How to Make Online Courses More Engaging

So many online courses I buy are just a slideshow, often with the course leader not even putting their face on camera. I think there is a simple way to make online courses more engaging. 

When I was creating a course on using smartphones to shoot professional-quality video, I made a list of all the topics I needed to cover. Then, whenever I was somewhere suitable, I'd take out my phone(with a simple mic and tripod) and shoot a video about it.  So in a noisy Delhi street I talked about microphones. The idea was to take people on a journey. Online courses have to visually engaging to keep people's interest. If you take my course you'll visit Estonia, India, South Africa and the USA among others. That surely makes it more memorable that a powerpoint presentation.

This may not work for every single topic. For some you could possible record and introduction to the video on camera and then go into slides. However, for many subjects it can work. For instance, if someone had a course on conflict management, why not find somewhere in your area that has an historical example of conflict? An old battleground, a location from a move, anything that can be a visual metaphor for a discussion about conflict. 

What about leadership and team management? Could you film at a local sports field and use sporting analogies? All these things just make your content more "sticky" because you have told a visual story around it. 

With so many people now taking online courses, approaches like this can help you stand out from the crowd, and all your need is your phone and some cheap equipment. 

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Shooting Timelapse on Your Smartphone: Top Tips

 

 

Shooting timelapse on your smartphone is simple, but can be very effective in creating stunning visuals. You can use the native app on your phone, but even though they are nice and simple to use, they may give you limited controls. 

For instance, the iPhone native app does timelapse, but no matter how long you record for, it'll turn it into a 30-40 second video. The longer you shoot for, the more frames it'll drop to keep to that duration. 

 

If you want more control then for iPhone you could try:

 SKYFLOW

FRAMELAPSE 

When it comes to shooting timelapses, here are some tips:

 

Use a Tripod

You want your shot to be static, with the only movement being what is in your frame. If you do not use a tripod, when you speed up the footage it makes the shake look even worse. Always use a tripod, even a mini tripod, rather than film hand-held. 

Film Movement

It may seem obvious, but make sure there is enough movement happening for the timelapse to work. Traffic, crowds walking, auditoriums filling and the sun rising or setting are all good examples. If not enough movement happens in the shot, then speeding it up will not make it look any more interesting. 

 

Use Clouds

When you do not have movement in the foreground, you can always use clouds to add movement. So, for example, if you were filming a building and it was very still and boring, you could shoot a timelapse. This would make the clouds in the sky whizz above the building, creating a more dynamic shot.

 

Lock Your Settings

Make sure you lock your focus and brightness. If you leave your phone camera in auto mode it'll keep adjusting. This will ruin your shot, especially if you're filming a sunset. As the sun goes down, the camera will brighten the shot to compensate. Instead of it slowly getting dark, the automatic mode will fight to keep the shot bright, spoiling the effect. 

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Look and Sound Like a Pro on Video Calls and Recordings from Home

The Covid19 lockdown forced lots of people to go camera from their homes.  Whether you are on a Zoom call or making a video, here are some tips for looking and sounding more professional when making videos from home. 

 

 

REDUCE ECHO

Your home is not designed as a recording studio. That can mean any video recordings, live Zoom calls or audio recording can sound echoey. The trick is to avoid too many hard surfaces that may reflect sound. Sofas, beds, clothes and blankets can all help reduce echo. Even a towel on a desk can mean less sound bouncing around. If you are looking for something more permanent, you could order a mini portable vocal recording booth or some panels of noise reduction foam. 

GET A DECENT MICROPHONE

Do not rely on internal microphones on your phone, camera or laptop.  I normally talk about smartphone mics, but lots of people are asking me about mics for their laptops. If you are using a laptop then a simple usb mic will make a huge difference.  There are very affordable usb mics. Just decide how portable you want your setup to be. For a laptop mic that fits in your pocket I carried the Samson Go Mic with me on my travels. It is tiny and can clip onto your laptop screen, but the audio quality is good. 

 

 

If you are willing to spend a little more you can get something like this  Satellite usb mic. It has connectors for phones and laptops. It also has fold out legs so you can stand it on the desk in front of you. 

