A common question from new instructor is: "Should I invest in a decent microphone. Or, a decent camera when getting started?"
The answer is actually quite simple. Which do you consider to be the most effective way of delivering your course content?
Or, "Is audio quality more important than video quality?"
When we ask the question like this, then the answer has to be Microphone first, fancy camera second. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of the successful courses I have watched are stunning to look at. The graphics were crisp. The transitions are elegant. And boy, that stock photography must have cost a fortune!
But above all, the audio was clear. NO echo and No muffled sound and they are well articulated. Plus, minimal distractions like music etc.
I often watch courses that need me to follow along as I learn. This means that I am not actually looking at the video 100% of the time. Instead, I am listening. Trying things on my own. And following the instructions through sound.
Think about someone showing you, how to do something in the physical world. They are most likely talking you through the process as they show you. The visuals in this case are the results that occur as a result of the instructors actions. Not the instructors face on a screen, right? When it is your turn to 'have a go', a good instructor will still be talking you through the process. By hearing, doing and evaluating your results, you learn.
Audio plays an important part in conveying information. It should be easy to think about your lectures like a podcast. Imagine that you are trying to help someone achieve a goal over the phone! Be explicit in your instructions. Be clear and concise with your directions. Be empathetic and understanding of the challenges your audience are likely facing. Talk like every word matters and treat the visuals like supporting materials.
Your audience will be more likely to forgive a blurry image if your audio is good quality. Invest time into the visuals, after you have the audio nailed. And be sure to do your best to remove any ambient sounds in your environment.
You can even try recording your audio separately as a voice-over. If possible in a controlled setting. This approach allows you to work on your video during the day and the audio at night. Especially useful if you are short on time and can only dedicate small timeslots.
My final piece of advice is to get 'up close and personal'. With the aid of a pop filter you can get very close to your mic without the audio capturing every little breath. By being closer to your mic, you can lower the gain and reduce nearly all background noise. Now, granted this can be hard when you 'have' to be on camera, but in that scenario, you should use a good quality lapel-mic.
Do you agree?
What do you think first-time instructors should invest in: audio or video?
Warm regards, Rob.
100% agree. Over time I've even been using less and less video in my courses - at least for my students, they want to see code, not me.
Also bear in mind more and more students are watching our courses on tiny screens on their mobile devices. Clear audio is required for a successful course. Fancy video should only be attempted once you've got audio nailed, and there are plenty of successful courses out there with minimal talking head videos. And don't start messing with green screens until you've got clear audio first.
- Frank Kane