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Using Video for Learning, No Matter Your Budget

We are all steeped in visual media, but few entertainment mediums grip us quite like video, with more streaming subscriptions than ever before, and the prolific tendency to “binge-watch” a favorite show is evidence of this.

Video excites people and can help them remember information, which means learning and development (L&D) professionals can leverage video to drive meaningful behavior change.

Creating engaging and effective learning videos can be a game-changer for your organization, but there is a common misconception that creating learning videos requires a large budget. However, there are many ways to create and use video depending on your learning needs and organizational budget. Let’s explore the impact learning video can have, different types of learning videos, and which kind may be right for you.

Video as an Engaging, Gripping Learning Medium

Video is an effective, exciting learning delivery medium in today’s world, and every organization can benefit from using video as a component of its learning solutions. The use of narrative can enable learning—and retaining information—in a way that few other methods can. It is also the most powerful medium available to us for behavior change (rather than, say, the learning of a mechanical process).

There is now some solid scientific evidence on the effects of emotion on memory—the two have strong links. So, a dramatic scenario in which the viewer feels empathy, for example, is far more likely to “stick” than a simple rendering of learning points.

Well-crafted narratives can engage learners in the most profound way, capturing their attention before involving them in whatever needs to be learned. Relatable and emotive storytelling makes video a powerful tool to drive behavior change for your learners.

There is currently something of a renaissance for video as a medium for learning, likely because of increased streaming speeds and the relative cost reduction in film production in recent years.

It is an excellent time to consider what video can offer your organization and learners.

Are Learning Videos Expensive?

Learning videos have traditionally been regarded as a relatively expensive medium compared to interactive learning modules or other methods of delivery. In real terms, however, costs have plummeted over the last decade or so. Equipment meets higher specifications at no greater cost than before, and advances in software have reduced editing time.

There are many different levels of quality in video, and assuming that your learners’ expectations are met, you can consider any quality level. For example, footage shot on your smartphone can be entirely appropriate—after all, most YouTube videos are produced this way. For cinematic-level and dramatic storytelling , however, a higher quality may be needed.

There are many variables involved within a video budget, so offering even ballpark figures without specification is difficult. But many of our clients now regard video as perfectly viable within their training budgets, and some of our most creative solutions have emerged from restricted budgets.

Video Comes in Different Forms and with Different Price Points

Documentary Video

Something of a catch-all term, a documentary can take many forms—from a formal interview with a CEO to a voiced-over presentation created with stock footage. There is a wide range of options in between, including advertorial communications pieces, case studies, and product explainers.

As with dramas, non-fiction formats are varied and can include the following:

  • Interviews with cutaways
  • Case studies
  • Product explainers
  • Vox-pops
  • Advertorial
  • Mixed media presentations

While it is possible to create any of the formats listed above, it is more effective to create a blend of these that fits the project’s precise needs. So, many of our documentary products include combinations of different formats—for example, stock footage with voice-over and animated elements or vox-pops with B-roll footage in a case study style.

The Benefits of Documentary Video

The documentary format is particularly effective for showing complex physical processes, like the various tasks on an assembly line. These tasks can be clarified quickly and precisely when filmed.

A documentary also gives context and authenticity to your messaging, which can be vital. The British Army, for example, usually prefers documentary to drama videos. Because it is easy for soldiers to spot people who are not in the service, service members can easily tell actors are being used in a training video, which can reduce the authenticity and lessen the impact of the training.

The Investment for Documentary Video

Documentary tends to be less expensive than scripted drama because, with drama, the usual “minutes per day” of final footage is higher than with documentary footage. There are also fewer costs for actors, wardrobes, props, and so on.

The design phase of documentary videos is also much quicker. Producing scripts isn’t usually necessary, though you will still need a detailed structure.

Scripted Drama Video

Drama video contains a cast of characters, played by actors, in a realistic setting. The characters act out a scripted story. Many disciplines and workstreams are involved in a drama video, all of which eventually combine during the shoot.

Dramas can take place in naturalistic settings, such as a home environment or your office, but they can also play out against a “green screen” backgrounds or in a studio. Dramas are most commonly centered around a specific difficulty or crisis that the characters must work through—and overcoming that problem is the core of dramatic action.

The Benefits of Scripted Drama

At its best, learning dramas touch the viewer like no other medium. They can engage and stimulate minds and emotions in profound and long-lasting ways. Drama’s primary strength lies in its ability to show behaviors—human beings in all their complexity, with recognizable flaws, problems, and ambitions.

When behaviors are rendered truthfully and with an understanding of the audience’s culture, a sort of transference takes place. The viewer places themselves in the shoes of the characters they’re watching. This promotes engagement that surpasses merely understanding facts or principles.

In relation to workplace dramas, recognition is important. We work hard to create scenarios the learner will recognize as parallel to their own. Without this, engagement can be limited.

The Production Timeframe for a Scripted Drama

On a drama shoot, there are a lot of variables that can eat up the available time.

The number of setups is key—if filming in four or five different parts of an office building, then moving from one to the other and setting up again will have a significant time cost. But if shooting multiple scenes in the same room, the minutes-per-day output will rise.

There is also a cost/complexity axis. Filming a family dinner with six characters requires shooting from six perspectives, meaning there would be a far greater number of versions of that scene than there might be in a video with two perspectives. Every perspective needs to be lit and framed—which takes time.

A real “time-killer” is noise. Filming beside a railway line, for example, means frequent pauses to wait for trains to go by. This kind of thing is often a factor when we’re making films in industrial environments.

We take all these factors—and others—into consideration once we have a good idea of what the drama will involve. We can then form an accurate estimate of how many minutes per day of final footage we’re likely to capture.

The Investment for Scripted Drama

Scripted dramas can have a broad range of budgets. The cost varies depending on, for example, whether it’s a large shoot in an overseas locations with a big cast or a simpler scripted “talking heads” piece that can be shot with a single performer in half a day.

Mixed-Media Video: A Hybrid Option

What Is Mixed Media Video?

A third option for your learning video is to use mixed media. A mixed-media video uses elements created with different tools and techniques and may include animation, infographics, talking heads, and more.

The Benefits of Mixed Media Video

Mixed media video works well if you have a broad set of content that you’d like to include in your learning. Your video may start with a talking head clip of your CEO introducing themselves and then move into a diagram with a voice-over explaining a complex process, then change to show some footage from your company’s work in action. If the subject matter is broad and you don’t have the budget to shoot everything bespoke, a mixed-media video can be a great option.

The Cost Implications of Mixed Media Video

Mixed media has a wider range of potential costs than other video formats. It can be less expensive than even a basic documentary or on par with a high-end video shoot. This is because the range of media that can be included is so broad, and each of those types of media has its own associated costs.

So, for example, a three-minute piece using stock video, voice-over, and some fairly simple text on screen wouldn’t cost very much at all. However, the same three minutes with bespoke footage, interviews, and animated diagrams would require a larger budget.

Learning Videos Can Work for All Budgets

Whatever your needs and budget, video is one of the best methods for creating an engaging, effective learning solution for your people. Whichever medium you choose, bespoke video can cover your learning objectives and give your people a relevant, relatable medium through which to learn.

Get in touch if you’re interested in exploring how video can work for you and your learners.

About the Authors

GP Strategies Corporation
GP Strategies is a global performance improvement solutions provider of sales and technical training, e-Learning solutions, management consulting and engineering services. GP Strategies' solutions improve the effectiveness of organizations by delivering innovative and superior training, consulting and business improvement services, customized to meet the specific needs of its clients. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, manufacturing, process and energy industries, and other commercial and government customers.

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