If you are using your phone or a camera, then a lavalier mic will help give you quality audio. Smartphone mics often come with a 3.5mm TRRS jack connector. If your phone has no earphone socket, you'll need an adapter to connect those to your lighting or usb port.  

Naturally with microphones, the more you spend the higher quality you are likely to achieve. 

LIGHTS

Lighting plays a massive role in making your videos look good. You can use natural daylight, but avoid shooting towards windows that may result in a silhouette effect. A small LED ring light can be useful to add a bit more light to your shot. If you want a more professional setup then two or three LED standing lights can transform you location. Aputure do some good portable LED lights. I also like Viltrox for budget standing LED lights. Remember to think about lighting your background, not just your foreground. 

 

 

 

CONSIDER YOUR BACKGROUND

The things that will make your background look better are depth, detail, balance and lighting. With depth you want to avoid filming yourself right up against a wall. It can look claustrophobic. Where possible film back into a room with some space behind you. Detail is about avoid blank walls.  A neat bookshelf or nicely staged props will look better than a bland wall. With regards to balance, try and thing about the composition of the video shot. If you have something tall on one side, try and have something similar the other side. Messy backgrounds...

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The Best App for Filming Yourself on iPhone(and now it's coming to Android)

Uncategorized May 29, 2020

When you are filming yourself on your phone you can use the selfie camera, but this creates problems. The camera on the rear is often better quality than the selfie camera. It also means it is hard to set your focus and exposure when you have to reach out and touch the phone.

 

 

 

That is why one of my favourite apps is Filmic Remote. This app works in partnership with the camera app Filmic Pro(which works on iPhones and many Android phones).  All you need to do is go into the Filmic Pro menu and selected "remote control".  You can then have a second device, like an iPad, on the same wifi network and use Filmic Remote to control your phone camera with that.  

It means you can check focus, exposure, audio, framing and adjust settings. You can also start and stop your recording. Filmic Remote 

Filmic Remote used to be iOS only, but there is now a beta Android version.  When it comes to filming myself I cannot recommend Filmic Remote highly enough. 

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3 Reasons I'm Finally Excited About an iPhone Again

Uncategorized Sep 11, 2019

When I run smartphone video training courses, many of the trainees are surprised to find I have been using a battered old iPhone 7 Plus (...although for trade-in purposes I will describe it as in great condition obviously!)  I could shoot 4K video, had lots of memory so the last few versions of the iPhone have not compelled me to upgrade. 

That changed with the release of the iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max. Here are 3 reasons that I’m finally excited about the iPhone again.

Multiple angles 

Ok, let's start with the big one. The iPhone 11 Pro will have 3 cameras on the back(Wide, Telephoto and Ultra Wide). Two of them have optical stabilisation which is great for hand-held filming.  For the first time you can also shoot 4k video on the "selfie" front-facing camera. That is great for filming yourself. 

However, the ability to record two cameras in 4K quality at the SAME TIME is amazing. This will be possible later this year using the Filmic Pro app. This means you can have a multiple camera coverage of what you are filming....all from your phone. 

Battery Life  

The top end new model of iPhone will have 4 hours more battery life. When you shoot video the battery levels drop quickly.  If this delivers as promised it will mean the ability to do much longer shoots without having to worry about charging.  If you are plugging in an external microphone it can make it more difficult to keep the device charged without extra adapters etc. More battery life means more filming time. 

 

Better image processing

With the better processing power on the iPhone 11 Pro you will get better photographs. The new image signal processor should also mean better low light performance. When I do trainings it is very clear which generation of phone people are using by image quality and how well it deals with low light conditions. The photos and videos shown at the Apple Event were impressive. This could be yet another weakness of the phone which is fast disappearing. 

So these are just some of the reasons why I am keen to try out the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Obviously there are great Android alternatives, but I also like the apps like Luma Fusion which is only available on iOS. 

The other great news is that when a new phone comes out, the old ones become cheaper. That means a perfectly good iPhone 8 is now a much more affordable price. As I keep saying....better cameras sell phones....that's where the development money is going.  Everyone should learn how to get the best out of them. 

