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  • Tom Brooksher

Lights, Camera, Action: Using Video in eLearning (Part I)

Video is everywhere. We watch it on our smartphones, tablets, PC monitors and HDTV sets. It comes to us from broadcast and cable TV, streaming services, YouTube, websites, vlogs and dozens of other sources. And increasingly, video is a part of elearning courses.

First, check out these interesting video facts and figures from the consulting firm Insivia:

  • 55% of people watch online videos every day.

  • 59% of executives say that if both text and video are available on the same topic, they are more likely to choose video.

  • Using the word "video" in an email subject line boosts the open rates by 19%.

  • Including video in a landing page can increase conversion by 80%.

  • Almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store.

  • 4 out of 5 consumers believe that demo videos are helpful.

  • YouTube has over a billion users, almost one-third of all people on the internet.


Before going any further, we should clarify what we mean by “video,” since it’s being used to describe everything from animated “explainer videos” to elearning modules that resemble recorded PowerPoint presentations.

In this post, we’ll refer to “video” in the traditional sense; that is, a full-motion, live-action recording of people and their surroundings. In other words, it’s anything that’s shot with a camera and encompasses movement. The raw footage may be enhanced during post-production with the addition of animation or still images, but the result is most similar to a movie.

Have you used video in your elearning, or have you considered it? If you haven’t, chances are it’s because of the cost or that you don’t feel you have the expertise. No doubt, cost is definitely a factor. But the educational effectiveness to demonstrate what you’re teaching, and to show the environment that the learner will be performing in, adds tremendous value.

But is its value enough to justify the expense? Sometimes, but not always. And regardless of whether you can demonstrate the value to justify the expense, the dollars just may not be there. Still, the worst thing you can do is to dismiss it without consideration, either out of ignorance or fear.

So, to help you with your decision, let’s break down a few issues surrounding the use of video in elearning.

Can I afford video?

Just how much will video add to the cost of developing an elearning program? Of course, that’s an “it depends” question: It depends on how much video you need, how it’s going to be produced, who’s going to produce it, and so on. For example:

  • If you hire a professional video crew, you can expect to spend $750 to $2,000 per day to record the video. This should buy you professional videographers using two cameras to capture the scene simultaneously from two different perspectives, as well as professional audio equipment and some fill-in lighting.

  • A teleprompter for actors is probably going to add $250-$500 per day.

  • If you need a lot of lighting (and a lighting expert) or have complex audio requirements and need an audio board and operator, the cost may double..

If you don’t need a full day to shoot the video, you can save some cost; the half-day expense will probably be 60-70% of the full-day rate. Some videographers may take on a project that requires less than half a day to shoot, but most quote a half-day minimum.

After shooting the video, you have to edit what was shot. This is the “post-production” phase and involves everything from creating a swirling copy of your logo to open the program to selecting the best version of each shot and digitally bringing them all together. Editing the video yourself is always an option, but it takes time. Chances are, if you don’t edit a lot of video, it will take you a lot of time. (A poorly edited video is distracting at best and a disaster at worst.)

You can expect to pay between $50-$150 an hour for someone to do the editing. The time will vary depending on how much you shot and how much finished video you’ll be using. But as a rule of thumb, you can expect to spend one to two times as much on post-production as you do on the shoot itself.

Other expenses include location, talent, costumes, props, food, make-up and hair, and travel. As far as location is concerned, you’re probably looking at shooting either on-site or in a studio. If on-site doesn’t add travel expense, it probably won’t cost more than a studio shoot. But a studio shoot that involves chroma keying (also known as “green screen”) will probably cost more than shooting on-site.

However, considering that one of the greatest values of using video for elearning is to show the work environment, equipment in operation, etc., it’s likely you’ll want to stay out of the studio anyway.

In Part II, we'll discuss the cost of professional talent and other expenses.

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