An artist friend approached me to produce a video (DVD). I declined (not what I'm interested in doing) but offered to prepare a list of issues that should be considered when doing same. (mic'ing, background noise, camera angles, etc.).
I was given a bunch of "professional" (e.g., $100/ea) videos of similar content to review. The comments that accompanied them (from my friend and other "artists") were invariably: "Oh, there's lots of great information in (most of) these! But, THEY PUT YOU TO SLEEP!" (literally).
OK, so I watched a couple. Boring but probably because I am not interested in the material and can't really "relate" to it or how I could benefit from it.
They are typically 90 minutes, or so. Sometimes broken into shorter segments. But, I see nothing that *suggests* you "walk away and take a break, here". So, it's like watching someone talk for 90 minutes about *his/her* work while you "watch from a distance".
I suspect the length is one big issue. I can't remember having to sit through a 90 minute "lecture" in my professional career. Staff meeting, etc.
And, the fact that it is *one* voice/presenter (note the evening news tends to ping-pong between *two* presenters -- so there is some variation in the speech characteristics, etc.) probably contributes.
There are usually just one or two FIXED camera angles -- you're always looking at the same backdrop, no real eye candy to revive your interest, etc.
Given that much of the material probably *needs* the lengthy presentation (you can't really do the Professor trick of hand-waving and pulling the finished result out of a secret compartment -- "The details are left as an exercise for the student"), it seems like something else has to be tweaked to make it more "engaging" or "riveting".
[I suspect folks would also balk at $100 for a *30* minute video! So, there is some value to length]
I'm thinking back on the presentations that I enjoyed most and note that humor played a role in many -- some "joke" injected at a particular point (Not "A priest, a rabbi and a minister..." but, rather, a slide inserted upside down, or a slide of the presenter's kids at a birthday party mixed in with the lot, etc.)
But, that would get old, too, if it was mechanically applied to all of these.
So, what keeps *your* interest in a lengthy (non-interactive!) presentation?
Even one presenter can adopt different presentation styles, tones, delivery. In a long presentation that will be important.
That can make a big impact on the viewability of a video. Look at any good infomercial (is that an oxymoron?) and they walk around the stage.
Really? You remember a presentation because the person told a joke? When I was learning about presentations (DOD type stuff) it seems they were getting away from a tradition of inserting a semi-nude lady. We were specifically warned this was no longer expected. lol
Humor goes a long way, but I don't think it should be off topic. One of the best presentations I've seen was the introduction of the Lattice XO2 FPGAs. It was done like an infomercial with a very vocal pitch man, "EX OH, EX OH, EX OH TWO!!!" Not a lot of info, but they made their point that it was something you needed to look at.
Yes, having the lecturer literally read the slides (I'm showing my age here) is bad. But too often that is fixed by making the slides more brief so that you can't get much from the slides alone. So please add to your recommendations to have reasonably complete supplementary material.
Yes, 90 minutes needs a break at the halfway point at least.
The real trick to any presentation is to organize the material to support *exactly* what you are trying to convey. So start with organizing the info you expect your audience to retain when they walk away and make everything you provide directly support that goal.
The one rule of presentations I have heard that seems to be ironclad is to tell the audience three times. Tell them what you are going to tell them (an intro to explain what it is), tell them what you are telling them (the raw facts, info and support) and tell them what you told them (review it to help plant it firmly in their minds). This can be applied at various levels in the presentation.
I used to go to the Embedded Systems Conference quite a lot, where the sessions were 90 minutes long. I both presented and watched.
1: Keep the material clear.
2: Power point slides are visual aids, not text to read from.
3: Move around. I jump around like a demented flea when I present
4: Make jokes. Don't TELL jokes, MAKE jokes. Generally I try for asides that are apropos to the material, or stupid puns.
5: Vary the rhythm of the presentation -- break up the technical stuff with illustrative anecdotes (since I teach stuff on motion control, these will often involve smoke, loud noises, and/or coworkers exiting the room at speed).
