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These days, it seems like everyone knows how to make videos. Yet, when it comes to making high quality, affordable training videos, the number of people who know what they’re doing dwindles rapidly. Yes, video production companies still abound but they are not exactly affordable. So what’s a poor training team supposed to do?

Luckily, times are improving for self-made videos. Production costs have dropped dramatically. Phones and cameras can record high-enough sound and video quality. Editing software like Windows MovieMaker or Apple iMovie provide basic editing for free. Sites like PowToon and GoAnimate provide templates and tools for creating animated videos for a small subscription fee.

Although the tools are now here, the process of creating well-designed videos is still the challenge. This becomes even greater the more heads are involved. When you are the content expert, the video producer, and approver, the process is easy: Plan what you want to say, create the necessary props, shoot, edit, release.

When subject matter experts (SMEs), instructional designers, and project sponsors all must have a say, the process gets more complicated. Add amateur actors, video editors, videographers, and translators, and you now have the complex situation that Comprehensive Learning Solutions faced as part of a team to develop instructional videos on farm forestry in India.

We started by following the standard process for developing web-based training:

  1. Outline the course structure and content (and get approval).
  2. Create storyboards to detail the content and images (and get approval).
  3. Scout out the shots and give actors the script.
  4. Tape the scenes.
  5. Edit (and get approval).
  6. Translate.

As production got underway, we tweaked the process to accommodate the complexities of multiple languages, specialized content, and remote team members.   Our biggest challenges were around structure, translation, and approvals.

We began by agreeing on the videos’ structure and use in the classroom. This was important because everyone had different opinions about the duration, use, and tone of the videos. Would we have 3-minute or 20-minute videos? Should the facilitator play the whole video then answer questions or pause more frequently to interject activities and discussions? Should the videos tell a story and be entertaining or should they be descriptive and conversational? Even with our agreements, we still needed to remind each other of the approach as we worked.

Although our initial plan was to work in English and wait until the end to translate, we soon realized that translating into the local language at the end would result in timing and phrasing issues. Translating into English at the end would present the same problems in reverse and make it impossible for the instructional designers (who did not speak the regional language) to add value before it was too late.

Since the SMEs spoke the regional language and some English, it was easier for them to use the English outlines as a guide but work with the video team to create the script in their native language. That gave them to have the best of both worlds: They had the instructional designers’ organizational advice and they could phrase the content to sound correct in audience’s native language. The video team worked with them to make the word choice more appropriate for video and for the target audience.

The video design team then translated the storyboards into English. The instructional designers suggested improvements for adult learners and corrected the English. The English scripts were then back-translated for approval and distribution to the actors. They shot the videos in the local language and added English subtitles. The SMEs reviewed the audio and video for accuracy and appropriateness in the local language while the instructional designers reviewed the images and the subtitles for instructional soundness and appropriateness in English. The video team coordinated the efforts and change requests between the two sides.

Location and language issues made reliance on the storyboard even more critical. Since the video team had only one trip to capture all the shots they needed, we could not afford any last-minute changes. Once everyone approved the storyboards, that was it. The team would only correct mistakes or grammatical issues.

While this project presented unusual challenges due to the multi-lingual and remote nature, the basic lessons for creating training videos are still valid:

  1. Agree on the approach before beginning development work.
  2. Identify one person to communicate decisions about requested changes.
  3. Make sure everyone understands and respects each other’s roles and expertise.
  4. Make it clear that no significant changes will be made after approval of the storyboards.
  5. Limit comments on reviews of videos to corrections of mistakes.

That leads us to….

This month’s questions:

Based on your experiences, what is the most challenging aspect of creating training videos? What techniques or tools have you found to overcome that challenge?

Please share your ideas below so we can learn from each other.

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