Photo credit: Kourosh Behnam

Make Your Own Instructional Videos

Many people have asked me how I make my videos. Making really nice videos ain’t cheap, but I’ll also offer some ideas on how you can make them at low cost.

I use a Wacom tablet (either a Cintiq 13HD or Cintiq 22HD, which are $1000 and $2000 respectively) which I plug into my computer as an external display (basically a second monitor). This is what both Udacity and Stanford Graduate School of Business use to write/draw on a screen. I use the graphic design software Sketchbook Pro ($25 for old versions up to $210 for the newest) to do all writing and illustrations, and Camtasia ($99 for Mac, $299 for PC) to record, edit, and add callouts such as highlighting text on the screen, making an image or text appear or move across the screen, or blurring something out. A good microphone can cost another few hundred. This video shows how we made the MOOCs at Udacity.

But there are ways to create instructional videos for free or at a low cost. One substitute for Sketchbook Pro is Open Sankoré, a free software that enables you to turn your screen into a whiteboard. Open Sankoré is great if you just want to write things, but if you want to draw fancy illustrations, Sketchbook Pro would be much better. If you’re using a Mac computer, QuickTime Player can do video, audio, and screen recordings, and then you can use iMovie to edit if necessary (whereas Camtasia includes both screen recording and editing software). If you’re on a PC, CamStudio is a free, open-source recording software and the website TechRadar offers a list of free video editing software. Finally, Wacom also offers low-cost alternatives to the Cintiqs (e.g., this $50 Bamboo tablet or this slightly nicer $100 Bamboo tablet). The main difference is your writing appears on the computer screen rather than on the actual tablet, and therefore writing can be very awkward.

So, it is possible to create good instructional videos for free — you just have to decide how much you want to spend to make them look fancy. At the very least, I recommend purchasing a Bamboo tablet and using free software for the rest.

Product — — — — — — — Free or low cost — — — — — Expensive but nice

Writing/drawing — — — — Open Sankoré — —Sketchbook Pro ($25 — $210)

Screen recording — QuickTime Player (Mac) CamStudio (PC) — Camtasia ($99 Mac, $299 PC)

Video editing — — iMovie (Mac) Free video editing software (PC) — Camtasia

Tablet — Write with cursor on computer screen (free) or Bamboo tablet (<$100) — Cintiq 13HD ($1000) or Cintiq 22HD ($2000)