Making Video Tutorials - Staying on Point

Dec 12, 2021 at 08:00 am by Warlord720

Making a video tutorial sounds like it might be fun. It can come naturally to some people while others labor on with ponderous explanations that take more time than the actual steps of the tutorial. Before going any further let me say that I appreciate anyone that takes time out of their life to make a tutorial. There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t view at least one tutorial on YouTube.

When I stumbled upon the first version of iClone almost twenty years ago, I was searching for something that could help me create storyboards as I was tired of doing so from scratch in Photoshop and other apps. There were not any good, affordable storyboard apps back then. iClone was a godsend with its super quick turnaround time. Sometimes in one day while a crew was on the clock.

This led to using iClone every day and having few features then it didn’t take long to get a handle on things, then I started doing tutorials. I tried to keep them as short as possible… hopefully under fifteen minutes… with little to no polite conversation. Just the facts with step-by-step instruction trying to keep in mind I was doing this for a lot of beginners. These users were new to any type of animation and would have high frustration levels that come with learning a new skill set.

I have to admit to saying out loud… “Get on with it!” when a tutorial drags on in explanation, as not everyone wants or needs detailed info, so I have tried to be very mindful of this with my videos. Again, I mean no disrespect to anyone that takes personal time to create a tutorial but that doesn’t stop the frustration when the ratio of blab to info is way out of proportion.

To avoid some of the pitfalls of creating a video that is less frustrating to viewers I follow a few basic steps. These are not rules or the way things should be done. It is just how I do things over hundreds of tutorials in the last twenty years.

  1. If location, location, location is the most important factor to real estate then practice, practice, practice is one of the most important factors to a quick tutorial with less palaver. I don’t think I have ever just sat down, and screen-capped a tutorial. I have always practiced them at least two or three times before I start capturing the process.
  2. If you are not good at talking on point during the recording process then record the narration later so it will be crisp. Or do both and use the best audio in the final edit. I have narrated few tutorials as it's not that difficult for me to talk as I go. After the screen cap narrating is always a viable option and easier for many.
  3. Make a beauty video for example, if needed, but use a slimmed-down, simpler set to teach the mechanics of the technique when possible.
  4. Practice, practice, practice.
  5. Use assets that are stock or are readily available as a free download from a trusted source. It may be more difficult for someone to follow a tutorial when they don’t have access to the assets used in the tutorial. This is a KEY FACTOR in my opinion.
  6. Clean up the audio. As anyone that has followed my tutorials knows… audio is my weakness. It upped my game when I found the Isotope RX audio editor. It has a great “remove breath” algorithm with many options for taking out that pesky breathing that can sound like Darth Vader’s cousin. It also has noise reduction tools like hum, hiss, and background noise removal to name just a few. There is an entire menu on the right side of the UI devoted to these types of tools. They have a thirty-day free trial, and the price is reasonable for the power of its toolset.
  7. Show a clip at the beginning of the tutorial demonstrating the final result so the viewer can see what the tutorial is about and if it fits their needs. This was another weakness in my tutorial process as I just failed to do this many times and it would’ve saved some frustration for many of my viewers that had to skip to the end to see what they would be learning.
  8. Be patient with your viewers. Most will be very nice, some will not be so nice, and others will hound you till you put a stop to it. Above all, try to be patient with everyone that takes time to view your tutorial. They could have done a lot of other things instead.
  9. Practice, practice, practice.

Another thing that I did poorly over the years, due to a lack of time and poor internet, was to answer questions on my YouTube channel. Before I retired I was too busy and the fact that a lot of questions asked on a YouTube comment cannot be adequately answered in a reply. If I was online when the question popped up and I could answer it… I did but most of the time my bandwidth was uploading and downloading project files and videos.

So, if you want to share your knowledge, that is commendable and appreciated. You don’t have to know everything or even be an expert… all you have to do is make sure your steps work. The final result will bring people back. Before long you can develop relationships that are just as fruitful to you as the tutorial was to others. People will contact you with how they do things, and you can then share that knowledge as not everyone wants to make a tutorial.

Oh… and if I didn’t mention it before… practice, practice, practice.

M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website

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