It may not be fair, but it’s true. The rich media get richer. The poor media get bored.
Trainers and educators have long known that the use of video increases levels of engagement and retention.
The relative scarcity of video in eLearning was never due to lack of interest; it was pragmatism. It was a function of limited budgets, the unpredictability of the video production process, and the risk of getting back a deliverable that didn’t quite fit the bill—after the budget and timeline were blown.
Today, it’s the pragmatism that you can’t afford, not the video. Video is not simply expected; it’s the norm. Thankfully, technology is providing us with a set of tools we can use to create more video without breaking the bank.
Animated video vs. live action
When most of us think about creating a video, the first thing we think of is a camera. This is natural, given our early exposure to television and movies, as well as the proliferation of low-cost video cameras, such as Flip and GoPro cameras and our omnipresent smartphones.
But in reality, the video constant is the screen—not the camera. All videos will be viewed, but not all are shot. Obviously, I’m drawing the distinction here between live-action videos and animated videos.
Having decided that video would be right for a given training deliverable, how do you then determine if live-action or animated is the way to go? Table 1 may help you decide.
Table 1: Live-action or video?
In general, live-action video is literal. Pictures don’t lie, as they provide authenticity, specificity, and proof. They’re also a bit more serious than cartoons.
By contrast, animated videos are conceptual. They trade in ideas; they defy physical limitations, bend the laws of nature, slide scales, etc., in order to illustrate that which can’t be seen with the naked eye. Animated videos are also more lighthearted.
Using GoAnimate to create animated videos for eLearning
GoAnimate is a cloud-based animated video creation platform. This is one way of saying it doesn’t require you to draw or learn any programming. You can make videos from scratch, in the cloud, using simple drag-and-drop tools. Click, drag, and action!
GoAnimate can’t guarantee an Academy Award-ready video, but it has a great deal of experience showing people how to get the most out of its platform. Here are eight ways to build more production value into your GoAnimate video.
- Script in advance. Convert your content outline into a video script (and get it reviewed) before you even log into GoAnimate. Make sure you get the content, pacing, and tone correct on paper before you immerse yourself in production.
- Write “moments.” Think of your video as a series of learning or entertaining moments, each of which is a combination of picture and sound. There should be interplay and counterpoint—you’re not just wallpapering words. Your video should also be economical; attention spans begin to decline sharply after about two minutes.
- Choose between Quick Video Makers and Full Video Makers. Quick Video Makers are video templates that make the difficult decisions for you. You simply select a template, a background, and some characters—then record your lines. By contrast, the Full Video Makers grant access to all the bells and whistles of content creation. You control every aspect of production, including movement of the camera and characters. Choose the Quick Video Makers on your first visit (to get a quick win), when you’re on a really tight deadline, or when a dialogue-based template naturally fits the bill. When you need full creative control, select Full Video Makers.
- Don’t skimp on voice recording. GoAnimate allows you to input voices in three ways: using text-to-speech (TTS), recording directly into the application with a microphone, and importing external files. Each fulfills a unique role and function.
- Read In your voice actors. When recording a scene with multiple characters, schedule your best actor first. Best, in this case, means the actor most suited to giving quality reads without any prompts. These lines will serve as read-ins to subsequent actors, allowing them to play off the previous actor’s performance. When you have multiple actors, try to schedule from best to worst.
- Get a move on. GoAnimate characters can perform a wide range of movements; there are literally hundreds of movements for each character—particularly in newer video makers such as Business Friendly. Challenge yourself to change the character’s pose or movement with each line. This is an oft-overlooked method of maintaining visual interest.
- Be ready for your close-up. By default, GoAnimate’s camera tool will leave everything in a wide shot, meaning if it’s on the stage, it’s in the shot. But you can easily change shot composition (for example, changing the wide shot to a close up) and/or create camera moves (pan, tilt, zoom). The camera tool is completely intuitive. You don’t need to know the names of each shot or camera maneuver. Grab and drag the corners of the blue camera composition box to change the composition. Grab the center of the box to move it around. Set the starting and ending composition and let the camera tool do all the work in between. Use this tool to focus the viewer on what’s important in a given scene and to maintain visual interest.
- The sweet sound of success. Audio sweetening is the final stage of post-production. It’s a process in itself when music and sound effects are added to heighten the moments in your video; don’t rush through this final step. There is great temptation this close to the finish line to just be done, but don’t sell yourself short. Notice how the sound effects in the following video really add another dimension to the humor. NB: these weren’t in the original script; they were just added during sweetening. Also note that this video is for the purpose of illustrating sweetening—it was not created for use in an actual eLearning product!
TTS’s main advantage is speed. It’s a good choice for laying in a quick scratch track for editing purposes. However, we recommend using real voices for your final deliverable. Quality voice work will convey more of the meaning, while also sounding much more natural.
Mic recording directly into the app is a great way to quickly get real voices into your video. There are many things you can do to improve the quality of this recording: find a very quiet room, don’t record right in front of a wall, soften hard surfaces (desks, ceilings, walls) with towels or blankets, etc. However, it’s still likely that you are using a cheap microphone intended for Skype calls.
Therefore, if time and budget allow, we recommend recording at a professional facility with a skilled engineer, which is much more cost- effective than most people think. These files can easily be imported into GoAnimate.