The past weeks, next to getting into full gear at my new job at Tilburg University, I spent a some time on trying to figure out the best set-up for filming the videos for the open science online course. I think I’m a reasonably techy person, but video and audio recording and editing is certainly something I have never really dabbled with. This post is a short summary of my techy times on the road to a working set-up.
First up, recording a video requires a camera which, incidentally, I usually carry around in my pocket anyway: I decided to film using my iPhone 8 Plus, which sports a 12MP camera, mounted on a camera tripod. Definitely good enough for capturing me talking and gesturing a little in a reasonably well-lit room, and definitely better than shooting with the built-in web-cam on my computer.
Next, since I’ll be recording a class, it makes sense to think of a way to integrate slides into my videos. I decided to create my slides in Microsoft Powerpoint, as I would for my real-life lectures. Never change a running system. For the video, I’ll create still images from the slides which I can then use as the background.
Getting a greenscreen additionally allows me to use the picture-in-picture feature, where I can superimpose a tiny me on the slides. I just went for a cheap cloth option costing less than 20€ with solid ratings, and decided to either duct-tape it on the wall or hang it over a closet for filming.
While filming mini-me reading the script that goes with the slides, I’d need something to read the text from. I decided to simply position a monitor behind the camera, and with a big-enough font size, reading out the text should not be a big issue. Or so I thought. My first practice trials have already taught me that it’s quite hard to stick to the text, not to mumble, stumble over words or make annoying sounds (I’m not even talking about uhms, I mean little sighs and tsks I apparently make — listening to myself talk is definitely the least fun part of this project), and to keep intonation natural. I guess there’s nothing I can do about it other than practice, practice, practice.
Finally, audio. The iPhone audio is not particularly great, specially since the device will be positioned at a distance. So I went on a little internet search to find a USB microphone that has good quality and is still affordable. After reading a ton of reviews, I decided to go with the Rode NT-USB mic, and I’m quite happy with what I hear so far. For recording the course, I also got a microphone stand, so the mic can dangle close to me when I record the text. Maybe it even gets to be on camera — I’m still deciding on the look I want the video to have. I’m still very much debating the style and vibe of the video with myself (think: professional old-school vs. a more modern look on camera). So far, I’m unsure if I want to film while seated, standing, looking at the camera or looking away, and how to handle color and exposure. Plus: background music, yes or no? It could quickly become annoying, but a jingle in the beginning and end of the videos may be nice. In any case: This is the part where making the course is not only techy but also artsy — and I love it.
All these different bits then get processed, mixed together in iMovie, stirred thoroughly and served. I say that pretty nonchalantly, but this part is also definitely going to take me some time. After all, I need to cut out parts where I make mistakes or silly faces, switch between the slides, full-sized me and the picture-in-picture effect, etc. I’m considering outsourcing the video editing part to alleviate the workload a bit. But first I’ll film the raw footage and then I’ll decide what to do about the editing work.
Where to host the course is still open, though. I’ve read my way through a number of different options, and cannot quite decide what I think is the best way to go. Wikiversity of course is dear to my heart, but the options for presentation are not very pretty (for lack of a better word) there. Signing my institution up to Coursera seems like a big deal, although potentially worth exploring. Using a platform like udemy or youtube could give the course comparatively less credibility, and only putting it up on a stand-alone website would probably not get a lot of traffic. Where to host will be the question I’ll try to decide in the background until the next post, but the contents of the course seem to be the far more important thing to work on at the moment.
All in all, I’ve got all the basic techy bits ready to go now. What an exciting feeling!