6: Respond to questions.
Some of these are, obviously, hard to do in a video. For point 6, having someone off-camera to ask questions for the viewing audience might help, however. For point 3, having a presenter who's moving around would require a better class of cameraman than just a fixed camera, but might help.
The rest of the points could be done as easily in a video as in a real presentation.
Having said all of that, passively watching video is different from being in the room with a real-live person who can see your face (or the top of your head, if he's got the misfortune of having the 1:30-3:00 time slot). So having the presenter announce significant breaks in the flow somehow (or even "we're going to take a break, why don't you pause the video for a few minutes) may cue the audience to go rest up.
Personally I hate video presentations. There are *occasional* times when they're useful, and certainly short videos of how to do something are often helpful, but I want to read a well written paper, at my pace, not watch someone jump around like a demented flea. That's certainly a form of entertainment, but for a different time (and Tim, could you post a video of that, I'm sure we'd all like to see it).
I've been falling behind on what's going on with The Mill, simply because all the good information has been released as video presentations. While I have mixed feelings about the viability of the project, there are some interesting ideas being worked on, so I do want to keep up. Now Ivan is not a bad presenter (I have certainly seen *far* worse), and I've forced myself to watch a number of the presentations, but I'd rather find a toilet that needs scrubbing or something.
In short, I think the secret to a good video presentation is not doing one.
But that's just me (I can't stand watching broadcast news either, please, please, please just let me read the article), I know a lot of people (perhaps most people) prefer the presentation.
An interactive session is different, but don't spend the presentation going over the minutia - that's what the accompanying materials are for.
Strike one: Violation of the rule "We can talk about anything, but not over an hour!" (This loses some zing in translation from German, where
shut down at about the 45 minute mark.
Strike two! Fixed camera is just silly. People in a real-live audience would never sit that still, so they don't want to watch video that locks their virtual eyes into a single position like that, either. Suffice it to say that professional cameras have shoulder rigs for a reason, and the SteadyCam was invented because it was necessary.
The best joke of that kind I ever saw was when the guy announced that he was now going to veer off to discuss a side issue for a jiffy, and illustrated that by slapping on a full-page, single opening parenthesis (and the closing ')' as he finished the excursion, too).
The guy was as Italian as they come, too, so he had no problems whatsoever with moving around sufficiently, nor with varying the tone of is voice. ;-)
And (this being well before "powerpointed" became an adjective, meaning "mentally exhausted by an overload of animated graphs") he did animated graphs, too: his slides had fold-ins, fold-outs, and fold-outs on the fold-ins, rounded off by stuff in his pockets that he threw on the projector's glass, too. Of course, some of the fold-ins would come loose and end up all over the place, and hilarity ensued...
The only thing missing was a big old song-and-dance number.
In short, there was complete and utter chaos on stage ... which is exactly what made it such a completely and utterly captivating lecture.
Structure. Explain the general layout of the lecture at the start. If it's really long, mention where along that line you currently are.
A well-placed break or two.
A presenter who really cares about the subject matter, and isn't afraid to show it.
There's a difference between a *technical* presentation and this sort of thing.
First, you're (they're) not just showing little snippets:
- here's how you solder an SMT
- here's how you remove an SMT that you soldered in the wrong place etc.
Rather, they are typically describing a painting, from start to finish. I.e., how you decide what to put *in* the painting -- and what to elide. How you choose the overall color scheme. Which colors go on
*first* (varies with medium). How to *handle* (apply) the paint. How to get particular "effects" in the painting, moods, etc. Why something looks good -- or bad -- and how to fix that (some media don't lend themselves to alteration as well as others; indeed, some *colors* in a given medium may be more "difficult" to deal with than others).
An analogy would be for you to describe the specification, design, fabrication and *testing/validation* of a circuit in a 90 minute presentation. And *show* it, working, at the end!
These aren't "slide presentations". Typically, the presenter is standing behind a work surface or adjacent to an easel. A camera captures him/her in that position, "talking to you".
