Friday, June 17, 2011

Captivating Helpful Videos

By Guest Blogger Melissa Ravely

Last week I mentioned that a large part of my job has been working with the program Captivate to create help guide videos for our patrons. To get an idea of what these videos are, check out Cook Library's Help Guides webpage here: This lists all of our help guides, including PDFs created by our librarians and external links we have found particularly useful. The Captivate videos are indicated as such by a director's clapboard, so look for that icon!

My first task last fall was to update all of the existing Captivate videos to reflect Cook Library's then brand new website. As it turned out, EBSCO had also slightly altered their look and that had to be updated as well. This turned out to be a fantastic way to learn how to use Captivate since these video files were already established so I could just learn the basics used to alter different aspects of the files. Mostly this was learning how to record screenshots of the new website and editing any text boxes that now had incorrect directions. This also meant that sometimes the voiceover was now incorrect as well, but in most cases the librarian who had created the original was still at Cook Library, so I graciously asked them to re-record a line here and there and then I learned how to insert sound clips. I also had to edit the closed-captioning, and as I discovered that many of these videos did not have closed captioning, I had to create it. (I should point out that I only thought of the closed captions near the end of this endeavor - thus I spent weeks solely adding closed captioning to all of the videos. Closed captioning was the bane of my existence those days.)

Since I was learning as I went along, I edited them in an order I established based on how much needed edited. That way, I figured I could build on my knowledge one step at a time, adding features to my skill bank as I came across them. So the last video I tackled was "Locating Books by Keyword". Since it was a video based solely on a website that no longer existed, I had to almost completely scrap it and start over. It was nice to have the script and storyboard already done; I tweaked the directional steps but kept the script basically the same, and followed the old storyboard to set up the screenshots of the new website. Here I also learned how to create the voiceover recordings, locking myself in the office late at night to ensure no background noise got picked up in the microphone, and re-recording line after line to make sure I didn't cough or have any harsh-sounding letters.

A semester later, they were all updated and newly posted to the aforementioned website, and I was the hero of all the librarians who now did not have to find the time to update them themselves in between teaching and committee work and the other projects keeping them on their toes. :-)

So then, I thought, I'm pretty good at using this Captivate program! Maybe I should make a few videos of my own! Having just spent four months listening to those already made, I knew what topics were covered and I had a few good ideas for topics yet to be approached that I felt would make for good videos. I had edited a whole slew of videos in one semester, so I thought I could knock a few new ones out during the Spring.

As it turns out, that was a bit bold. Coming up with ideas is easy, and editing a video was a bit time-consuming, but it got faster the more I did it, and a single video only took a couple weeks to update. However, I did not yet realize how much work it takes to get from "idea" to "editing".

I started with the idea of showing patrons how to use Google Scholar. As I tinkered around on the site, researching and plotting the steps I would point out, I realized I should probably explain how to use Google Advanced Search options first. So I took a small step backwards and tinkered around that search engine as well and after a few days had a nice bulleted list of the steps, in order, that my video would show.

The next step proved more time-consuming than I imagined as well: coming up with an example search that would yield a results list diverse enough to cover all of the aspects I wanted to exemplify. For Google Advanced Search, I needed a search that was complex enough to use as many of the Advanced Search options as possible, that yielded diverse results. Once I started trying current political topics, I also wanted to be sure to choose a search that would not be offensive to anyone. When trying to find an example search for Google Scholar it again took a while to stumble on a topic that yielded materials in multiple formats that Cook Library had access to, and that those examples would all show up on the first page of results.

After a few weeks, I finally had a bulleted list of what I wanted to cover, and a few good examples with which to do so. Next I had to create a storyboard of all the screenshots I wanted to cover, and at this point I also created a first draft of the script. I found it was easier to capture the screenshots when I already had a script running through my head, so I could make sure everything I would need to point out in the video was captured.

Once I had the storyboard plotted out, it was time to dive in and record the screenshots. That part went pretty smoothly. Once I started editing, adding pop-up boxes and arrows I found that this stage also took much longer than anticipated - creating all of those things from scratch takes a lot longer than editing existing ones! Once I had the video itself established, the next step was to re-write the script until I was satisfied with it and then record all of the voiceovers. Once the voiceovers were in place, I had to go back and adjust the timing for all of the pop-ups and text boxes to show up in accordance with the script. Last but not least, I had to create the closed captions and time those accordingly as well. (Once again, closed captioning was the bane of my existence!)

In the end I had a massive, 9 minute long video. Our "best practices", as established by video creators before me, suggest that videos are no longer than 5 minutes (although you can see from the aforementioned list that many are longer than that). After garnering feedback from my colleagues, I decided to split it into two videos - Part 1 covers Google Advanced Search and Part 2 covers Google Scholar. This meant tweaking the script once more and re-recording a few slides to allow the videos to stand on their own. I also edited a few other things my colleagues had suggested, and put the finishing touches on.

3 months after I started, all of my hard work had paid off, and my videos were posted online for all to see!


  1. Thanks for the post. We do screencasts here at our library, and I am wondering whether they are worth the effort. If I may ask, how do you measure success? Pageviews? Feedback from customers? Any advice is much appreciated.

  2. Those are exactly the two ways we measure "success" - pageviews and feedback. We do keep track of how many times each help guide is viewed, and that information is wonderful in many ways - not only does it let us know that people are indeed watching our videos, but it also lets us know what topics people are struggling with the most (why else would they be viewing the video?) so we can target those topics in other outlets as well.

    Feedback is harder to get, since we're not assigning the videos to anyone, but we do periodically get comments about them from suggestions left on the website, and we've asked for feedback on other broader library surveys.

    Having only been a part of this team for the last 9 months, I haven't been a part of garnering feedback, personally, although I have seen the breakdown of pageviews for each video just out of curiosity.