Compressing Video for Use in Articulate Storyline

Trying to find the right settings for video compression can be a tricky thing when it comes to streaming media.  You want the video to look as clean and clear as possible without losing any quality, but you also don’t want super large files that take forever to load over internet connections. Where is the happy medium? It all depends on your project and what sort of files you are compressing to.  In this blog we are going to be discussing using Flash Video Files (FLV) within Articulate Storyline.

We used FLV files for our project because we shot our subject on a green screen. The green screen allowed us to key him out and onto any background that we wanted and create an alpha channel on the video. The alpha channel is really a mask– it specifies how the pixel’s colors should be merged with another pixel when the two are overlaid, one on top of the other. Storyline accepts .mov files with alpha channels, but it converts the .mov file to an MP4 file and gets rid of the alpha channel, rendering your file useless. If you are not using an alpha channel on your video, compressing to MP4 files works great.

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Scott Downey, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, shot in front of green screen for an eLearning presentation.

Since we shot our subject in 1080p HD (1902×1080 pixels) and our module slide size was 756×571, we decided to resize the video in After Effects (where we created the alpha channel) to fit the new dimensions of the Storyline slide.  We then had to convert and compress the footage to an FLV file. This is where you want to make sure that the quality of your compressed footage meets that happy medium.  We found that compressing the footage to 1200kbps kept the quality looking great and kept the file size down quite a bit.  We could have dropped the compression rate down to 1000kbps or even 800kbps, but the audio and video would go out of sync and the quality of the video was starting to suffer.

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Scott Downey from Purdue University with the green screen keyed out and edited on a new background using an alpha channel in the FLV video file.

Overall, it really does depend on your project and what sort of footage you are using.  Someone standing and talking to the camera won’t have as much data information to process as footage of a basketball game or a concert. It takes more data to process footage that is changing rapidly, so you might have to tweak your settings a bit to see what works best for you.

Remember to consider your audience when creating FLV files. Apple products such as iPhones or iPads do not read FLV files, so you have to be sure that anyone who is viewing your eLearning Project is doing so on a device that is compatible. If you are using alpha channels, this is a very difficult thing to navigate around, so be careful. But, if you are just creating video files without alpha channels your best bet is converting your footage to MP4 files and publishing your files with the HTML5 option selected.

Using Video in eLearning

With the cost of video cameras and editing software coming down in price, it’s easier than ever to include video in your eLearning projects. Below is some useful information to read if you are thinking about taking your eLearning to the next level.

Pros and Cons of Using Video in e-Learning

Whether or not you choose to use video in your project will depend on many factors, including time, budget, and subject matter. Whichever way you choose to go, there will be advantages and disadvantages.

PROS OF USING VIDEO CONS OF USING VIDEO
  • Reduces the reading load
  • Various forms of media can help keep learners interested/engaged
  • Helps visual learners retain information
  • Great way to demonstrate interpersonal and behavioral skills
  • Expensive and time-consuming to script, record and edit videos
  • Low quality video is more distracting and detrimental than useful
  • Uses more bandwidth and takes longer to load

When you should use video

Although the cost of developing video for e-learning has gone down significantly over the years, it is still a time and resource-intensive undertaking. As such, you should only use video when there is a clear instructional purpose behind it. Here are a few examples of when video might be a good idea:

  • To model behavioral or interpersonal skills
  • To demonstrate how to, and how not to do, a specific task
  • To reduce the reading load for learners
  • To emphasize an important concept or point
  • When you need more emotional appeal than photos and text alone can deliver

High-level steps for using video

If you’ve decided you will be going ahead and using video in your project, here are the high-level tasks you will need to accomplish.

  1. Decide which content will be presented through video
  2. Decide if you will Do-It-Yourself or hire a professional videographer
  3. Script and create a shot-by-shot storyboard
  4. Schedule videographer, actors, location, and sound and lighting technician
  5. Record the video
  6. Edit the video using editing software
  7. Compress and render the video
  8. Insert video into e-learning course
  9. Provide learners with software requirements for accessing the video

Key considerations for using video

Below is a list of some of the basic considerations you will want to look at when planning your video project.

