Let's Make a Video!
Michael Shaw

Planning any media project can be a long, tedious process... but it doesn't have to be!  Much has been written in the area of producing instructional media.  Assuming you're too busy to read any of it, here is a simple, streamlined guide to help you begin producing your first educational video program. 

As in any communications art, there are no absolute rules for developing video programs, but there are many established principles that can be employed.   Educational video programs do not have to involve a cast of thousands to be effective.  I find that beginning with a structured content outline, developing a script and then applying an empirical approach can help novices to produce a highly capable educational tool in an amazingly short amount of time.

Most beginners try to think entirely visual when planning a video program.  Unless you are a seasoned director, this can be a very frustrating experience.  At his point, what you wish to say is more important than how you say it.  Any good producer or director can offer you good advice on the hows once your outline is established. 

The whole key is to keep focused on the outcome and not get caught-up in the processes.  Most importantly,  keep it simple! 

If you are the content expert, you should already have educationally sound, well-established goals and objectives.  We will also assume that you know the attributes of your audience thoroughly and understand how they will respond to the level and content of the material. 

Creating a simple hierarchy of the program flow will get you started on developing a program outline. 

Introduction - 

Topic 1 - 

Topic 2 - 

Topic 3 - 

Conclusions - 

Program close - 

By starting with a simple organization of the content flow, you can add on to each of the main headings.  You may include the percentage of time you want to allocate to each topic area.  This creates the backbone structure for your video. 

Anytime during or after this process would be a good time to sit down and brainstorm with the Producer/Director.  He will give you ideas on how to effectively present the material and help establish other guidelines.  The Producer/Director will also relate your project to the capabilities of the production crew and/or equipment, and offer suggestions on what is feasible and what is not.

Introduction - (10 seconds) 

-upbeat music and a series of shots showing the internal workings of computers 
-narrator or titles "Upgrading Your PC at HCT" 

Topic 1 - Safety first (1 minute)

a) stress the importance of disconnecting from AC
-as the narrator explains, an animated graphic illustration of a "shocking" experience with sound effects 

b) stress the importance of eliminating static charges
-as the narrator explains, the consequences of not grounding and the various ways of grounding will be illustrated including natural and metal grounds, wrist bands and grounding mats.

Topic 2 - Assembling and using tools (1 minute)

-as the narrator explains the name and use for each tool, the camera shows a close-up of the tool and then an example of it at work.  The name of each tool will be shown at the bottom of the screen. 


Now that we have a general program outline, you can actually begin writing the script. An approach I have found that works well for novices is to write for the ear as if you were writing a script for radio.  This will quickly bring all of your ideas together and give the program continuity. 

Rather than writing in paragraphs as we're accustomed to, write in statements and sequences.  A statement is usually a sentence or two (at most) that conveys a single thought in the flow of the program.  Divide your page into two columns: two thirds of the page on the right where you will write your script and one third on the left to be used later.

Once you are satisfied with the program content and flow, apply a brief description of what would visually reinforce what you are saying in the column on the left hand side of the page (you started this process in the original outline).  At this point you actually have a shooting script, but we are not done yet!  Now revisit what you have written.  Once again working with the Producer/Director, you can replace certain sequences or statements with different elements to let the images do the talking. For example, you may want to replace certain statements by showing an animated graph, cutting away to an on-camera interview or demonstration, or by playing Beethoven's 5th while flying through the solar system.  This is where the empirical approach can add some real creativity and impact to your program.  You may find that the empirical approach can be incorporated throughout all the steps in this process as long as you stay focused.

You can download our "Pre-production Treatment Form" which I have developed and successfully used for years in the initial planning stages.  It can get you off to a running start. 

© 2000 Shaw Multimedia Inc.