Saturday, April 7, 2012

How to make video

I had a question about how I make instructional videos, and I'm answering it here.  My early videos are rather embarrassing, but they were useful, especially that free beginner course, and I've left them up on YouTube.  I've improved, and here as some things I've learned so far (generally, the hard way).

These are my opinions, and if you disagree or I do something that you hate, please chime in. Your comments help me learn.  We humans can't see ourselves clearly, and we need feedback.

1.  Have the thing you're teaching down pat before you begin.  (When you see me make a hat, I've already made that pattern several times.)  Spend some time thinking about the steps so you teach them all in a logical order.  People appreciate a step-by-step approach.  I jot down lists to help me show things in order.  I can't figure out knitting and film at the same time.  Instead, I have it completely figured out and then I can focus on the filming job.

2.  I use a high-definition digital camcorder (I am quite happy with my Sony) and lots of light.  It sounds odd, but the brighter the lights, the clearer the pictures.  My room is crazy-bright, actually hot from all the light.  I currently have three lights on in the room where I film, a multi-bulb overhead fan, a torchiere light and a super-bright halogen work light intended for working on cars in the dark, which I aim at the ceiling.  You can't aim it at the work, because it casts too much shadow. 

3.  Study the camcorder instruction book.  There are ways to play with the focus, lighting, zoom, and so on that are very helpful.  I work with the camcorder plugged in and I keep extra memory cards handy.

4.  Use a tripod, and use the zoom on the camera for close-ups.  As you can imagine, these very close shots need to be steady.  I do almost all my filming with a tripod, and I adjust it constantly so that I'm as close as possible to the needles (but if I go too close, it goes out of focus).  Sometimes I have to zoom out to show the general setup of the knitting.  I mess around with the tripod a lot - higher, lower, to the left, to the right, until I get the most unobstructed view.  My goal is to give you a view of what I'm showing that is better than if you were at my house watching me knit.

5.  Keep the body out of the way.  It's 'way too easy to get my hands, body, or hair in the way so the student can't see the knitting needles.  Sometimes I'm off to the side away from the knitting so I'm not in the way of the camera.  I'm awkward and maybe even klutsy at those times, but the viewer can SEE.

6.  Keep filming until it's right.  It might be necessary to knit the steps again and refilm until the shots are good, but when it's right, you'll know, and it is a good feeling.

7.  Keep it simple.  Explain more than enough.  I edit out extra explaining, but I put it in there to begin with and then make a decision later whether or not I need it.  I often coach myself to go slowly.

8.  Generally, it's easier to learn by seeing than by just hearing someone talk, and it's even better if you give people both words and pictures.  I try to point out the item when I use jargon so beginners can learn the lingo.  I have some very bad habits I struggle to break, like calling needles "stitches."  Sorry - still working on that one; maybe I can kill it one of these days.   

9.  Editing high-definition clips requires a fast computer and patience.  Before I went high-def, I had a big old camcorder and I used the built-in video editor in Windows, and it was so easy.  Frankly, if I were just doing YouTube and not DVDs and if I weren't working with itty bitty needles, I'd stick with that.  However, you don't get a crisp picture of the little knitting needles and it looks terrible on a modern television.  I have a fast, 4-core computer with lots of memory, and before I edit video, I completely reboot the computer so the video software can use all the computer's resources.  I have a big swap file, too (set it in Control Panel).  I don't open other software than the video software while I'm editing.  I don't have a video software I'm entirely happy with; I am currently using Adobe Premiere, which is better than several others I tried, but was so annoyed with it yesterday crashing that my next video job, I'll try out another product.  I have three more video software products to try that I purchased on sale, and if I ever find a marvelous one, I'll probably blog about it. 

10.  Be patient about editing.  It can take me a couple hours to create a ten minute video from clips.  It simply takes a while to watch and compare clips and trim them carefully.  You also have to wait for the software sometimes - it might look frozen when it's actually busy doing something.  I take a book to read or some handknitting with me to the computer when I edit.

11.  I like to sleep on creative work.  I will film a little over several days, and as time goes by, problems get solved.  I'm told that your brain goes on working, even as you sleep, and solutions just come.  I also like to go back and look at my video on a fresh new day and see if I still like it. 

12.  If you're teaching with YouTube videos, you get ten minutes.  I hear you can pay for a special account for longer videos, but for instructional stuff, I find that ten minutes is an excellent discipline.  Each of my lesson videos on YouTube has just one big idea:  Learn to cast on.  Learn to cast off.  Learn to sew mattress stitch.  Make idiot cord. 

13.  Your videos on YouTube remain your videos.  They're copyrighted!  Even if you don't say so in the video, people are not entitled, according to the YouTube terms of use, to pull your videos down and make disks out of them for themselves or their friends.   I permit embedding, so anybody can embed my video without altering it in another website, and I don't mind.

I am passionate about teaching MK, and I'm trying to squash that learning curve.  I measure success by whether someone brand new to our craft can learn from the video without a teacher right there to answer questions.


  1. Diana, you're such a perfectionist!! I thought the 'you tube' videos were great. Several of them I have watched multiple times. I do wish you would put them on CD or DVD & sell them. Altho I have been machine knitting for some years there are a lot of things that I never learned, because there just wasn't any one around to show me. So I am learning new things from your videos. Most everything else I learned 'the hard way' too. Keep doing what you're doing. We all love you for your dedication & unselfishness. ;-)

  2. I sell them - go to

  3. Thank you do much for your gift of sharing knowledge. You are so generous. I have learned much from you. I want to wish you a very blessed Easter! Jesus is alive! And it's obvious He lives in you. Thanks again for all the instructional videos.

  4. All of your videos are wonderful. I have sent many people to your YouTube videos both newer and the originals. Now look at yourself, teaching how to film!

    I agree with you, when you can't figure something out or not sure of something, "sleep on it.". When you wake up the next day most times you have the answer.

    The manner in which you film, explain and show what you are doing is perfect. For those machine knitters who also want to teach via video, learn from Diana!