Meanwhile, another camera will be focused on his canvas -- for those moments when he is applying/removing paint, etc.
A third camera will be focused on his palette -- so you can see which colors he is picking and how he is mixing them (on the palette).
In post, you cut between the different cameras based on where the interest lies -- you wouldn't keep a camera focused on your *schematic* while you were illustrating how to solder the components!
The voice is the hard one. Most artists narrate their own presentations. And, few are properly "scripted" -- perhaps a general outline but a lot of the content is anecdotes that come up as the artist is "making the painting". E.g., if his brush is too wet and the paint runs into unintended areas, he may draw your attention to this and comment on how to avoid it in the future. Or, how to fish the "contaminating color" out of the area of the painting that it wasn't supposed to enter!
E.g., like showing someone how to unsolder a device that got jostled during (hand) soldering and is now in teh wrong place on the board (you probably didn't *plan* on making that mistake!)
Yes. But, there is no easy way to "force a break". I've made anote that it may be preferable to split the presentation over *two* (or more) DVD's -- even if you only have 45 minutes of video on each and are "wasting" more than half of the capacity! (media is cheap) The point being this would force the viewer to take a break; give them an EXCUSE not to watch the second half "right now".
OTOH, if it's just the next "chapter stop" on the medium, there is no NATURAL suggestion that they pause, here.
I started writing "papers"/tutorials many years ago. I have a few thousand pages to date. They come in handy when I have to explain something to someone: "here, read this". Yet, don't have to stand up to the sort of scrutiny that a "polished" product would.
Documentaries come to mind. They're not usually boring, because that would be devestating to their purpose. Why aren't they? (Well, in the eye of the beholder, I'm sure...)
- Structure: lay out your plan in the beginning, follow it through
- Break it down into segments of alternating purpose and pace
- A problem-and-solution can often be phrased as a mystery, so you lead into it; the tension keeps the starting point in mind. Usually a pretty trite thing (seems to me, grade school textbooks do that), but it's something. A mystery is typically considered the easiest kind of story to write.
- Typically they'll go from narrative sections to interview sections. Something similar might still be useful even if it's all the same person doing the presentation.
- VISUALS all the time!
And if it's truly just too boring to watch, consider rephrasing it as an academic paper instead. Those things can drone on for days. But you can always skim and look at figures and jump around sections, and always come back to things you might've missed. Some things are very hard to describe or convey in written versus visual technique, but on occasion, those can be compressed to their very essence as short clips, and the description left in the text. (Electronic articles have hyperlinks, it's the most amazing invention! ;) )
Another reference comes to mind, Bob Ross -- a visual and narrative experience, always interesting and changing, until the painting is complete. Rich with technique and conversation, it holds your attention in a casual way.
I think all of these (art) videos can make some claim to doing that. They "start at the beginning" and "work towards the end". I'm not sure how much of the anecdotal commentary is planned ahead of time vs. just "stuff that pops into their heads while working".
Where's the mystery in "Beacon Street on an Autumn Evening"? I.e., you typically *see* what the artist is TRYING to paint -- though how he gets to that point is up for grabs (and, whether it will be realistic, abstract, etc.)
Well, the whole thing *is* visual, by definition. There's no "read along study text" involved. But, it's always the same medium, same artist, etc. (There's no point in showing you how *oils* would look if you're a watercolor artist)
I don't think it would add anything to an artist's presentation. What? Being able to hyperlink to before and after shots? :<
Ross is (was) lucky to have a great speaking voice -- low key, mellow, etc. But, much of what he did was gimmicky -- "use this brush, held in this way to get this effect". (He was also using oils/acrylics? which tend to be far more forgiving -- he didn't have to explain *why* he was working on one part of the composition and ignoring another) If you watch many of his videos, you'll soon realize that they are essentially "Watch me paint this while talking to you..." Great, if you want to paint the same thing! :(
What I've found difficult is trying to relate to the "artistic process". It's far less constrained than technological processes. E.g., you can't stuff the board until you've got blanks in front of you; you can't get the blanks until you've finished the layout; you can't finish the layout until you've got a schematic; etc.
