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Book Review: Video Nation, by Jefferson Graham

“If you are an eLearning professional with no experience in video production, or with very limited experience, Video Nation is for you. If you are somewhat experienced or very experienced, you may benefit from some of the tips, but you will also find the book a little too basic.”

Anyone with a smartphone these days can shoot video and post it to YouTube, but that doesn’t mean the video will be good. While jerky shots and inaudible audio may be fine for home movies, you want something better for your eLearning production.  The challenge is getting something better on a limited budget and under severe constraints on equipment, locations, and talent available.

If you aren’t an experienced videographer, those challenges may have kept you from using video. While you could find a course online or at a local college, a good book and some examples would probably give you what you need faster and at less cost. Jefferson Graham has written that book.

A complete guide—with video examples

Video Nation: A DIY Guide to Planning, Shooting, and Sharing Great Video provides 239 pages of text and 32 videos that cover:

  • The basic elements of Web video production
  • Styles of Web video (including product demos, vlogs, tutorials, and interviews)
  • Selecting a camera (including iPhone and iPad), lighting equipment, audio gear, camera mounts, accessories, and video editing software
  • Using your equipment
  • Video apps for iPhone and iPad
  • Pre-production planning
  • Production day (from camera placement and audio checks to lighting and shooting)
  • Shooting techniques
  • Video editing
  • Distribution of your video

Within those categories, the coverage overall is very complete, with a couple of areas where I found myself wishing for a little more. Graham provides lots of practical advice, with particular attention paid to the needs of the “one-person shop” situation in which many eLearning professionals find themselves.

Walking the talk

Jefferson Graham himself is a longtime technology columnist for USA TODAY, where he also produces, edits, and hosts the “Talking Tech” and “Talking Your Tech” video programs.

He creates these programs on the same DIY (do it yourself) budgets that he describes in the book. In fact, he turns out three “Tech” videos each week from a studio that he set up in his garage (there’s a picture of it in the book), using off-the-shelf consumer tools that include DSLRs (digital single lens reflex cameras), an iPhone, point-and-shoot cameras, a GoPro extreme wide-angle “helmet cam”—and very occasionally a traditional video camcorder. On the more polished pieces he has help from a camera operator, but he also produces many segments single-handedly.

If it’s in the book Graham has done it and still does it, and you can do it, too.

Who is this book for?

If you are an eLearning professional with no experience in video production, or with very limited experience, Video Nation is for you. If you are somewhat experienced or very experienced, you may benefit from some of the tips, but you will also find the book a little too basic.

Most of Video Nation deals with production and post-production matters, and that is where the text really shines.

Where the book falls a little short

In my opinion, the text should have covered Android phones and their video apps. There’s really no reason not to include them. However, you can adapt practically all of the advice for iPhones to Androids—it’s the specific Android apps that you’ll not find addressed.

Some of the gear coverage is a little dated. There’s a (very) short section on point-and-shoot video cameras, including the Flip Video camera (now discontinued). You will want to talk to your friendly local camera nut about choosing a DSLR, mirrorless point-and-shoot still camera, or wearable camera (the GoPro), since the discussion of these in the book is, in my opinion, a little light. Go to a camera store and spend some time with the various models of DSLR to find the one you like best and can work with most easily. Be sure to consider the selection of lenses as carefully as you consider selection of the basic camera.

Summary

As a fast introduction to video creation, especially for the one-person shop, Video Nation is an excellent choice. There are many tips and techniques that you will not have seen anywhere else, with detailed descriptions of how to work with sound, lighting, and editing. I wished that the text went more in-depth on equipment selection and on Android phones, but these are not critical shortcomings, and you can get the information easily online.

I recommend Video Nation for eLearning producers with limited experience and limited budgets as a good “getting started” guide. I think more experienced producers may find the book interesting, but wanting a somewhat more advanced discussion of the hardware.

Bibliographic information

Graham, Jefferson. (2013) Video Nation: A DIY Guide to Planning, Shooting, and Sharing Great Video. Berkeley, California, Peachpit Press. 239 pages. ISBN 978-0-321-83287-0.

Publisher’s price: $23.99 (paperback); $19.19 (eBook, in multiple formats, including EPUB, Kindle, and PDF)

Amazon price: $17.99 (paperback); $10.80 (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble: $17.99 (paperback); $13.19 (Nook)


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We are interviewing Jefferson Graham online on February 12, 2013. Free for all paid Guild members. More information at http://www.elearningguild.com/content.cfm?selection=doc.2642.
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