Course video creation tips

I’m often asked for my course video recording tips, so it’s about time I got this down on paper (well blog). Here it is…

Now first things first I am not a professional videographer (you probably knew that). However as someone that has produced a lot of video content, and worked with a lot of video content over the years I can provide some perspective and guidance in this area.

Particularly when it comes to creating talking-head video’s for your course content.

For the very best quality the obvious solution is to use a professional studio it will (or should) have the best quality lighting, camera and microphone setup to produce the very best video. It’s impossible to create the same level of quality at home using substantially cheaper assets. If you have the budget for it, then you don’t need this article.

If your budget is smaller, and you still want to create high quality content then this is for you.

The following advice is designed for the home face-to-camera video set-up on a modest budget;

Video management:

  • If you have the option then a video assistant to make notes on which clips are good (and ones can throw away) can be very helpful. They can also double check composition etc. throughout.
  • If you do not have an assistant available – use a laptop, or prepared sheet of paper so you can quickly write down video-take numbers, and any notes needed. This can be a pain to do – but a few seconds spent after each take will save you hours (and tears) later! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • It’s better to create a series of short clips, rather than one massive hour long video for example. It’s a lot easier to get a 5 min clip correct, than a 20 min clip correct obviously.
  • Audio quality is in most ways more important than video quality, since in any talking heads shot all the content is delivered verbally. The visual is to support and provide humanity and expression to the audio content.
  • If you have a lot of video to record, try and keep your setup – well setup. And if possible avoid dismantling it too often, it will save you a bunch of time and agro.
  • If you do need to dismantle, make notes on placement (masking tape on the floor and a few photos can save a lot of time to recreate a set-up).
  • Note: If this is your first time recording face-to-camera video content – it will probably take longer, and be harder than you expected. This actually to be expected (the irony). So don’t panic if you need to do a few takes, or takes a little bit of time to get the setup right.


  • Have a glass of warm water nearby (warm is better for the throat).
  • I like to have lots of sucky sweats close-to-hand – to make sure I don’t dry up in recordings. I suck between takes to lubricate the mouth.
  • Say some tongue twisters before you start any video. This literally warms up the facial muscles and helps us speak.


  • ALWAYS DO A TEST VIDEO CLIP (without exception)!
  • – Is the lighting good?
  • – Is the audio quality and levels good?
  • – Is the composition good?
  • – Is the focus bang-on (if you are using a SLR camera then zoom in on the recording to make sure the focus is perfect, focus on the eyes)?
  • You may need to transfer the test clip to a laptop to view it on a bigger screen to determine if it’s really good to go.
  • Use headphones to test the audio quality – not a laptop/mobile/camera speaker.
  • Use a tripod / or stable and repeatable position for the camera where possible.
  • Put masking tape on the floor to mark the tripod position (an accidental move of the tripod can then easily be undone).
  • Most video applications (if you are using one) has a countdown before it starts, be ready on the 3. That means be smiling to camera and ready to go on the 3 – before the video starts recording.
  • Wear something you feel comfortable in.
  • Turn ANY and ALL mobiles to mute! Nothing more annoying than a perfect ‘take’ being ruined by an incoming call.
  • Put a sticker on the door if needed – to stop interruptions.


  • Use an external mic where possible (my mic of choice is listed below).
  • If you are unable to use an external mic, and if you have a spare mobile phone – use that device to record the audio separately. You may never need it, but this can be a valuable back-up. It will also usually provide a better audio solution because it can be positioned closer to your mouth. Use a tripod or high stall or similar to position it well but out of shot (see next point).
  • That said – some people dont mind having the mic in-shot. Big source of debate on this – with no categoric winner. If you decide to have the mic in-shot thats fine by me.
  • I find the best mic position is usually about a hand span away from the mouth, placed at a 45º angle so any spit from the mouth doesn’t go into the mic directly which creates pops.
  • Experiment with mic positions to find the best.
  • Assuming you are using an external microphone then make sure to do a loud hand-clap that’s visible on the video, this is Essen till for matching video and audio content and ensuring they are in sync.
  • If you are using an external mic – then check sound levels are good. Any problems should be picked in the video check, but it’s something to check.
  • If you can – keep the video setup (don’t dismantle every time if you can avoid it) – this will save you a lot of time and pain.


