Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Create eLearning with HD Video

Building great elearning courses using HD Video is getting a lot easier.  When we launched DigitalChalk over four years ago, we devoted a significant effort to making it easy to upload and share videos for training.  Unfortunately the elearning market wasn't quite as ready for video as we hoped.  Things have definitely changed and at this point even the most technology aversed instructors are embracing the idea that they can and should use video as a training tool.  
Earlier this year we launched a new technology for building courses using high definition video called HDLearn. We dramatically increased the maximum quality of the video that can be delivered and significantly reduced the complexity required to upload and share videos in DigitalChalk.  I thought it might be helpful to give you a few tips on how to produce videos that can be shared quickly on DigitalChalk.  
1.  Camera options - There are really two kinds of video used in elearning, the video captured from a video camera and the kind of video captured by recording software on your computer.  When talking about recording video of lectures or discussions it's important to be sure your camera supports 720p or 1080p recording in MP4 or MOV formats.  If you camera has both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, it will give you the most flexibility.  I recommend you stay away from MiniDV cameras because moving the files from tape to a computer is an unneeded hassle with today's flash and hard-drive capabile cameras.
2.  Lighting and background - It's really essential that you spend time thinking about the lighting and the background behind the subjects on video.  Poor lighting becomes very obvious to the students.  A neutral low contrast background will also improve lighting as well as help keep students focused on the subject on camera.
3.  Screen recording tools are very plentiful.  Make sure the recording tools you use can export a standard video file type.  In our experience, it's better to use standard video formats rather than Flash or Silverlight animation files.  Standard video formats can be edited with other camera video and you can use any standard video editor to make changes.  
4.  Video editors - Depending on what you are recording, there are a lot of options for video editing.  Most computers have either Windows Movie Maker (WMM) or iMovie (Mac) preinstalled.  These products are perfectly fine choices for the casual media editor who is cutting a few clips together.  Most businesses have access to Adobe Creative Suite or FinalCut Pro for the Mac.  
5.  Importing video to DigitalChalk - Once you are satisfied with your editing, it's time to export your file from the editor and upload it to DigitalChalk.  With DigitalChalk HDLearn technology you have a maximum of 1 Gigabyte per video file you can upload (or one hour, whichever is greater) per individual lesson.  The best settings for exporting are as follows:
    HD Video Sizes  a) H.264 MP4 codec (others are supported but this is ideal)
      b) 720p (1280x720 widescreen or 1280x960 standard screen) size
      c) Target bit rate or quality of 2.5 megabits per second (2500kbps) 
If you follow these settings you should be able to export a high quality video file of up to an hour long at well below 1gigabyte in size.  
Once you have created your lesson chalkboard in DigitalChalk you select the Manage Media link and click the + button to add your media file.  
6.  Tips for video lessons - Don't forget that DigitalChalk has a lot of options for putting in chapter points, check point questions and displaying slides in the chalkboard editor.  Sometimes you can mix the media and ask a question on video with a pop-up that is triggered inside of the DigitalChalk chalkboard to create a highly interactive feel to your video lessons.  

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