Published: Jun 9, 2020Time to read: 7mins Category: Learning

Hollywood Hacks: 4 Ideas for Affordable, Professional-Quality Video Learning Content

In a period where we’ve had to lean more heavily on video to deliver learning programs, organizations are increasingly interested in getting more professional-looking results. In this article, we look at four ideas for leveraging the power of Hollywood-style storytelling to improve our learning messages, as well as some affordable, easily accessible equipment options.

Live, online learning struggles with a distracted audience in a way that face-to-face classroom training doesn’t. There are some tried-and-trusted solutions, though. Regularly switching between multiple presenters, encouraging audience participation, and utilizing different modes of presentation are effective ways to keep audiences engaged.

How to Engage Your Audience in Pre-Recorded Segments

In our recent Hollywood Hacks webinar, guest presenter, author and media producer CJ Casciotta, showcased the power of using pre-recorded video segments in your learning programs. You can share video content in much the same way you would share a live-feed of a presentation or document.

By pre-recording a piece, you can ensure the clarity of your message and the quality of your video production. When done right, this could be a powerful approach that elevates and emphasizes specific teaching moments, allowing more efficient knowledge transfer and retention.

Further reading: 3 Pillars of the Online Learning Blend That Will Save Your Training Plan

This idea is well within the reach of L&D departments and could help improve video output across the board. Better still, there are a small number of completely free storytelling tips that will see you creating impressive training content in no time at all.

"By pre-recording a piece of video, you can ensure your message is clear. When done right, this could be a powerful approach that elevates and emphasizes specific teaching moments, allowing for more efficient knowledge transfer and retention."

1) Create Content for an Audience of One

No matter the size of your audience, you should consider that almost all (if not all) viewers will be consuming your video content as an individual. Because pre-recorded segments are non-interactive and cannot be responsive to queries or topics of discussion, you have to look to other tactics to make the content engaging.

Delivering your pre-recorded content as if directly to an individual creates a powerful, personalized, and informal feel. For this reason, you should primarily use second-person pronouns (i.e. ‘you’ and ‘your’), appeal to experience, and prompt thought about the issue at hand.

More from the blog: 3 Reasons Why Microlearning Should Be an Essential Part of Your Learning Strategy

2) Storyhacking and Telling Stories That Prompt Sensory Response

One less conventional way of looking at how people come to any experience is to consider it at a chemical level. The average learner isn’t a blank slate, primed and ready to learn. They’re more likely to be facing their screen with a high degree of cortisol and adrenaline, alert and ready to act rather than receive.

Enter the concept of storyhacking, which is the art of delivering stories—potentially infused with learning—that replaces those chemicals. Specifically:

  • Dopamine: A chemical that makes you more focussed and attentive when there is a feeling of intensity or suspense.
  • Endorphins: Released when we’re laughing, happy, or relieved.
  • Oxytocin: Gives us, and is prompted by, a sense of empathy and connection with another human being.

Telling stories with a classic set-up before a payoff, punchline or twist will release dopamine and endorphins that make us more attentive. Then, we can move onto a reflection. This helps our learners relate to the message that comes before with a human moment.

"Looking to Netflix documentaries and sprawling narrative-based podcasts for inspiration, we can see the power of dispensing messages in short intervals: the most effective examples will shift gears around every 30 seconds or so."

3) The Power of 30-Second Messages

Learning designers have grown used to the idea of shorter being better. This is often known as microlearning or bite-sized content. However, longer pieces of content can be very effectively sustained by thinking in smaller intervals. Looking to Netflix documentaries and sprawling narrative-based podcasts for inspiration, we can see the power of dispensing messages in short intervals: the most effective examples in these genres will shift gears in some fashion around every 30 seconds or so.

In your learning content, you will want to create a sensory shift at these 30-second intervals. This could mean:

  • Moving onto the next topic
  • Changing your tone of voice
  • Using a sound effect
  • Cutting to B-roll footage of a visual that matches your point
  • Displaying a diagram supporting your point
  • Showing a title card related to your point

You may be interested in reading: 5 Reasons Why the ‘Netflix of Learning’ May Be a Bad Idea

4) Ask Yourself “What’s the Most I Can Get Away With?”

When challenged to tell stories, a common refrain from many industries is that they’re simply not interesting enough. We firmly believe that every industry has people with genuine stories that will play to the sensory responses that characterize good storytelling, and data that can form the basis of something engaging.

As the points in this article illustrate, the way you tell a story is almost as important as the actual substance of that story. Consequently, the problem can sometimes be that we aren’t brave enough to tell the stories that we do have in an interesting way. Perhaps this is because we’re worried that the tone would be off-brand, or because we just haven’t seen it done before.

This is a status quo that we should challenge more.

Handpicked for you: ‘6 Reasons Why You Need to Start Using eLearning Video—Today!’

"Every industry has people with genuine stories that will play to the sensory responses that characterize good storytelling."

5 Types of Affordable Media Gear for High-End Results

High-end video learning doesn’t have to come with a Hollywood-sized pricetag. Below are some tips and ideas for achieving high-quality video results without breaking the bank.

i) Camera

The single most expensive piece of equipment you need for professional results is likely to be your camera. The good news? You might need to spend very little if you’ve already purchased a high-end smartphone—you can get decent results from many devices, and they’re a versatile tool for shooting footage at short notice. However, in the long term, you should aim to get a dedicated device for professional-quality results.

Hot pick: Sony Alpha a6400

ii) Lighting

The primary weapon in the arsenal of Instagram influencers and YouTubers everywhere, ring lights are a simple illumination solution that’s perfect for the kinds of solo to-camera video content that learning designers could create. They provide a focused, even light that can be trained on a subject or scene with fantastic results. Pair with a decent tripod for full flexibility.

Hot picks: Rovtop 10 inch Ring Light or Photography Studio LED Lighting Kit

iii) Sound

Using an external, high-quality microphone is essential for creating engaging content. While learners may tolerate lower-quality visuals, they’ll be frustrated (and disengaged) if they struggle to hear the content. Ideally, work with a microphone connected directly to your recording device. This will make it easier to work on syncing your audio with your visuals.

Hot pick: Rode VideoMic Pro

iv) Software

If your video learning ambitions are relatively straightforward—such as cutaways to B-roll or the ability to trim out errors—a full editing suite like the industry-standard, Adobe Premiere, will seem like overkill. Thankfully, you can achieve these effects in trimmed-down editing applications such as Adobe Premiere Rush CC. As for creating graphics, you can often create decent looking title cards in presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote.

Hot pick: Adobe Premiere Rush

v) Backdrops

You can often eliminate the cost of set dressing by simply setting up in a comfortable, neutral space that works well with your lighting and can accommodate the rest of your equipment. If you’d rather have a fake backdrop, collapsible background panels can provide the blue- or greenscreen necessary.

Hot pick: Photo Video Studio 2-in-1 Collapsible Background Panel


Want to create high-quality video learning without breaking the bank?

A Learning Experience Platform (LXP) may be just what you need.

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