Engineering

Elastic Contributor Program: How to create a video tutorial

Writing about things you've learned is a great way to help others (and yourself). But some folks learn by watching. A 2020 Hubspot study reported that, in 2019, “video was the #1 form of media used in content strategy, overtaking blogs and infographics.” Consider whether recording your screen and talking through your process might be easier for your audience to consume and for you to produce.

Video doesn’t need to be the only strategy, but a solid video strategy can lead to more engagement and drive traffic to your other content. In this blog post, we’ll share some tips and best practices for creating a video tutorial.

Choosing video software: How much will it cost?

The cost for recording and editing (yes, you need to edit) depends on how far you would like to go with both. Commercial products can be expensive. While these services come with many wonderful features that can enhance your screenshare, there are free tools you can take advantage of until you’re ready to make an investment. Here are some choices depending on your operating system:

These are great to start with but come with limitations such as window focus and limited editing capabilities. If you’re willing to spend some money for a better experience, I would recommend a few of these services that have cross-platform support:

Planning out the different pieces of your video

The difference between a free video tutorial on YouTube and a paid virtual course is the level of planning that goes into it. Professional courses have teams to help plan and script course content. Then a speaker presents and records the content in a studio or home studio. Finally, editors master and edit the content to fit the course’s brand and make the audio and video look and sound great.

Don’t worry — you can still create amazing content and a good audience experience on your own. Below you’ll find some tips for giving your video a professional feel.

Think of your video tutorial in three parts: the backstory, the setup, and the process.

The backstory: Give a synopsis of the situation

Take a few seconds at the beginning to explain to folks what problem you are solving. This will help assure folks that need to watch that they’ve found someone with a similar problem.

Be careful not to over explain. Remember: people want to hear your solution, not just your problems. Once you’ve given them a few sentences explaining what you want to solve, get straight to solving it.

The setup: No assumptions

We often forget all the tools that make our projects move a little faster, whether they are keyboard shortcuts, linters, autoformatters, or other environmental variables. While ignoring the setup allows you to focus on your code, your audience may end up with a different result. Explain the necessary things and remove anything that can cause confusion.

If you are working with a system that involves installations, be sure to demonstrate how to install them and include links to installers. If you are working in a custom environment, include anything important to replicating the situation, such as configuration files or datasets. Alternatively, you could walk through creating the environment step by step. 

The process: Making it happen

Audio Quality Is More Important Than Video Quality

While you don’t need to buy an expensive microphone, upgrading to a USB-powered microphone can give your audio a boost for $50-150. Don’t think of it as just an investment for your video tutorials, since it will also make you sound clearer in video conferences and online calls.

If you can’t buy a microphone, use the headphones that came with your mobile phone (assuming that you have one and that it came with headphones). Hold the microphone about 6 inches from your face. You can approximate the distance by making a “🤙” sign with your hand between your mouth and the microphone.

Scripting or outlining

It’s important that you speak clearly and slowly. The best way to do this is to plan out what you’re going to say. Many choose to have a script that they read from. Others will record their video and then record themselves speaking over it separately. There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach. 

It’s hard to read from a script and make it not sound like you reading from a script. This tends to make scripted tutorials sound a little dry and hard to keep up with. Remember that the content you are sharing is what’s most important, but if folks struggle to understand what you are trying to explain, that doesn’t help. 

You can outline the steps you took to complete your project in the tutorial. This adds structure to your tutorial. You can also publish these steps so that your audience can follow along. Outlining is faster than scripting, but it makes it easier to miss something important. Be sure to be as detailed as possible.

Overdubbing

A third recording approach is to overdub your script. Overdubbing is when you dub your script over a screen recording of your content. This allows you to first focus on creating your tutorial and then focus on explaining your process. This allows you to script your content without having to rebuild your project several times. If you need more time to explain your process you can freeze frame (or pause) the video and take your time to explain things.

Practice makes comfort

You can make reading from a script or outline sound better with practice. Going through a dry run a couple of times will help you speak with confidence. If overdubbing, record a few practice takes. This lengthens the process, but will improve the quality of your content.

Also, your content does not need to be perfect. The more content you create, the better you will get at the process. Be sure to make tutorials as often as possible. Any time you run into a challenging problem, start recording and talk through the problem-solving process. Once you figure it out, watch the clip and decide if a tutorial would be helpful.

Share

You didn’t make the content just to make it (or maybe you did, who am I to judge?). You want to get folks to check out the content that you made. 

Don’t forget to publish your content on YouTube or a personal blog. We're happy to feature quality tutorials on our Official Elastic Community YouTube channel. Be sure to share it on social media with the appropriate hashtags to help people discover your content. Consider taking your script and making a blog post with an embed of the video — that way it drives people to your channel and your blog.

We hope these steps help you get started creating video tutorials! Once you’ve published your content, share it with us through the Elastic Contributor Program. You can earn recognition and rewards for the videos you produce. Programs like this widen your audience and the potential reach of your videos, which can lead to higher views and increased feedback on your work.