By contrast, a painting can begin *anywhere*. An artist may elect to lay down all of this particular RED; then move on to this particular BLUE; etc. It is unnerving to see little disjoint splotches of color being applied to a canvas -- even if you KNOW what it actually WILL look like when finished (e.g., the artist may show you the finished painting BEFORE the video begins -- the wonders of post! :> ) Even more disturbing when the artist doesn't first *draw* (pencil) the scene he is trying to paint: "How the hell does he know that's the right place for that blob of red paint???"
Have you ever talked to an "artist"? Esp one acknowledged as being "successful", "good", etc.? They have their own language. And, it isn't even shared among *other* (equally successful) artists!
The only thing that is truly "clear" is the finished work (often shown at the start and end of the "lesson").
Imagine talking to a sculptor about how he extracts the "figure hidden within" from the block of marble (I really mean that! Try to imagine the conversation. It's nowhere near as "obvious" as describing how to deploy a control algorithm, etc.)
I understand your point -- but it doesn't apply, here. I've not seen a video where the presenter had any "prepared" text slides. OTOH, I *have* seen videos where they had prepared "studies", "color wheels", etc. to illustrate the points they would be making (why watch him paint a colorwheel? There's no information to be gained from the *application* of the colors -- rather, the
*choice* of colors and their relationships to each other)
I;m not sure how well that would work, either. Who wants to see the presenter standing somewhere *other* than with his "work" and tools? He'll be spending most of his time showing you things
*with* those, not talking in generalities/specifics.
I saw a (live, art) demo in which the presenter illustrated some of the things he was advising against: "Don't do this -- because it makes a horrid mess, as you can see! (and then does exactly what he's told you not to do and *makes* that mess)". But, the difference, there, is demos are just that -- demonstrations. They are usually much shorter (30min) and not concerned with making a real piece of art. Instead, they are demonstrating a *technique*. The equivalent of the "video" would be the 4 day class that (usually) begins the next day (i.e., the demo gives everyone a taste of what he'll be teaching; only the folks who've paid for the class will get the rest of the instruction)
The videos seem to follow the line of producing a finished work. So, there are no unfortunate or deliberate "mistakes" thrown in for entertainment. Unless something unfortunate happens ("by chance"), everything looks like it was *designed* to happen the way it did.
Some artists will recount anecdotes of their travels or how they learned a particular technique, etc. to fill the dead air while they finish laying in a background wash (nothing to describe, there... just takes some time to actually *do* it).
But, for the most part, they're just trying to "get it done" and not make any embarassing mistakes (imagine if someone watched
*your* creative process and blemishes along the way)
This is a double edged sword. First, it assumes the folks asking questions ask *good* questions -- questions comparable to those that the viewer might want answered. Second, it assumes that those watching don't disturb the presentation -- injecting background noise or causing the presenter to spend so much time focusing on *them* that the video viewer feels left out of the presentation.
I watched a series of "lectures" from a remarkable illustrator. He was excellent at explaining why you drew particular things in particular ways (e.g., the underlying anatomy in living things; relationships of light and shadow; etc.). But, the videos were poorly produced. As if someone had set up a microphone in the room and pointed a camera (or two) at the presenter and his easel (which is where he spent 99.93% of his time).
So, you'd hear people coughing, crickets chirping, chairs scraping as they were slid in/out, etc. And, all the while, you felt like you were an outside observer watching one of his classes -- not an active viewer.
I think you have to forcefully inject that into a prerecorded video. I.e., there is no one in the room with the viewer to *suggest* they get up and take a break. Hence my idea of artificially splitting the presentation over two 45 minute "sessions" -- requiring an unnecessary media change between them. To act as a sort of "strong hint" that you should take a break -- and, possibly, come back at some other time.
[The series I am preparing to watch, now, is about 10 hours on 6 DVDs.
