Welcome to the next installment in my series on creating video tutorials on technical topics that you can upload to YouTube, and in particular in this article, on continuously improving the quality as you create more and more tutorials over time.
There’s a method in the art/design community called iteration, where creative groups improve on a work or product in repetitive cycles. The two keys in this method are (1) repetitive cycles of (2) critical analysis leading to a new design. The method is applicable to any creative or design field, including software engineering (which was a bit late to the game, although that’s not our collective fault).
In this article I want to look at improving the result of the design of a picture-in-picture video within a video tutorial. There are two main facets, although we only have space here to describe one and so we’ll deal with the second in the next installment:
Let’s refer to them as the background problem and the presenter problem.
Suppose as your first iteration you’ve decided to record yourself in front of a green screen. Once that video is ready, what are your options for inserting it? Let’s break them down.
After processing with a video editor to remove the background, you inset the video in a corner (so you don’t cover up the tutorial content). You’ve probably seen this in a number of videos on YouTube, with varying results.
So if you don’t like those ugly edges you see around you, or you prefer you don’t look like a space alien dropped into a uni-color background, what can you do about it? Well, you could instead put something like a poster behind you (i.e., an old school 2D “analog” background), or you could even put one of those 72-inch LCD monsters to use and display whatever background you can find on the internet. Here’s an example of what I mean, with a nice poster of a mountain lake behind me:
That’s all great, but now maybe you’re thinking you need something with a bit more authenticity. With a background you don’t look like an alien anymore, but it still feels a bit artificial, and it gets especially notable as the video gets longer.
So let’s take a look at a real background. If you want some authenticity, you might want to locate it inside a room that’s typical either of your development environment (e.g. an office for software development) or of your deployment environment (e.g. a server room, or a warehouse if you do logistics software).
A real backdrop might be you in a big empty office, or even a partly full office. If you’re the kind of person who has to do a lot of takes, try starting off with as little movement as possible. But what’s most important is to get some depth to the space, and have everyday objects in it, not just white walls immediately behind you, or else you might as well be using a fake backdrop.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
No! That’s the joy of the iterative design process. You can always make improvements. For instance, if you want to reclaim part of the space, you might decide to try an edge or radial blur filter effect:
And of course, even if you think you’ve gotten everything almost perfect, you can always search on YouTube for keywords like “examples of best practice tutorial videos” in order to up your game.
I’ll see you next time when we’ll talk about the Presenter problem.