  • Scripting and Storyboarding: Has the script been written and vetted? Scriptwriting may seem easy but it can actually be quite difficult and time-intensive to create realistic dialog. Do you have a storyboard for all the shots you need to capture when recording your video? Do you need a close-up shot of a product or of a specific technique? Have it planned out, shot by shot.
  • Video Equipment and Technology: Do you have the equipment needed to shoot videos? (Camera, editing software, microphones, lighting, backdrops, etc.). If you don’t currently have the necessary equipment, will you be purchasing (new or used) or renting the equipment? What are the price differences? If you are hiring a professional, which equipment will he/she bring?
  • Location: Where will you be filming your video? Do you need a sound-proof location? Can you film in a public space? Do you need to book the space, or make arrangements to make sure it’s quiet? Do you need to purchase a back drop for the room?
  • Actors: Will you be using employees or paid actors? If you are using paid actors, do they need to be a certain age, ethnicity, gender, etc. Do you need to schedule them a few weeks in advance? Do you have any backups in case someone doesn’t show up? Do the actors need to be wearing any specific type of clothing (business suits, casual jeans, etc.) and how should their hair and makeup be done?
  • Lighting: Professional looking videos are well lit to avoid shadows, darkness, etc. How will you accomplish this?
  • Sound: You may need a professional sound technician who has wireless microphones and the equipment needed to make sure all the sounds are crisp and clear.
  • Final editing: Do you have the software necessary to make edits to the footage? If not, will you hire a professional to do this? What are the costs and timeframes involved?
  • Logistics: Now that you’ve got your equipment, location, actors and sound and light technicians all sorted out, you need to schedule everyone to be in the same place at the same time for at least a few hours to do the recording!

Managing Video File sizes:

One of the biggest disadvantages to using video in e-learning is the amount of space/bandwidth they use. Even when compressed, video files are not exactly tiny. However, there are a few basic things you can do to manage your video file sizes:

  • Chunk your videos into small segments
  • Compress your videos
  • Limit the width and height of your videos in your courses (of course, don’t make it so small you can’t see the screen clearly!)
  • Host your videos online (YouTube, or similar) and link to them or embed the YouTube videos directly in your course (this might only be a possibility if Internet access is available, and there might also be a security risk to consider)

More hints, tips, & advice:

  • Write a script, and make sure your subject matter expert (SME) reviews and approves it.
  • Consider hiring professional voiceover talent or contact local acting students. If your budget doesn’t allow for this, better start doing your vocal warm-ups!
  • Keep your instructional designer and SME informed of any last minute changes, so you don’t accidentally alter course information.
  • If you don’t have access to a professional studio, use a USB microphone. Digital input gives you higher quality audio.
  • Restrict noise while recording or consider using a studio. It’s difficult to edit out ambient noise or interruptions post-production, so aim for the cleanest take possible right from the start.
  • Remove distractions. If you’re doing this from a home office, make sure any children or pets are in another room. If you’re at work, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office door.
  • Control mouse motion if you are screen recording. A wandering mouse cursor is surprisingly distracting in this type of video.
  • Choose the right file format. The MP4 video file format is accepted by most e-Learning authoring tools and is supported on nearly all modern computers, tablets and smartphones.
  • Keep videos short, no more than few minutes, so get to the point quickly!
  • Use closed captioning for hearing impaired and for clarity
  • Make sure your e-learning authoring software and LMS are video compatible.
  • Consider how easy/difficult the use of video will make it to edit and maintain the course down the line
  • Articulate Storyline automatically converts all videos to .MP4 during the Publish, so even if you embed .FLV or .SWF files into your course, they should play fine on iOS devices.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

Thanks to www.elearningindustry.com and www.flirtingwelearning.wordpress.com

Video: Interview Recording Principles and Tips

Video is a great (if underutilized) communications tool. You can easily incorporate video in ongoing training initiatives, in corporate messaging, and in internal communications related to strategic change. From compliance training, human resources training, and product and sales training to any manner of strategic or executive messaging, video is a powerful way to go. Video is now just as accessible as e-learning, and in some cases more affordable.

Envision is happy to provide expert video production services from start to finish. Sometimes, however, clients like to start by capturing their own footage, in particular interview footage. To that end, here are some principles and tips that will help you get a solid start.

There are four basic principles that are key to recording better video:

1. Always use a tripod.
2. Use good microphones.
3. Always strive for full, even light.
4. Use the rule of thirds to frame your subject.

Tripod

Always use a tripod; it will provide a markedly better result than shooting by hand. Acquire a tripod that has a leveling bubble, and use it for every shoot.

Microphones

A video interview cannot be good if the audio is bad, so use external microphones whenever possible to capture the best sound.

If you are using a camera microphone to record audio, make sure the subject speaks loudly and clearly enough to be heard. If the subject is soft-spoken, suggest that he/she annunciate and project.

If you are using a lavaliere microphone attached to the subject’s shirt, blouse, or jacket, make sure that the wire is hidden as much as possible, behind a tie or tucked into a shirt or jacket. Also, be mindful of any rustling sounds that may be generated when a garment rubs up against the microphone. With a lavaliere microphone, the subject should speak clearly and at a normal conversation level.

