I submitted a video to the AALL Innovation Showcase this year. It was a good chance to stretch and, who knew, perhaps win something. I didn’t – the well-deserving winner was ReviewIt – but still had a lot of fun creating an entry. I’ve fiddled around with video editing a bit over the years but this was the first time I tried to do something for serious consumption.

If you missed the Showcase, you can see all the entries here. I enjoyed seeing the diversity of projects that librarians are working on. There’s a lot of creativity going on and a 5 minute video is a surmountable hurdle to present it to colleagues.

It occurs to me that you could put together quite an engaging virtual conference session that involved short videos – say 4 or 5 – interspersed with Q&A with the project creators. A video would maximize the virtual/video context but the Q&A could bring some interactivity to the session. A 5 minute video would also provide content constraints that might lead to better presentations.

The most interesting thing I felt I’d worked on was playing around with virtual effects for better meeting presentations. I’ve posted about it – here and here especially – but this was a nice capstone for me. Here’s the video I contributed to the Showcase:

A Youtube video created by me for the AALL Innovation Showcase

But it takes hours to get minutes of video. It did for me, at least, as I put together all of the elements that I wanted and – like real filmmakers – found gaps that I needed to fill.

Video Editors

It is no surprise that a video editor can make creating a video much easier. I used the Cyberlink PowerDirector. It’s a commercial product but is bundled with A/V equipment sometimes. Mine came with a $20 VHS-Digital converter tool. Another tool I use, although not for this project, is the open source – and thus free – OpenShot video editor. Because I procrastinated making my video, though, I decided to use the app I’m more comfortable with.

I’m describing the process a bit backwards, though, because you first need to start to gather your materials. In my case, this involved:

  • still images
  • video clips of me
  • b-roll footage to fill gaps
  • audio clips of me (voice over)
  • music for background

Once I’d gathered all of this together, I could put it into the video editor. In my experience, you rarely have 100% of what you will need for your final output. So it is good to start with the video editor and put things you have in place, in order to see where your gaps are.

This is what my Cyberlink screen looked like for the AALL Innovation Showcase video. OpenShot’s is similar. You have a space for the media that you want to include. You have a preview window area. And you have the actual space, at the bottom, where you place each item.

A screenshot of the Cyberlink PowerDirector 12 app, with a media library at the top left, a preview at the top right, and the production space at the bottom.

I won’t spend much time talking about the editor other than it makes creating a video a mostly drag-and-drop affair. Each item in the top left media library can be dragged onto one of the rows at the bottom. It can then be trimmed or edited in place.

One tip that I didn’t stumble to for awhile is that you can split audio from a video. I was helping a kid with a video taken by a phone. It had extraneous noise that wasn’t needed in the video. You can right click to unlink audio and video in the video editor, then delete the audio and replace it with something else or leave it silent.

Images in a Video

A 5 minute video need not be 5 minutes of motion. Anyone who has seen a PBS documentary by Ken Burns or Lynn Novick has seen the effect where a still image is used with voice-over or panning. As you can see above, on the first row of images in the production area, they are still images. One is the iconic US government image for the coronavirus.

The others are ones I made in PowerPoint. I have mentioned before that PowerPoint is a bit of a multi-tool for me. One reason I used it for this video was that it had much finer tools for creating text titles and labeling. Once you’ve created a slide, you can export it as an image file.

PowerPoint with AALL Innovation Showcase slides before saving as images.

PowerPoint also gives you access to large collections of interesting photos. I used one of my own but also some that I surfaced through the PowerPoint image search tool. Since it allows you to limit to creative commons images, you can find an image for almost any purpose.

To turn a slide into an image, click on File and Save As in PowerPoint. Change the format type to the image format you want (I mostly use .PNG) and when it asks what you want to save, just save the Current Slide. If you have created multiple, like I did, you can also export the entire slide deck as images.

Background Sound

Unless you are purposefully doing a silent film, audio is a nice enhancement for a video. What I found as I listened to my video presentation, though, was that it sounded a bit boring. It made me realize that, in many videos, there is a backing track to cover the pauses and silence between ideas.

I also had voice-overs to add, audio that wasn’t part of any video file. My main audio tool has always been Audacity. It is open source and regularly updated. It’s great for recording audio of all sorts – I’ve even used it to save vinyl LPs as digital files.

Just as with a video editor, an audio editor allows you to do a lot of fine work. You can obviously record and re-record your audio. Or you can cut out bits and splice others together. You can alter the audio to make it more ominous or louder or quieter.

What to do about background sound, though? I can play an instrument but not well enough that I’d want to provide my own backing track. Fortunately, just as there is with software and images, there are creative people sharing their music.

I used the Free Music Archive to find the music that I incorporated into my video. Once I’d found a piece of music that had a license that allowed me to re-use it, I dropped it into the video. I found that the music was a bit louder than I wanted so I used Audacity to make it quieter.

There are a number of ways – I selected the entire clip and used Amplify with a negative number. I also ended up just using part of the audio and looping it, in order to fit the breaks in my video and the overall timing.

A screenshot of the Audacity audio editor with a music file loaded into it.

Sharing and Accessibility

We had no restrictions on how to share our video for the Showcase. I initially shared it as a link to a media file. But it occurred to me that I could do better. One significant drawback to using a video format is that it may be inaccessible to people who are unable to view or hear it. Thanks to YouTube, it is easy to try to improve that accessibility.

I uploaded the video to YouTube and it attempted to automatically generate subtitles. Like a lot of automation, it is mostly accurate but not entirely. Fortunately, you can go into the subtitles for your video and improve them.

A screenshot of the YouTube studio interface with the subtitle editor open.

This allowed me to fix typos, capitalization, and add punctuation like commas that would make the subtitle more legible. YouTube can also support multi-lingual subtitles so that you can make your video subtitles appear in the languages of your audience. This can result in better translation and more accurate representation of what is being spoken (or to provide cues that music is playing and there are no words).

Once it’s on YouTube, you can also share it effectively all over the place. It is easy to generate an embed code to place it, for example, in your Innovation Showcase entry so that visitors can see it without having to click through to a link. Sites like WordPress (and this blog) have a YouTube embed shortcode so that it is easy to share a video.

All in all, I had a fun time. It was a good stretch for me to try new things with video and audio editing tools. I had never really thought about how many small components it would take to create a short video. I would probably increase the number of elements the next time, as I spent a long time on my opening shot. But I am most grateful that AALL put on the Showcase, because I often need a purpose to engage in practical learning and this was a perfect goal to get me to do the work!