Make a Complete Movie With Only an iPhone

Several months ago, I upgraded to an iPhone 4s. I could go on and on about various apps and games, but one functionality I hadn’t explored until fairly recently was my phone’s ability to create a video. Well, I’m part of the Video Team here at Knewton – we’re responsible for all of the videos you see in our products and around our website and blog – so I thought I’d challenge myself:

Could I make an entire video using only my iPhone?

Turns out, of course, the answer is yes! Check out my first (very) quick video below and then read on to find out how I did it and how you too can use nothing but an iPhone to make quick, high-quality videos. This video was filmed at the 2012 NAB Show:

Just to reiterate, that video was created 100% using my iPhone — including filming, editing, and everything. Not including the filming, it only took me about an hour to actually create the video — proof that making a high-quality, presentable movie doesn’t have to take long!

Do you work in education?

If you can get your hands on an iPhone (or several), the possibilities are endless: create a short video of a field trip that students can show to their parents, create a trailer to tease a big school dance or event, or challenge students to split into groups and make a mini-documentary about an issue facing their lives. How about a “Day in the life” video to send to a pen pal or sister school in another country?

I could go on and on. The power and ease of the iPhone apps makes all this so much more accessible and real than ever before.

So, how did I make that video?

I used:
-iMovie (for editing), $4.99
-Motion Pictures (to create the time lapses), free

That’s it for the apps!

Other materials you may need or want:

-a tripod or stand for your phone — strongly recommended when making timelapses (I use the iStabilizer, but there are lots of options)
-music you wish to use as a soundtrack (the music in my video is a default that comes with iMovie, so this is optional)

Getting the shots

The first step, of course, is to get your video clips. Depending on what kind of movie you’re making, the types of clips you want will vary. Whatever you do, try to get different types of shots — experiment with far-away shots to set the scene, close-ups, and shots of people talking. Make sure you get a good variety, and don’t be afraid to get lots of short clips with different angles, as opposed to a few long videos.

Still photos are good too! As you can see in my video above, iMovie makes it easy to use still photos in your movie, for those moments you captured but didn’t film. A compilation of still shots is a great way to give a general sense of an event or vacation, or to tell a story quickly, without needing tons of video footage.


There are two timelapses in my video: one of the convention floor, and one of the sunset over Las Vegas. I used the free app Motion Pictures, and I’m a huge fan of it. All you need is a stand or tripod where you can leave your phone for a while without it moving. I have a tripod with flexible legs, which is great because I can bend it around the arm of a bench (as I did on the convention floor) or around a lamp (as I did in my hotel room, pointing out the window) to hold my phone steady. The app is extremely clear — you set certain factors such as amount of time between frames, and how long you want it to go, and it helpfully shows you how long your finished video will be. Then hit Start, sit back, and once it’s done it automatically saves to your camera roll — try it on sunsets, when setting up a big stage, when taking down decorations in a big room, or anywhere with lots of movement and people walking around! It’s a great way to get a “wow-factor” in your video without a lot of work.

Putting it all together

I’m not going to try to explain how to use iMovie in this blog post — there are a lot of fun features to discover! — but here are a few good free online resources for learning the app if you need some help:

Apple support FAQs (official; text)
YouTube link (unofficial tutorial video)
YouTube link 2 (another one)

Here are a few screenshots from my project that should keep you on the right track if you just want to tap around and try it out (which I recommend!):

Create a new project by tapping the + button:

Basically, just start throwing the good parts of your clips into your project. The yellow line shows you which parts of the clips you’re using.

Tap on things to get options: transitions, audio levels, titles, etc.

Don’t be afraid of the themes. Yes, they can be a little cheesy sometimes, but they can also make your video look put-together and professional. (I used the default theme “Neon,” which provided the title screens at the beginning and end, as well as the themed transition and background music.)

Want narration? iMovie makes it super easy to make a voiceover recording on all or part of your movie. Simply choose the point where you want your recording to start and hit the microphone icon. You’ll have a chance to preview your recording before either re-taking it or accepting it into the project.

Once you’re happy with your video, tap the share button to export it to your camera roll or iTunes, or directly to a number of websites such as YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo. It’s as simple as that!

Do you have other tips for people creating videos on the fly? Other apps we should try? Creative uses for video in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!