*I* will be overly aggressive of my use of the "pause" feature -- even letting the DVD player spin in place overnight! But, that's because
10 or 15 minutes is about all I can *force* myself to watch (imagine watching a foreign film without subtitles... that's about how engaging this sort of thing is, for me). OTOH, I *will* actually *SEE* all of it! Others watching a DVD at a time will probably sleep through a significant portion. :< ]
One thing that might help: Break up into modules, none of them any longer than 2 minutes (ie before listener goes to sleep mentally). Each module PSR:
Presentation of problem = Summarizes the background, challenge, or problem, for example: "within tight time frames," "during a departmental move," "while department staffing level was at 50%," "took on additional responsibilities while maintaining current workload."
Statement (i think that was the term, been over 30 years) = Tells what you did, and the personal strengths that enabled you to take action. The key here is to be specific and use strong action verbs.
Resolution = include key deliverables, ?measurables" and contributions. Even if you were the janitor,take credit for increase of workplace efficiency over a goodly period of time ("as a result of the clean environment, profitability was increased by million over a 5 year period").
That's how I like to do presentations. It also works well with feedback from the audience - you can change pace or level of detail as you go along. (Of course, that won't work for a DVD or for a big audience!)
One good idea is to drop PowerPoint. A few slides can be useful - some things are better said in pictures. But most slides distract attention, and fail to add anything to the content of the presentation. The worst is when people read what is on the slides - studies have shown that audiences remember less in this case than when they get just the slides, or just the talk.
I suspect the material wasn't very "dry" :> I can probably keep people interested watching me make "balloon animals" for the better part of an hour. But, they'd quickly tire of me drawing stick figures of comparable complexity!
Imagine, for example, producing a DVD that teaches folks how to "draw good schematics" (!!)
Chances are, much of the time, the screen will be showing a schematic in some level of detail/zoom. You won't be prancing around the room, gesticulating wildly, etc. -- because the schematic is where the focus will want to remain.
You've got to describe:
- choosing a sheet size
- grid system
- title block
- revision block
- overall structure of the document
- signal flow
- some basic set of symbols and their orientations
- other "conventions" to increase comprehension
- off-page connections
- adding manufacturing details
- addressing revisions
- breaking the circuit down into "logical pages" etc.
After an hour, I suspect most folks will be tired of hearing you drone on and on about these details. There aren't many *natural* opportunities to inject humor, diversions, distractions, etc.
Think about it. How *would* you prepare a non-interactive video for something as "trivial" as schematic preparation?
Once you've addressed that, imagine making the sequel: "All About (PCB) Layout"
And, don't forget "Board Stuffing for Dummies"
I am actually serious -- each of these can be chock full of good, detailed information... yet boring as watching grass grow! Think about how you would set up the camera angles, where you would stand, what you would say, how *you* wouldn;t get sucked into the monotony, etc.
Would you break the Schematic video into 10 different 10-minute "lessons" just so you could artificially shorten the duration of each "episode"? When would you expect the viewer to set the video aside to finish on another day?
Yes, but when you do it again, later in that 90 minute presentation (and, again in the *second* video -- "Layout"), it becomes cliche: "OK, we've had our laugh, now he'll be back to the boring stuff..."
I had to make some reprints of SWMBO's original art. I thought it would be amusing to insert (Photoshop) a little, yellow rubber duck in one of them (just a "gag" copy). It wasn't regarded as humorous. :<
Zzzzz... Wha'? Oh, sorry Don. Were you saying something?
Please, _not_ like that. I've had to sit through lectures, I've seen software "tutorials", and I've watched videos all of which used this "Follow the book. Step. By. Step." approach, and I'd really, _really_ like to see it exterminated.
This seems like a good time to put in a few plugs:
Tufte, "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" William Zinsser, "On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction"
Being Scheherazade: The Importance Of Storytelling In Academic Writing
Book, paper, lecture, or video, the heart of the matter is that "your" intent is to convey knowledge or experience to some individual or group. Ideally, you'd begin by defining to yourself (and probably somewhat loosely) exactly who your intended audince was, and what it was that you wished to convey; a presentation on "How to use Eagle CAD" to senior Intel designers would be at least slightly different from "Introductory Schematics" for high school Juniors. Are you explaing "How to draw something someone else can read on the Internet"? Or is it "How to draw schematics to HP factory specifications"?
