ILV Design Part 1: Some Production Basics
Dec 14, 2023
Two decades into the 21st century, one thing is clear about the education industry:
teacher + technology >> teacher
There has been a consistent shift toward making learning more and more learner-centric and improving the learning experience in every mode of learning. Good learning design can make the learning experience more engaging, immersive, and even addictive. When it comes to instructor-led videos, learning design largely manifests as the visual design of the final video. Visual design may sound like some complex filmmaking technique, but really it’s simple logic: design your visual elements in a way that helps your learner absorb and retain content. Well-designed visuals simplify complex information, highlight key points, hold and guide learners’ attention, spark their imagination, build mental connections, and more. Here are some ways to improve the visual design and overall learning experience through optimizing various components of an ILV.
Place the instructor centrally if they are the sole focus of the video. Visual aids in such cases should either be small, infrequent, or done only fullscreen.
Place the instructor on the right half or right center, if the learner needs to divide attention between instructor and the visuals.
Place the instructor should be at a reasonable distance from the outer edges of the screen, neither touching them nor leaving too much blank space. Cornered framing of an actor is a visual device to induce feelings of anxiety in the viewer.
Keep the instructor’s costume undistracting or thematically coherent with the content. A regular ILV should have solid-coloured full sleeves. A storified ILV may use costume (and accessories, if any) to highlight the theme (like track suits for a sports narrative).
Using a monotone for the whole span of the video makes the ILV… well, monotonous. It’s a poor learning experience in the modern fast-paced dynamic world. The instructor should change the tone of instruction a couple of times at least in a 5-minute video. This humanizes the instructor and helps convey a closer-to-life learning experience. Some possible variations of tone can be inquisitive, reminiscent, academic, introspective, what-if, humorous, concerned, and so on.
Keep the background dark and dimly lit if the instructor is the sole focus (for example a masterclass video in acting, where the speaker’s face is the visual aid). This is usually effective for mature audiences with a taste for the aesthetic.
Keep the background brightly lit from multiple angles to avoid visible shadows in most ILVS. Keep a dedicated space (typically on the left half of screen) for the visual aids. This means while recording this space should have no moving objects.
Place all the non-fullscreen visual aids in the same area, so that the learner knows where to look. Visuals popping up everywhere on the screen prevent the learner from effectively observing them, and may even create anxiety and comprehension blocks.
For live set pieces, use multiple backgrounds. Any typical set can easily have 2-3 smaller sets (called corners in staged plays) as separate backgrounds. For example, an ordinary living room can have
a sofa in front of a suitable artwork for casual or semi-formal intro,
a chair and table against a bookshelf for in-depth academic discourse,
an armchair by the window for conclusions or ruminations.
Use background changes to move between different sections of the content (intro and summary against one background, and the main content against another). A 10-min video should have at least 2-3 such changes.
Use voiceover in sections or short videos without an instructor. These could be animated sequences at the beginning or the middle of the video, or interactive sections designed for assessment. Voiceover sets a pace of interacting with the content, and also provides a way to guide the learner.
Replace OST with voiceover for insignificant or filler words, phrases, and sections. Some examples are instructions to navigate, tap/type/click commands, congratulatory messages, supportive nudges, brainstorming or introspection cues, quick intros or outros, and interspersed sentences to set the mood.
Avoid voiceover as means to deliver main content. Voiceover can only highlight or even present one simple thought at a time. Unlike text, a learner cannot easily go back and forth in an audio, so voiceover should be short, simple and easy to follow.
Use voiceovers as purely complementary tools to diversify and balance the sensory package in which instruction is received. If something is mentioned in the voiceover, it should be either okay-to-forget or visually depicted too.
These are just some of the design elements you can employ while recording (or the production stage) itself, while recording the videos and voiceovers. As we have mentioned before, the real magic happens during the post-production, so we will be dealing with that in a bit more detail in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned and happy learning!