 

 

 

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4 Reasons You MUST Use Live-streaming As Part Of Your Content Strategy:

live streaming marketing Aug 13, 2019

Going live has never been easier. Press a button on your phone and you can go live on platforms from Facebook and Instagram to Periscope and Youtube. Most people are under-using this ability. Here are four reasons you MUST use live-streaming.

  1. Interaction – Live-streams on Facebook usually get around six times more interaction than a recorded video. The algorithms of social media sites value interaction highly, so comments and shares mean your content will likely get shown to more people.

  2. Authenticity – One of the reasons people love live broadcasts is because it appears more authentic. There is no way you can manipulate anything like you can with edited videos. For this reason people trust live-streams more than recorded content.

  3. Relationships – Live-streams are a form of two-way communication. Typically they get ten times more comments than videos which are uploaded. That is because viewers feel they are more likely to get a response to their comments. They may also shape the content if one of their comments is addressed in the live-stream. This helps bring you closer to your audience and deepen your relationship with them.

  4. Speed – Creating content can be time-consuming. Live-streaming is an easy win. There is no post-production. The expectation from the audience is that it will not be as polished as an edited video. You can download the live-stream video afterwards and repurpose it for other platforms, but it is not essential. You can literally whip out your phone, go live and when you press stop it is finished. It is a speedy, but effective way to connect with your audience.

 

I strongly recommend using your phone(with an external microphone) for streaming. You can get a cheap tripod if you want to keep it steady. Going live with a traditional camera or DSLR will often involve adapters, software and complicated workflows. The phone makes life simpler and more flexible.

 

So, in short, there are solid reasons to use live-streaming effectively as part of your content strategy.

 

(Need training on how to use streaming effectively to build your audience? Get in touch)

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What is the Best App for Video Editing?

Uncategorized May 31, 2019

What is the best app for video editing? It is actually an easy question to answer if  I know what kind of phone you have and what level of video editing you want to reach. 

If you have an iPhone there is no question which app is the most powerful. Luma Fusion wins hands down. It is a one-off purchase and while it may seem pricey for an app, it is more comparable with desktop editing software.  You can use multiple video layers and drag videos between tracks in a way that other apps cannot.  It also supports a variety of formats such as vertical video or square video. 

 

If you have an Android phone then Kinemaster is your best bet. Again you can use layers to make your videos more visually interesting. It also has plenty of features like audio key-framing. You can download Kinemaster and use almost all of the features for free, but you will get a watermark on the exported video. You have to pay a subscription to get rid of the watermark. 

There is another big player now on the smartphone video editing market. Adobe. The Adobe Premiere Rush app works on iPhone, PC, Mac, iPad and some Android phones. It is a subscription service and its main selling point is that it uses the cloud, so you can start editing on one device and finish on another. It is definitely one to watch as it adds more features. 

So the best app for video editing depends on the phone that you have and how much you are willing to spend. There are cheap or free options like iMovie and Quik, but they are not on the same level as Luma Fusion or Kinemaster. 

It is well worth learning how to use your smartphone to create professional-looking videos. If you want to get started download my free smartphone video kit guide.CLICK HERE

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Why So Many People Are Wasting Their Smartphone

Uncategorized Feb 11, 2018

I sometimes think if we called our smartphones by another name we may use them more effectively.  Obviously you can call people and check your social media feeds, but your smartphone is capable of so much more. 

I often work with major broadcasters, NGOs and businesses. When I show them how their phones can shoot and edit quality video, stream live and create compelling social media content they are more than surprised. Why? The reason is simple. People often understand that you can consume professional content on your phone...but they do not think you can CREATE high-quality content on their phones. 

From the BBC to Hollywood film directors, people are shooting quality video content on smartphones. All you need is some very cheap kit(such as a microphone) and a bit of training in how to get the best out of your phone camera. 

So do you need lots of high-quality video on your business or organisation? Do you have a phone? Get started by grabbing my free kit list on the top of this page so you know what equipment you need to get quality video and audio from your phone. Otherwise you're wasting it. 

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