Maybe Your Evaluation Efforts Need A Little “Lights, Camera, Action”
Admin Note: This article was originally published on our previous website, October 2017.
Many of us know that from time to time our best efforts to support programming partners through evaluation services fall a bit flat. This outcome might be the result of a number of factors, but one culprit in my partnerships has been my inability to generate the kind of engagement I had hoped for at the outset of a dissemination effort, such as a data presentation, or a written report.
For that reason, I’ve been trying to incorporate an additional step into my communication of both formal and informal evaluation materials. Specifically, we have been turning to short videos in an effort to promote active participation in a number of different evaluation activities, such as preparation for reflective practice sessions. There is truly nothing special or exceptional about these videos as a final product, but they seem to work, at least in some circumstances, and for some individuals that we support.
One of the things I expect that we might be noticing is that the inclusion of another mode of information delivery meets a learning and communication of our target audience that had not been met previously.
Quite possibly, to get a “deep read” or this additional format garners us a “view” where we would not have been likely even a “skim.” And though recent research on learning styles and their impact on actual learning, or knowledge transfer has been mixed (http://bigthink.com/neurobonkers/why-the-widespread-belief-in-learning-styles-is-not-just-wrong-its-also-dangerous), we might contend that no knowledge can be transferred until a direct engagement with the information begins. In reality, experience might have been telling us that not all of our constituents were making it to the starting line.
As a result of some recent success, we wanted to share a bit about our process and to provide the larger community with some helpful resources, and even a bit of a recipe for folks that might benefit from some extra scaffolding as they sit in the director’s chair for the first time. Here are a few thoughts….
1. Let your guard down and set reasonable expectations
Let’s face it, this video is not going to be the greatest thing ever created, it might not even qualify as riveting, and you certainly aren’t going to be nominated for an Academy Award. However, at the same time, your auditory learning preferring stakeholders will be so thrilled with the opportunity to consume information in this manner that they’ll think anything you provide is priceless.
2. Create a workspace
You will need to collect everything you use in one place. Find a nice space on your computer, even on your desktop for now – you can move it later. Name it something memorable, using your standard naming convention.
3. Download (if necessary), and then open up your video editor.
If you don’t have one, we suggest filmora. You can download it for free today. Please note that it will try to automatically bill you in 30 days, you google instructions to uninstall if you aren’t happy with the product. The cost is just $29.99 and it has a ton of features. It is a good value at that price point. Download at: https://filmora.wondershare.com/video-editor/video-editor-download.html. However, there are dozens of competitors that you might also consider: https://elearningsupporter.com/2017/03/27/best-video-editing-software-for-screencast-purposes/.
4. Start with a PowerPoint
This might be one of the easiest steps of the process. You likely already have something developed as a result of your analysis. If not, start with your narrative, and/or charts and any other information. Try to avoid some of the common “death-by-powerpoint” conventions (for a quick guide, see: https://www.24point0.com/powerpoint-tutorials/avoiding-death-powerpoint/)
5. Check your dimensions, make a title slide, dress up your presentation, and consider animations and transitions.
Open your PowerPoint. Check the slide dimensions, are they the same as you plan on making your video. Many slides start with “standard” dimensions. However most videos are played wide, for example, you tube is going to play everything 16:9. Most screens are starting to have the larger landscape now. Resizing your slide dimensions to 16×9 is probably a good choice. Do this on the top menu bar in PowerPoint: >design>slide size>widescreen.
Go to you PowerPoint, how does the regular title slide work, it will probably work great. Save this one slide as a jpeg. Do this on the top menu bar in PowerPoint: >file>save as>type title slide and select save as type: jpeg. Make sure to save to your target folder.
Regular slides that are text heavy won’t work so great in your video. Be creative and use photographs and other art. If you do not have all of the photographs you need, use free and public domain art, there is plenty on the web. One great place to start: http://www.clipartpanda.com; another is www.pixabay.com. Or do an image search on google and select “tools”, and set “usage rights” to “labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification.” After you download move to your target folder.
Transitions will make for a more dramatic move from one topic to the next, which is what you will be doing with the audio in your new project. Try a simple fade using the top menu bar in PowerPoint: >transitions.
