We recently hosted another successful live Ask Me Anything event, this time with Articulate’s very own Mike Enders. Mike shared his tips and tricks about audio and video production. Here are some of the highlights:

Ashley Chiasson: What does your multimedia setup look like?

Mike Enders: It depends on what I’m doing. For straight-up everyday work, my desktop looks like: http://d.pr/i/v4pl. Webcam in the center. Hidden back behind the right monitor is a Rode Podcaster on a boom arm.

If I’m doing something more serious, then I’ll pull out some other equipment that might come in handy. For example, this is an image of an iPad-based teleprompter that I purchased several years ago. I tend to use it if I have to be on camera with a specific, lengthy script: http://d.pr/i/1e4Zr

Trina Rimmer: You mentioned having a Rode Podcaster on a boom arm. I’m considering purchasing a boom arm for my Blue Yeti mic. Any recommendations? How did you mount or secure yours to your desk?

Mike Enders: While most booms will come with mounting hardware, they typically want you to screw the boom into your desk. I didn’t want to do that so I created my own mounting hardware.  

I basically screwed the boom arm into a piece of 1" pine, and then used C clamps to secure the pine to my desk. I also used a thin piece of carpet between the wood and desk. Underneath, I also used a piece of carpet and wood. This serves to protect my desk pretty well.

William Hupe: I would like to learn how to make video avatars for presentations using my company’s trainers with transparent backgrounds. Have any advice for somebody starting out?

Mike Enders: There are a lot of nuances to the answer, but to keep it simple, here are some quick things to focus in on:

1. You’ll need to capture your talent in front of a green/blue screen and for this I can’t overstate the importance of lighting.

2. You’ll need the software to key out the background in your videos.

3. If you’re bringing the avatars into, say, Articulate Storyline, you’ll need to output to .flv so that the alpha channel transparency is supported. But keep in mind that .flv isn’t supported on mobile devices, so take this into consideration.

Tracy Parish: For the person with no budget—what are some of your favourite free to nearly free apps/tools?

Mike Enders: For video work, if you’re on the PC, then MovieMaker would be my first choice. While not super full featured, it works in a pinch!

If you’re on the Mac end of things, then iMovie is a lot of fun and hard to beat. (I know, not the most exciting of choices!)

As for audio, I like GarageBand on the Mac and Acoustica Mixcraft ($89) on the PC. Each comes with a library of loops so that you can quickly create your own music. For super-cheap (free!), I’d go with Audacity on either platform.

Mary Kate Head: We have bandwidth challenges in many of our offices. What is the best way to produce decent-quality video for e-learning courses that won’t buffer, skip, etc.

Mike Enders: That’s a good question and you’ve already identified the issue with bandwidth. If you’re referring to software simulations, then you’re really going to be focused in on your publishing settings to try to drive down the overall file size. In general, the smaller the file size, the smoother the playback.

If we’re talking other types of instructional video (say, a ten- to twenty-minute talking head), then I’d highly recommend not putting that video directly into your course. In my experience, most LMSs (and the servers they run on) tend to struggle when it comes to serving up video in such a manner.

In this case, I think it’s best to use a third-party video tool (such as YouTube or Wistia) to serve up the content via an embed code in your course. This serves to take the load off of your LMS and will also leverages the third-party video provider’s ability to alter the stream based upon the bandwidth it senses.

A big thanks goes out to the community members who participated! We appreciate your questions and hope you learned a thing or two from Mike.

We’re putting Articulate Ask Me Anything on hiatus for the next several months, but we’re very excited to let you know we’ll be back in September with the one and only David Anderson. Stay tuned to Twitter for upcoming details and everything else related to e-learning and Articulate!

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