TCANZ 2010 day 2 – Video killed the redundant writer

This week I attended the TCANZ Conference 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand. Grant Mackenzie gave an awesome presentation entitled, “Video killed the redundant writer”. These are the notes I took during the session. All credit goes to Grant. Any mistakes are mine.

Grant has a great speaking style: relaxed, confident and with a light touch of humour. He gave his presentation on an iPad, which was interesting in itself. All went without a hitch. He asked us to put our pens down, put our brains in neutral, sit back and enjoy the ride. As his was the last session on a Friday afternoon, these instructions evoked a relieved sigh from the audience.

Here’s a neat quote from Grant:

Computer systems are basically binary code. Technical communicators are the final translators of what starts out as binary code.

It’s all about video

People in the coming generation don’t read manuals. They watch videos and source their information from the World Wide Web.

Websites

Grant suggested some websites to visit, for examples of interesting and good “how to” videos.

  • Go to Howcast.com to see some great “how to” videos. It’s certainly an eclectic selection. Examples that Grant mentioned: How to have a shower; how to use a banana in seven unexpected ways; how to tell your parents you are unexpectedly pregnant.
  • Go to CommonCraft.com and watch the explanation of augmented reality.
  • Try the videos on ExcelTeacher.com.
  • Screencast.com is a free hosting site from TechSmith. You can also embed the content from the hosting site onto your blog.

What makes an effective video?

Grant showed a number of short videos during his presentation, giving a convincing demonstration of how effective videos can be.

Videos must be compelling, to keep the viewers watching. What makes a good video? It must be:

  • Short
  • Relevant
  • Pacy
  • Genuine
  • Findable
  • Distinctive.

See the video from MsAppleUser: How to add right click on a Mac. This video satisfies most of the above requirements, Grant says.

Optional positives:

  • Humour – but this can be risky.
  • Show your face. See the video on how to use a web cam with Jing Pro. It drew laughs from the audience, and kept us engrossed.

What is a video?

Videos consist of containers and codecs. A container contains the codec. A codec contains the compressor and decompressor. The compressor reduces the file size for storage.

The people who watch the video need the same codec as the person who created the video.

There’s a link between video containers and file types. The name of the container and the file type are often the same. So, for most purposes, you can use the names interchangeably.

Grant’s tip: Just use MP4s.

Audio

Take care with the audio part of your video.

  • Many viewers are hard of hearing. Make sure that you record at high volume. Set your microphone setting to 100% before you do any recording.
  • Buy a high-quality microphone, the best that you can afford. Best is one that plugs into a USB port.

Tools

Grant recommends these your screencast, capture and edit tools :

  • Microsoft Expression Encoder 4.
  • Adobe Captivate 5.
  • Madcap Mimic.
  • Camtasia Studio 7. This is the one Grant uses. He recommends it if you don’t specifically want one of the above three to integrate with Microsoft, Adobe or Madcap products.
  • Jing Pro. This one gets an honourable mention, because Grant loves it. It’s the best starter option. The Jing training videos are very cute! Note that you can’t edit anything in Jing.

Your video library

Plan the library in the same way as you would any documentation library.

How do people find content that is in a video?

  • Try the VideoSurf add-on for Firefox. It shows stills of what’s in the video. You can click the link and go straight to the scene.
  • You can create an interactive table of contents for the video, using tools such as Camtasia or Captivate.
  • If you create a video from PowerPoint using Camtasia or Captivate, then the tool will automatically create a table of contents from the slide titles.

The wonders of PowerPoint

Grant says that PowerPoint is your friend, where videos are concerned. You can create a video using a screencast from PowerPoint. There are some great PowerPoint plugins. One is the Camtasia plugin, which Grant demonstrated during the session.

You can also just set PowerPoint to play, and record the slideshow with Jing.

PowerPoint gives your videos a consistent look and feel.

Consistency

A consistent look and feel is comforting for the viewers. If your videos have a consistency in the start and finish, your viewers will know they’re in the right place and will feel ready to learn.

Good examples are in the videos at TechSmith.com

Pros and cons of YouTube

Pros: It’s free. Videos are searchable and findable. Viewers watching your videos are using their own bandwidth. Anyone who has a computer can watch a YouTube video.

Cons: Some employers block their employees from using YouTube. YouTube uses its own compression algorithms, which can results in loss of quality.

Summing it up

In closing, Grant wanted us just to remember just 3 things:

  • Turn your audio up to 100%.
  • Make short videos.
  • PowerPoint is your friend.

My conclusion

This was a really great presentation, full of humour and information. Thank you Grant!

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 4 September 2010, in technical writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi Sarah, thank you again for this follow up. I wanted you to know that your write ups gave me an idea, that I wrote up here: http://bit.ly/bXNcsu. Full credit given! Once again, appreciate it.

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