Animations help to make movement possible on your slide. This can be simple, start with the title, and then build in tables, shapes and text as you talk about them, but only as you talk about them. Personally, I think many of these are districting so I’d start by using the top menu bar in PowerPoint: >animations, and using appear. Note that once you are done talking about a subtopic you can also make it disappear, check out the animations shown in red, they make things go away.
6. Write your script
This is a more difficult step than one might assume at first glance. What we’ve done is create a header with the slide name and then provide the text to be spoken below. Make a mark where you will put forward any animations. We use [animate] with yellow highlighting. Condense your description to one paragraph; maybe 5 or 6 sentences. Otherwise, you’ll linger too long on one idea.
At the same time, remember that you need to be able to read your script. We talk differently than we write, beware of acronyms, words that are difficult to pronounce, and a certain sense of formality that isn’t normal in conversation. Save this file to your target folder.
7. Choose your music to wrap your video in
Please use free publicly available music from creative commons, Soundcloud, or make a one time purchase of royalty-free music. We usually start here: https://freemusicarchive.org/. Download the tune and move it from downloads into your target folder.
8. Put it all together
Drag your opening audio and place it at the 0 mark. Clip it at 6-8 seconds. Have it fade in and fade out. Place your title slide at the 0 mark. Drag it out to the same point as the video. Give it an effect.
Now record your audio and PC screen (while in presentation view using your PowerPoint) using your video editing software. It is totally okay to stumble over words, it happens all the time. If you want to stop and restart, leave a 5 second pause with no audio. That way you can easily find the stumble and edit it out later. Once you finish recording, place the new track into your console.
This might actually be the easiest step, especially if you’ve taken care in the previous step to give yourself the pauses to use as markers. Minor errors and flubs might be totally fine. Or if you are looking for something to look and sound completely polished you might need to spend more time on this step. Depending on your software you’ll likely have different commands that you have to use. One trick in any software is to separate the audio and video tracks from your screencast. This will make it easier to find the right points in your audio to cut.
10. Publish in a video format to your computer
Use the export function to publish it out of your program, and into an .mp4, or .wmv file on your machine. We usually start with a low bitrate and framerate so that the video renders quickly. Then I spot check to confirm things look as planned. Then we raise the bitrate and framerate to moderate levels, this will be plenty good enough for a slide share. Publish again at these new values to your target folder.
11. Share and prepare to receive notes of thanks from partners in your email
Move into dropbox, google drive or another such product, or use a video sharing website like vimeo so that you can get a link for sharing with your collaborators.
Alternatives to the process above
We also want to share our experience making video using only Powerpoint as well (without a video editor). It is possible to do so, however your audio will need to be collected slide by slide and you will not be able to edit out partial clips later on. However, you can still add your music to your first and last slides and use transitions and animations for effects for a nice little presentation. For more about how to do this see: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Turn-your-presentation-into-a-video-c140551f-cb37-4818-b5d4-3e30815c3e83.
This link will also explain how you can signal your Powerpoint file to open up on the end user’s machine in presentation mode, which was a nice and simple trick.
I never knew you could do either thing before reading that article and they are both helpful. Check it out.
Reach out to younger generations for help
Two members of one of our project teams, Katie and Will helped us a ton along the way. More digital natives than me they certainly modeled excellent ideas and helped when we hit a barrier. The truth is we all do get stuck using technology from time to time, but we should be unafraid to ask a younger team member or even a son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandchild. I bet they can find a solution.
I recently was stuck in Filmora with a video/audio lagging issue. I found my solution on youtube from a teen who likes to record himself playing video games, and using legos, and had run into the exact problem that I encountered. So he made a video about his solution to his problem making videos. Thank you, Andrew60278: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgPnEMuO-Kl5CxuJUkhHnkA.
By Jason Torres Altman, Member of the TerraLuna Collaborative who began his career providing evaluation support to entities providing advocacy for, policy support for and programming in K-12 public schools, extension services, and community development in 2002. In all project work, he emphasizes elevating the voices of the most affected, and often least empowered stakeholders as well as deeply considering nuance and context at the local level. His desire is that evaluative support can contribute to the changing of hearts and minds about what is important in local communities and the responsibility to serve local communities in the way that they choose to be served.
Picture credit: Image courtesy under creative commons public license: “lights, camera, action,” by: Satish Viswanath (https://www.flickr.com/photos/satish_ev/10381434003)