Assumed background, and vocabulary in particular, is critical. When you show a schematic and mention "2N3904", "MOSFET", or "16-bit data bus", are you telling your audience something they already know? Or will they assume that this is something you'll cover later? If you can find some way to state simply and clearly up front what your intended goal for the video is, you give your audience a chance to decide whether the material is what they are looking for.
Redundancy is not a sin (though repetition often is). The first time I recall trying to read a schematic I think was learning how to make a "nail and magnet wire" electromagnet, and the first thing I had to learn was how to make the link between "a spool of wire and a #6 dry cell" on the one hand and those "funny blobs and squiggles" on the other. Having drawings of each, showing how the "real things" corresponded to the "circuit things" in a complete real-world example -- was extremely helpful to me. ( Of course, I still had to learn what things a schematic _doesn't_ say -- the difference between a #6 dry cell and an AA cell, for example. )
In your hypothetical example video, you could show a simple schematic, then show a populated PCB made from it. And perhaps then show a different board made from the same schematic, demonstrating how the same "funny lines" _can_ be interpreted differently by reasonable people. Knowing the "areas of ambiguity" is important to the grasp of any material.
One way (among many) of avoiding the tedium of the "Table of Contents" approach is to explain why what you're talking about is important. And why it is important to your audience. ( Is it? Did you tell them why? )
Your stated goal (for this discussion) is to pass on "good" schematic design. Concepts can be defined positively ("139 Principles of a Good Schematic"), but they can also be defined negatively, and sometimes it's easier to define the often nebulous boundary between "good" and "bad" by working first from the outside in, and then from the inside out. And it can be done by example, since humans are remarkably good pattern-detectors:
"This is a truly awful schematic" (why?) "This one is even worse!" (why?) "And this one is horrendous!!!" (why?)
What are the _effects_ of "good" vs. "bad" schematics? If you're talking to a group of HP engineers, what are some of the short-term and long-term consequences to those _using_ someone else's "bad" schematic? What is the effect on the company? The customers? ( I'm not talking about a fifteen minute digression, but a few short, real-life experiences -- especially ones with horrible consequences -- would add "color" to what you're saying, and that will help your audience retain it as part of their "why". Even serious mistakes, if clearly described, can be part of an educational curriculum -- ask me some day about Dr. Bergren's "95 Theses on Education" from my first year at New College. )
After you've explained how to recognize "bad" schematics -- they tend to let the MagicSmoke(tm) escape -- you can segue into "How to avoid these problems":
- "Bad Idea #1" example. How to avoid. - "Bad Idea #2" example. How to avoid. etc. ( but _not_ ad infinitum. )
Finally, a list of things your audience can use to help themselves after you're "gone":
- Run an auto-router on your schematic and see if it spews out pages of problems. - Ask a co-worker to review your work. - Good books to read. - Online references. etc.
Um... "This is a bad layout. The idiot did this: ..." "This is a worse one. ..."
First Rule: Never, never, never, never, never, never sneeze.
I think that those could be made just as interesting. And informative.
( But then, I'm a "bleedin' optometrist" by nature. )
Those come later. If I were looking over your shoulder, what would you be pointing to, and what would you be saying?
If I'm looking over your shouldder, I just say "Wait a sec.!" and run to the cuarto de bano while you're on [Pause].
If you do make a long-ish video clip, think about how your viewer will find his way back to the same spot in the clip tomorrow, or a week from now. Or how he can describe to a co-worker how to view your examples of "truly horrible schematics".
Ah, well. I've run out of steam. I hope you can find something useful in this rambling.
Gallipoli illustrates a principle which began to be apparent in
European wars as early as the Armada. It is that distance lends