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How to Record Tutorial Videos: The Big Introduction

To make a successful instructional video, you have to get your viewers engaged from the very start. Especially with non-professional talent, recording a natural-feeling and engaging presentation can be tough. A big factor in the quality of introductions is how you direct your production.

In this short video tutorial from my course, The Instructional Video, you'll learn how to record a compelling introduction for your instructional video. I'll show you how to coach the talent, how to direct the action, and more.

1. Before You Start Recording

I like have the talent go over their introduction a few times before we start recording. This helps them to build that confidence in front of the camera, and it gives them a sense of how they sound in the space. A lot of times, when you're in a new place, you can get those kind of nervous jitters of working in a space for the first time.

This practice run really helps to kind of iron some of those things out: I'll have them do the introduction a few times so they get comfortable with it. Then we'll record the intro four or five times, so that we have some options, and we have some variations that we can cut to. By the end, we can usually get one that's almost perfect.

You Don't Need Perfection

Sometimes when folks are new on camera, it can be helpful to show them how to deliver their lines and handle themselves as they're going. If they make a stop or a pause in the middle of a sentence, that makes it very difficult to edit. But, if they go back and they rewind just a little bit and they take the sentence from the start of their thought or idea, then that makes a nice clean edit point to work with.

The same goes if you're recording by yourself: deliver your lines a few times in the space, but with the camera off, to make yourself comfortable.

Plan to record at least three times, or until you get a take that's mostly OK. Especially when you're working by yourself, it's important to resist the urge to be overly self-critical. Don't aim for perfect; only really talented and experienced performers are capable of perfect delivery on a regular basis.

You don't need perfect! You need good-enough recordings to work with and put together for a final edit.

2. Get Rolling

Once everybody is comfortable and knows what to do you're ready to start recording. Don't rush into recording before everyone is ready, but don't wait too long and let the energy flag, either.

You can make some critiques and tweaks as you go to dial in your talent's performance. In our example, that was things like where Cheryl should have her hands, and where the gestures should come from. And it meant showing her where that would look best on camera. The trick is to balance your critique with the need to get a good working rhythm. You want to give small corrections: enough to help, but not derail, the performance. Keep it positive and upbeat.

3. Direct the Action

As you saw in the video, we made a lot of progress with this introduction. Cheryl's delivery felt a lot more comfortable in the space, and she did a great job taking direction from me. Between the last three or four takes, I got what I needed to be able to edit together a quality introduction.

Now, the last take was probably the best one. Unfortunately, we had a big truck drive by right in the middle of the take, so what you heard was the lavalier microphone. On all the previous takes, you were hearing the shotgun microphone which was positioned above Cheryl's head. Because of the position of the lavalier microphone, it has a little bit more of a direct sound, and sounds slightly less reverberant compared to that shotgun microphone. But the shotgun microphone is totally usable, especially because there's probably going to be a music bed underneath this video which will help to mask those room reflection sounds. It's not perfect, but it's workable with some careful post-production.

It's your responsibility, as the direct and producer of the shoot, to keep track of details like these. Try to account for anything that might derail or interfere, and take corrective action if it does. Maybe the lighting changes, breaking continuity. Or your talent gets discouraged, or goes off track. Or, like us, you have unwanted sounds. All kinds of things go awry on a normal video shoot: take your time, compensate, and keep the action flowing.

Watch the Full Course

As companies work to build brand loyalty, product awareness, and cut down on support calls, instructional videos are becoming very popular. In the full course, The Instructional Video, you will learn how to put together a high-quality, multi-camera instructional video. You'll learn how to handle all aspects of pre-production, production, and the shoot itself, with hands-on examples every step of the way.

In the next lesson, you'll see a continuation of this shoot, where we show how to shoot the more action-oriented segments of our instructional video.

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