Nov 292015
This entry is part 6 of 17 in the series 2015-16 Program Chronicles
Clapper board

At the November program meeting of STC New England, two video content creators told a large and lively audience, “you too can create videos.”

On Thursday, November 19, at the STC New England monthly program in Burlington, Mass., two Autodesk content developers, Lisa McCarty and Jeff Hanson, described their process for developing and producing top-quality videos for complex software in a presentation titled “Videos as Learning Content—How to Get Started.”

Lisa, a learning content developer, and Jeff, a subject-matter expert, produce Autodesk Revit online help, including supplemental two- to three-minute videos, each focused on one essential skill. Why incorporate videos? Lisa and Jeff said that their users wanted them, and Autodesk software presents well in video. According to Jeff, “Being able to host video in our online help is a real plus that supports multimodal learning.” To validate their work, they piloted their initial efforts at the Bentley University usability lab.

Jeff Hanson and Lisa McCarty of Autodesk during their presentationRick Lippincott

Presenters Jeff Hanson and Lisa McCarty shared their expertise in video production

Each video takes about a week to create. Storyboards, originally invented for the film industry, are still valuable for planning, and Jeff and Lisa use PowerPoint to create theirs. Each storyboard covers 10–15 seconds of video and includes a screen shot, actions, and script. Storyboards are reviewed, approved, and saved as project artifacts.

The tools of their trade include TechSmith Camtasia, Adobe Audition, and a good USB directional microphone. With experience, Lisa and Jeff have developed a visual style guide for length, pacing, and preferred special effects. One of the necessary skills is narration, and they ended up offering a voice workshop for the entire team.

After the video is created, they add captions, which allow for localization and accessibility. The final version, along with the storyboards, are archived in SharePoint. The finished video, in MP4 format, is embedded into Revit help (which you can check out at and also posted to the Autodesk YouTube channel. Jeff commented, “Once marketing sees the first video, and sees the view count rise, they’ll be begging for more.”

During the Q&A, Jeff reported that they actively maintain core videos while creating about 30 new videos each year. He commented, “If you’re really serious about about producing videos, it might be good to have a dedicated person doing them. But having everyone on the team be able to do them is invigorating.”

One attendee commented, “[The presentation] was both practical and forward-looking. Video production is an area where many tech writers are now being asked to work without any formal training or experience. This presentation helped present the foundational concepts and provided some lessons learned that will help tech writers get started.”

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