06. 05. 2024 Charles Callaway Documentation

Making Your Own Video Tutorials, Part 17: My Full Video Pipeline

In this series I’ve given you lots of advice on making your own tutorial-style IT videos for YouTube as a single DIY “maker”: writer, lighting, director, cameraman, editor, audio specialist, etc. But these posts weren’t written in the order of my “workflow”, i.e. the sequence I actually go through when making a new video.

So let’s take a look at how all these pieces go together. In other words, the order I do things in when making a video from start to finish, so that I only have to do them once, while making them as good as possible yet still sticking to a realistic budget.

I’d also like to mention that this is my “current” workflow. You should employ work methods like Agile to these processes just like you do with other things in IT: constant, incremental improvement. So you should expect that as you learn more you’ll improve your own just like I do, and thus that things will change.


First let’s do a quick overview. There are a few major milestones that separate some parts of the workflow from the others. The first one is having a completely written out script. For example, the script may be tweaked and slightly rewritten, but you won’t start planning anything else until you’ve got a complete draft that you’re sure won’t undergo any future major changes.

The other important stages revolve around filming: before, during and after filming. The “before” step is all about preparation, “during” is all about executing the plan you prepared, and “after” is all about making minor adjustments and putting everything together.

Incremental change is not going to affect those stages at a high level, just what’s inside each one. But let’s start from the beginning.

The Writing Stage

The main thing to get out of your head is that the writing process is sitting down at a desk, writing what you want to say in one go, and you’re done, ready to start planning how to shoot the video.

Even if you are able to write out everything in one go, you’ll still have writing to do, because you’ll need to iterate several times, rewriting to make sure the content and narrative improve continuously. After a few iterations you can begin to think about the filming stage and how it might impact the script, but only at a high level.

For instance, you might decide you want to use an outdoor shot for one segment. But now’s not the time to worry about the details. In fact, you don’t even need to know at this point whether you’ll be on-camera or seeing B-Roll in the final shot. It’s better to just assume you’ll always be on camera, and then you won’t have to worry about restrictions on any video effects you add later.

Once you’ve finished the main draft, there’s a strong desire to polish it off before going on to the next stage. But that’s the wrong way to think about it at this point. Instead you’ll want to think about how it sounds when it’s read aloud, because that’s how your audience will experience it. Even if while writing you were “reading aloud in your head”, that’s still a different experience than “reading aloud aloud”, i.e., where you’re actually speaking out loud.

I do this in two stages, a preliminary one where I just read it out aloud, and make changes whenever something sounds funny (i.e., written to be read, not to be heard), and then I’ll record it with a microphone and just play it back several times. If it sounds awkward, it’s probably because you’re using the language of writing rather than the language of speaking. They’re not the same!

The Reading Stage

So it’s important to make the final few script changes according to the recorded audio. With my videos I know the final script is ready when the audio alone sounds good, especially if you sleep on it and listen to it again the next day.

With the script in hand, it’s time to think about the teleprompter. Speaking of which, I’ve tried several methods to recite the script out loud during filming without sounding unnatural, like playing back a recording in a barely-visible earbud. But over the last year I’ve settled on the teleprompter as the best method for me.

For the video source in my cheap teleprompter I use a tablet, but I don’t use a special app. Instead I use a web browser to load a web page that’s a modified version of a JavaScript teleprompter. The modifications together with a Python script allow me to set up my script with a markup language to add colors and highlights as directions (gestures, emphasis, voice change, etc.) so that I don’t need to memorize anything.

So with the teleprompter version of the script ready, it’s time to practice some more, making additional changes to the script and the accompanying instructions, so that everything is self contained and I won’t need to do many takes in front of the camera when it’s time to film the actual video.

The Draft Video Stage

Camera time! Set up your videocamera and teleprompter running your script, and record a complete reading of the script just while you’re sitting at a table with a wall in the background. If this takes you more than 20 minutes, you’re doing something wrong.

The point isn’t to see how the video might turn out (or how pretty/handsome you are), but to check how the spoken script works while you’re concentrating on the mechanics of saying the words (cognitive load!) and to be able to make some final changes while using minimal effort.

At this point I typically switch one word for another when I notice I simply have trouble saying that particular word. You’ll also discover whether you can read the words and instructions on the teleprompter without making a strained face. You know you’ve done enough iterations here when you can see your delivery is effortless.

When that’s done, you’ll also have a video you can use to test out your graphics! So fire up your video editor and make the quickest of all video tests, with just your new video and the most basic possible graphics (stock pictures, screengrabs, stock B-Roll, or just things you’ve used in a recent project) to check it works and to use it as a springboard for the rest of your video planning.

Do you have enough background space for putting graphics to one side or the other of your face? If not, you’ll know you need the camera farther away on recording day.

You can also add temporary transition effects, but don’t do anything remotely time consuming yet. My only exception to this is if there already exists a full-screen screencast that lasts a long time. Then I’ll insert some breaks to try to help me figure out when I can break things up by switching between the screencast and the video.

