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?
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.
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!
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.
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!