Even a short user-generated video requires planning; video preproduction is as essential to the success of eLearning videos as production and postproduction.
A foundational understanding of what video preproduction is and what steps it might include is useful for any eLearning professional who uses video—and that includes nearly all eLearning designers and developers. Not all videos will require all of these video planning steps, but all will require some of them.
- Budget: The budget determines much of the other planning, so it’s a good place to start. Keep in mind that it’s possible to create some short videos in-house with minuscule budgets—for instance, user-generated videos featuring SMEs or employees that are recorded using smartphones. Larger-budget projects could entail hiring voice actors or other professional talent and purchase of cameras, mics, and other recording equipment.
- People: Will you star in your own video? Will the video feature in-house experts offering instruction and sharing knowledge? Is it a scenario or story that requires people to play parts? If so, will these be in-house volunteers or hired talent? The budget and schedule, as well as the content, are deciding factors here, but there’s no avoiding it: Someone has to be on camera, even if only as a voice-over.
- Location: This might be the simplest step; much eLearning video is recorded on-site, often using screencasts to create instructions for using software. However, when planning eLearning videos that include simulations, a location is needed, whether on- or off-site.
- Set: When creating a simulation or game that requires a set, video preproduction must include planning the set. What props are needed? How many actors will participate? What props do they need? A simulation of an insurance sales meeting might need two actors and an office with desk, chairs, phone, and computer; a simulation of a busy emergency call center could require a different space with more people and props to create a realistic simulation.
- Script or screenplay: Even the simplest three-minute video of an SME explaining a short concept or process while showing screencasts requires a script. Scripting videos does not have to include word-for-word transcripts, but providing SMEs an outline and encouraging them to write a draft of what they plan to say will smooth the recording process. It also helps keep people to a time limit; if the first draft of the SME’s script is 10 densely typed pages, some trimming is in order to meet the goal of a focused, three-minute video. A more developed document, often called a screenplay, will include instructions for the actors and the director.
- Storyboarding: Video storyboarding is akin to wireframing a software project. Storyboarding means representing the flow of the video visually, shot by shot. A storyboard does not have to be an artistic masterpiece: Stick figures are sufficient, and apps and programs exist to help with creating a storyboard. But for a video that is any more complicated than using a smartphone to record one person talking, a storyboard is needed to plan camera angles, lighting, placement of people and props, and more. Video storyboarding also aids story development.
- Equipment: Will the budget allow for purchasing equipment? Is it needed? Thinking about equipment requires a big-picture approach: Different equipment is used for video preproduction, during shooting, and for video and audio post-production.
- Scheduling: Rooms, people, equipment—these all might need to be scheduled. Even for a set of short videos with a single SME, the director (also known as the eLearning developer) has to schedule time with the person to go over the concept, review the script, and actually shoot the video, which could require multiple attempts.