The Video Setup Stage

Here’s where we get all our finalized resources for video editing ready (graphics, B-Roll, templates, lists, etc.) and we substitute them for the placeholders described above. Do certain graphics not work? Decide whether it’s better to fix them or just do something new. Our two goals in this stage are to have all the resources/files we need in our video project, and to create a shot list. We don’t want any surprises when we film.

I know it’s tempting to do the final filming first and then add the polished graphics later. I’ve found though that I want to change the script (again!) after seeing the final graphics, and you may want to do other live effects like point with your fingers. Working on the final graphics first lets you add these refinements.

Do you need a shot list? Well, if you’re planning on having only one camera angle or not doing your own B-Roll, no. In that case you can just refine what you’ve already done and do one final take where conditions are perfect. Also, check if there are video segments that are too “long”, by which I mean there’s nothing but you onscreen talking for more than 15-20 seconds. That’s too long! Insert more graphics, some interesting transitions, or a bit of B-Roll.

Next, look at all the video segments of you (the sections in between the full-screen B-Roll and screencasts) and decide for each one what camera angle you want, and whether they need different lighting. It’s also time to plan for video overlays of you, like the “porthole” effect. Do they need to look different? Do you want to look at a part of the screencast from the porthole? Well then you’ll need to know where you plan to put it.

Finally, it’s time to go over your list of cool things you’ve seen in other people’s videos recently, and decide if you want to spend the time trying them out, or just stick with what you know. You don’t have a list like that? Well what do YOU do when YOU’RE watching other people’s (great) videos in your spare time? Agile also implies learning from others.

The Filming Stage

I mentioned above that one of the goals of planning is so that you have minimal distractions and worries when it comes time to film the final video. That makes it easier to ensure that everything is as perfect as possible, because remember, you’re going to be the director, actor, sound technician and lighting person.

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space then you’ll save a lot of time on setup/teardown, especially in terms of how long it takes to get the lighting right. Along with your shot list you should also have a list of other things you’ll need: chair, background, props, teleprompter, tablet, recording equipment, equipment mounts, lights, light treatments (blinds, diffusers), etc.

That’s a lot of things to remember if you don’t do this at least once a month, so make a list and keep it updated. I also keep a series of large color-coded bags, one for each separate type of equipment, like adapters, cables, small lights, etc. (I hope that doesn’t say anything about my character.)

It’s now time to set up and test all the equipment. I especially recommend that once everything’s ready, shoot a quick test video, upload it to a laptop, and check on the laptop that everything’s the way you expect. The reason is that the viewfinders on cameras, and even smartphone screens, are too small to reliably show you lighting details. You need a larger screen to be sure.

When you shoot the video, it shouldn’t take you much time to run through your teleprompter script. I recommend you go straight without stopping unless you make a really bad mistake (a bluetooth gadget with up/down buttons to scroll through the script can save a lot of time). A 10 minute video should have a 10 minute script, and so you should finish it in something near 10 minutes depending on how many errors you make. So if you’re doing everything in one shot, why not shoot it 3 times?

The idea here is that given all the time it takes to set up and tear everything down, spending an extra 20 minutes to make 2 additional backups is a pretty good insurance policy in case of mistakes you don’t notice immediately. And since the filming conditions were basically the same, you can even mix and match segments from your individual videos as needed. When I shoot for multiple angles, I’ll do just 2 takes from each angle so that it doesn’t take hours to finish.

In any case, the last step is to quickly make a copy so you don’t lose it. And since once started, the comptuer copies by itself, why not start the copy just before you start your teardown? Multitasking!

The Editing Stage

We’re almost to the end! Pull your best video or video segments into your existing project. Place them in the same position(s) as the ones in your draft, and then delete those old ones. Trim them down to the right size, and if you like today’s trendy editing styles, clip the ends of each scene so that there’s a minimum amount of silence.

I turn next to audio editing, eliminating all the breathing noises and repeated words, and checking sound quality and volume in case of mistakes or I briefly turned away from the microphone. If you’ve checked your sound at the start of filming and you have a good microphone with little room echo, you shouldn’t have any audio problems due to equipment.

If you see something you don’t like in all your video copies, like wrong gestures, facial expressions or whatever, you’ll now have to decide whether you need to re-shoot everything, or try a mitigation strategy like hiding it with a full-screen graphic, B-Roll or a screencast.

Now you’re ready to do your standard editing process to polish the timings for any graphics, videos or animations. On longer videos it can get to be a bit complex, so I’ll actually make a large ToDo list based on the original script (my Python script can then pull out just this list separately).

Because you can’t foresee everything, any list you make before starting won’t be the final word. So again you should assume you’ll be doing an iterative process, where you watch your video while making notes about what needs to be changed the most in the next iteration, then going to make those changes, and repeating until you’re happy with your final video.


Whew, that was long! But there you go, my entire workflow in a single blog post. I hope this helps if you’re trying to set up your own video production workflow.

While writing out everything I noticed I don’t have a full blog post dedicated to lighting, so there’s a great chance that’s coming next!

Charles Callaway

Charles Callaway


Charles Callaway

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