  • A professional studio setup will usually have a 3 point lighting setup. You can create something similar at home with a little investment.
  • – 1 key light on subject.
  • – 1 fill light on subject.
  • – 1 background light.
  • Here’s a great video for more info on this > Link.
  • In a face-to-camera video – the most important point is to light the face as well as possible.


  • Be clear on your course objectives when constructing the course, and let this guide you through the journey. This is a big subject, contact me direct for more guidance.
  • It is generally better to speak slowly and clearly.
  • The most critical video clips will be those that intend to have a ‘conversion’. Such as a video clip that you hope will convert a prospect to purchase the course. Or a video at the end of the course that may be trying to up-sell the student into another program. It’s worth doing a few takes or editing on these to get them bang-on.
  • The next most critical content is the introduction to the program. This is one of the first pieces of content they will see – so you need it to be as polished as possible. Again it’s worth a few takes to get this one right.
  • Intro video structure;
  • – welcome them to the course.
  • – re-confirm how they will benefit from the course.
  • – explain any course basics or global rules (procedures that are consistent throughout the course) that may help the student to use the platform.
  • – “Tap on X to get you started…”
  • Keep content bite-sized.
  • Use interactions throughout to engage the user.
  • Use external resources, quotes, case-studies, live examples etc. and any helpful additional content to improve the overall user experience.

My personal setup

I describe my personal approach and setup I personally use below. This is a financially modest set-up, that is capable of producing good quality material. It is also, in needed, highly mobile.


  • I usually record solo.
  • After every good take – I take a few seconds to give the file a name and I save it.
  • Any takes I know are bad, I do not give a name too and thus will have a default file number. After the video session I delete all files that I have not given a specific name too.
  • If I do a retake without stop/starting the video – I do a loud and clear hand clap on camera so I (or my editor) can clearly see the start point. Top tip!
  • I make a note on paper with any comments – such as “Take 3 is ok. Take 4 is better I think double check which to use”.
  • I keep video’s short. I’d rather redo a five minute video , then try to edit smaller mini-clips together to create the whole item.
  • That said, I have a video editor chap – so sometimes (and I try not to do this too often) I just send it all to him to sort it out – thanks David :).
  • I personally don’t aim for perfection with my video recordings (if you’ve seen them then you know). That bar is to high for me personally, I want to convey my message, I’m personally willing to accept a few stumbles, bad pronunciations, imperfect tone etc.


  • I just use my iPhone to do all my recordings! Easy.
  • Just remember to clear out some content, so you don’t run out of capacity mid recording.
  • I either mount this inside my Ring light (below).
  • Or I mount it on my Zhiyun gymbol tripod (designed for hand held recordings but also doubles up as a great desktop iPhone tripod. Link.


  • I use a SabineTek bluetooth microphone. Link.
  • I’ve done a review on this mic > read it here.
  • This means that the audio is recording via my external mic, but automatically merged with the video in real-time. Saves hours of post video editing and audio-creep that can be a total nightmare (can’t get into that here).


  • For a home video I will use a classic three point light setup;
  • A ring light. It’s cheap but does a great job of lighting my whole face up (it means I can’t wear some of my eye-glasses, so I either don’t wear them, or use an older pair that don’t reflect and still look good on camera). Something link this.
  • 2 x Yongnuo YN300 lights (I bought two for more flexibility, I use these to light the background mostly so two helps me avoid bad shadows) – link
  • If I’m recording in Thailand, then I will usually just use daylight – it’s by far the best light source available and in abundant supply most days.
  • I do also own some large photographic reflective pop-ups, but rarely use them (less portable). Link here.

About the author

Simon K Williams

Entrepreneur, Author and Business-Architect. Working at the inter-section of design, technology & marketing.

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