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Educators, Prepare With This Supply List for Teaching With Video

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The most frequent question teachers ask of the video expert in their midst is what tools to use for making their own educational videos. Fortunately, a wealth of excellent tools is readily available. Here is my minimal-cost, starter-kit shopping list for teaching with video. From this, you can invest in improving your gear wherever shortcomings for your specific needs make themselves known.

• Field camera.They say the best camera is the one you have with you. The phone you carry around in your pocket almost certainly has at least one HD video camera in it. Develop a habit of using it to record inserts to include in your video lessons. If you see something that illustrates a concept in your discipline that you could show your students, record it.

• DaVinci Resolve. The basic version of Blackmagic Design’s powerful postproduction software is free to download and works across most platforms. Download the latest version of Resolve and start trimming down the videos you shot with your smartphone into short clips you can teach with.

• Quality webcam. It’s possible that you already have one, but if not, the Logitech C920 or C922 can both be sourced for well under $100. These are solid webcams and include good onboard microphones to get a decent recording of your voice. The webcam should be mounted at eye level to provide students with a natural camera angle.

• Extra lighting. If you’re recording at your computer, your face will be lit with unflattering colors. You’ll need to drown out the computer screen’s light with brighter, cleaner light sources. It doesn’t need to be fancy: makeup lights or ordinary room lamps will work.

• Acoustic controls.Ensure the kids and pets are occupied, that no fans are blowing, and that the ducts to the room you’re using as your recording studio are blocked off. The room needs to be very quiet if you aren’t using a professional microphone, and ought to be even if you are. If there’s one thing that students have very little willingness to tolerate, it’s poor audio quality.

• OBS Studio. Open Broadcaster Software Studio is impressively versatile production software, which primarily built its reputation as the tool of choice for livestreaming video game performances and similar low-stakes event video. However, OBS Studio is also excellent for producing and recording educational videos. To do so, you would set up a variety of scenes to transition between while teaching. One scene might be the full-frame webcam video, one may be your PowerPoint slideshow, several others would be the inserts you shot with your phone and trimmed down with DaVinci Resolve. Another could be a composited scene with your slides and webcam sources, picture-in-picture style. Using OBS Studio allows you to prepare exactly what you want your students to see and to get the video pieced together live instead of having to do so much editing in postproduction. OBS Studio allows you to guide student focus by deliberately changing scenes during the recording session. Research using eye-tracking software informs us that if the teacher’s face is on the video, the students’ eyeballs are on the face and not on less dynamic content. If you want students to look elsewhere, you’ll need to make other content dominate the frame. When you bring your recording into DaVinci Resolve, all you should need to do is trim the ends and cover any flubs with smooth transitions. Because OBS Studio is most frequently used for self-produced content production by YouTubers, you’ll find solutions to almost any problem you run into on that video platform.

• A second monitor in extended display. Assuming that you’ll use a computer screen as a video source to show slides or software demonstrations, you’ll need a second screen to use for OBS Studio. If you don’t have one handy, the secondhand market will readily supply a no-frills model at little expense.

[This article appears in the July/August 2018 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "School Supply List for Teaching With Video."]

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