If you are using an external microphone placed on a desk, make sure the area is free of extraneous noise (e.g., the whirring of projector fans). Place the desk microphone in front of the subject anywhere from one to five feet away, the closer the better.

Regardless of the type of microphone used, check audio levels constantly while recording.

Lighting

When shooting indoors, turn on as many diffused (i.e., indirect, covered with lampshades) lights as possible. Even if the image looks decent in the small viewfinder, it may end up too dark, too noisy, and too lacking in detail. If the subject has a dark complexion, even more light is needed to allow the camera to focus and record properly.

When shooting outdoors or near windows, be aware of “washout.” If a subject sits next to a window, one side of the subject’s face may have too much light and may washout the shaded side. Strive for even lighting across your subject. Also, look for shadows on the subject’s face. If there is too much light coming from one side, balance it by either adding light or removing light, while still maintaining sufficient illumination.

 Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic rules of photographic composition. This framing technique applies equally well to video. Divide the frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The points where those lines intersect are optimal locations for the placement of your main subject.

rule-of-thirds1

When we visualize the grid on the video, we see that the top line of our horizontal grid cuts across the subject’s eyes and the side of the subject’s face is touching one of the middle vertical lines. This creates a tight shot, often used for interviews to frame the head and shoulders. When shooting for online audiences, these tight shots are most effective, since video is often viewed in relatively small windows within a Web browser. Using the rule of thirds creates a sense of perspective and intimacy that is often lost with a straight on, centered shot.

rule-of-thirds2

rule-of-thirds3

Important Tips

These important tips can take a video from ordinary to extraordinary:

  • Make pan/tilt movements slowly, deliberately, and sparingly. Adjustments, zooms, and constant movement of the camera can be very distracting to viewers. Frame a shot, and do not adjust unless absolutely necessary. Be deliberate when making adjustments; don’t make changes without a reason.
  • Avoid shooting with your subject against a blank wall. Even when videotaping someone sitting on a chair or other furniture, pull the furniture out from the wall. This avoids shadows and gives some depth to your shot. Note in the samples above that the subjects are pulled away from the background. The background is interesting but remains blurred to keep the focus on the subjects.
  • Avoid letting subjects sit in wheeled or rotating chairs. This will keep subjects from moving inadvertently and generating distracting noises from chairs.

These other important tips will help ensure that you consistently capture important interview moments:

  • Watch your time carefully. Know how long your tape, internal memory, or memory card will last. Recording storage is relatively cheap, so missing a shot or an important statement because space runs out is a problem easily avoided.
  • Stay away from lights, windows, or reflective surfaces in the background. Since the camera will set the iris to expose for the brightest part of the picture, all you will see is the bright spot and a black silhouette of the subject in front of it.
  • Have a spare, fully charged battery standing by as you are shooting. It’s amazing how fast they discharge.
  • At the beginning of the recording, say where you are, the date, and subject to be recorded. This tests the audio and also provides backup identification in case other forms of identification fail.
  • Don’t worry about a few moments of silence at the beginning and end of a recording. In most cases, it is a good thing to have for editing purposes. And if your camera uses tape, before beginning a recording session, leave the lens cap on and shoot 10 to 12 seconds of black onto the tape. After your shoot is complete, replace the lens cap and shoot another 10 to 12 seconds of black onto the tape. This is a useful practice because much of the tape contamination and damage happens at the moment the tape begins to move.

We hope you’ve found these interview recording principles and tips helpful. Feel free to contact us to talk about how we might help you leverage the power of video in your learning or communications strategy. We can not only lead your video projects from pre-production through post, but provide help along the way wherever you need it.

 

How Does the Video Production Process Work?

Working with you and your subject matter experts, and based on the scope, objectives, and requirements of the project, we identify the project’s deliverables, including the video segments, their length, mode of delivery (e.g., DVD, online video, broadcast), and resolution. Then we produce a video treatment, describing the entire production from the point of view of the learner, including the overall direction of the video, the kind of locations, situations, stories, and images used, and its pacing, look and feel, and tone.

Next comes the storyboard, a rough visual sketch of the shots in each video, and the script, a description of all verbal and visual content and the action. The shot list is then derived from the scripts. It reorders the scripts to reflect the order in which the footage will actually be shot. This helps with planning the shoot based on location, people, or setup, not the order of the story.

The times, locations, cast, any necessary releases, any special talent, props, dress, people, setup and breakdown are described in the shoot schedule. The shoot then takes place and we capture and inventory all raw assets: video (scene, take number, time codes), audio, images, text, graphics.

In post-production we edit the video footage, add titles, graphics, menus and any animations and special effects. We record the voiceovers and add sound effects and music.

We deliver a “rough edit” for you to review, and discuss any changes, and then produce the final cut, package as necessary, and deliver.