While presenting video clips is very effective, creating them can be very time consuming—and usually happens at a time when you are already busy analyzing data and creating deliverables under tight deadlines. However, if you’re well prepared, editing video clips can be a quick process that produces compelling videos. On the other hand, if you’re not careful, editing video clips can suck up precious time and produce boring videos that no one wants to sit through. Following the tips that I provide in this column will help you to create better research videos in less time.
Preparing for Editing
Just walking into the editing room without a plan is a recipe for disaster. When you’re already under a tight deadline, the last thing you want to do is to waste precious time editing video clips.
Mark Potential Clips as You Take Notes
As you take notes during your research sessions, use some type of simple notation to mark good quotations, examples, and problems that might work well in a video. For example, when a participant says something really profound, I write down as much as I can and put a Q or GQ—meaning quotation or good quotation—to the left of my note. When I see a good example of a problem or behavior, I write GE for good example.
If you have the luxury of having a second person act as note-taker, you can have that person log events using your logging software. Tools such as Morae Observer let you log events with various codes to indicate quotations, errors, or other items of interest. Each event gets logged at a particular point in the recording, making it easy to jump to that part of the recording when editing.
Do Your Analysis First
Analyze your findings first. As you type up your notes or simply look through your handwritten notes, highlight items that you might want to capture in video clips. As you note problems and issues, decide which ones are most important to show in your video.
Decide What You Want to Show
You’ll rarely have time to create video clips covering everything, and your audience won’t want to watch too many clips, so you’ll have to choose the best clips to show. The following types of things usually work well in video clips.
Occasionally, you’ll get a great quotation that seems to sum up an issue perfectly. Hearing something directly from participants is far more powerful than your trying to paraphrase it.
Issues That Are Difficult to Explain in Words
Some things are simply easier to show than to try to explain. If showing a video clip would help others to understand an issue better, create a video clip.
When an issue is controversial, sensitive, or you’re concerned that your audience won’t believe your data, it helps to have video as a backup. It’s hard to argue with something after seeing several participants experiencing the same problem. It also helps you to avoid their blaming the messenger.
Very Common Problems
Short clips of many participants experiencing the same problem or expressing the same opinion are very convincing.
Often at the end of a usability test session, you’ll ask participants for their overall opinions. When you summarize such opinions, they usually sound very generic. For example, “Most people liked the application.” It’s always more interesting for an audience to hear the participants’ opinions in their own words.
List the Video Clips to Create
List the video clips that you want to create, what you want to show in each clip, and which participant recordings to use. Put them in order by priority, so you focus on the most important clips first.
Set a time limit and keep track of the time you’ve spent editing video. This always seems to take more time than you think it will. Often, you’ll start editing and find that hours have passed before you realize it. Stop when you reach your time limit, and use only the video clips that you’ve created up to that point.
Editing Video Clips
Armed with a plan, you’re ready to enter the editing room and begin creating your video.
Find the Video Segments That You Need
The hardest and most time consuming part of editing is digging through hours of video to find the segments that you want to include. If you used logging software such as Morae Observer, it’s easy to find exact locations using the markers that you logged. But if you took handwritten notes, you’ll have to do a lot of watching and jumping around in the videos to find what you need.
It’s usually much easier to find things in videos of usability test sessions than in those for field studies. Because usability testing is normally structured by tasks that the participants perform and questions that the moderator asks in the same order during each session, you can find things by looking at the screens that the participants are viewing and knowing approximately when each task occurs.
Field studies are so unstructured and unpredictable that it’s much more difficult to find specific video segments. You can try to time-code your handwritten notes by noting the approximate time of each quotation or example, but that can be difficult to do. Often, it’s best just to use a location in your notes to narrow things down to the approximate segment, then listen from that point on to locate what you’re looking for.
Establish the Context
Set up the task or situation at the beginning of the video clip, so your audience will know what they’re seeing. Although you may explain each clip before you play it during your presentation, those who watch later won’t have that context. So the clip itself should make it clear what you’re showing.
Include the moderator’s question at the beginning of each video clip. For example, “How would you find out how to get to that restaurant?” Then show several participants trying to perform the task. But include the moderator’s question only at the beginning of the clip. It’s annoying to hear it repeated for each subsequent participant.