The stages of video production include pre-production and planning, production, post-production, and building (uploading). Take the time to design your video and plan pre-production before following our best practice below.
Production best practice
Now you have a well-planned production schedule with the budget, script, filming location, crew, equipment and time frame in the pre-production stage, it's time for you to create media content on set.
Location and framing
Sometimes the smallest things can distract viewers from their learning. The filming set up should ensure all focus is on communicating your content.
- Avoid locations with a lot of background noise, especially sudden noises that will mean multiple takes!
- Prepare for the weather (if outside).
- Consider everything in the frame of your recording – it all conveys a message.
- Situate the educator or contributor to look directly into the camera and encourage them to be as enthusiastic as possible. Often going what feels like over the top comes out just right on screen
- Ensure presenters/contributors are speaking a little slower than you would do in normal conversation so the viewer can follow more easily
- Ensure there will not be anyone walking in the back of the shot that could distract the viewer and keep backgrounds as simple as possible so the viewers eyes are not distracted by this but focus on the person delivering your content
Low-quality audio within a video can make or break its success. Audio that is too low or has distracting music/sound effects or background noise can lead learners to switch off. It and can also block access to the learning experience for learners with hearing impairments.
- Test all audio equipment beforehand and in the location you are filming in with the person you are filming. Audio levels vary greatly with these two factors.
- Use microphones and consider their placement - just under the chin in the centre is usually the best
- Remove jewellery and avoid fabrics that rustle as these are almost impossible to deal with in post-production. Request that each contributor brings several tops you can choose from on the day.
- Consider all sounds that will be recorded.
- Avoid unnecessary or distracting sounds.
You don’t have to use the most expensive camera equipment. Filming with mobile phones, even in selfie mode can give an intimate feel to your video that means your audience will be engaged.
- Test your camera, webcam or camera phone to find their full potential with different lighting and camera angles. When using camera phones, always ensure to film in landscape, portrait is better for social media content but not other video or the FutureLearn platform.
- Avoid excessive camera movement, unless pointing towards a moving object, or using it for effect.
- If filming yourself, ensure you have enough storage space and battery life to last your film shoot
- Have a clapper board or say and log your shots. Your camera/phone will save each video file when you stop recording. It’s much easier to organise the edit if you say what section/video you’re recording before your contributor starts speaking and log the best takes in your notes.
- Consider your light sources/direction.
- If you don’t have camera lights, look for the light source and light the scene naturally. Avoid doing so next to large windows on a sunny day. Te light will change quickly within the same video. Between 11am - 3pm will avoid the most sun changes.
- Film facing away from the main light source so your contributor has the limelight!
- Consider the impact of clothing. Wearing glasses will reflect lighting. Either contributors wear glasses with the non-reflective lens or they remove them. Avoid clothing with stripes and patterns which may cause an annoying effect called moiré. Avoid green clothing if you film on a green screen.
Post-production best practice
Post-production is the editing. Editing takes time. Production is like preparing and chopping your ingredients, but post-production is where you really get cooking.
- Add the FutureLearn logo as well as your own to the video using our assets folder (see below). We recommend placing these at the end of the video so you can hook learners in straight away with your content.
- Branding should not distract from the learning experience. Brand your video content consistently and in an accessible manner. Display branding in a font, size, and colour contrast that is clearly legible on a mobile device as well as a tablet or computer.
- Add any other assets, such as watermarks that you might need
- Position titles to introduce speakers / locations / etc. bottom left of the screen. If created in 3Play the subtitles will move around these assets to ensure both are seen.
- Ensure to insert all copyright credits to any still images or stock footage you use in your video.
- All text, graphics and/or images in video are legible. When viewed on a 5” smartphone screen held at arm’s length in landscape, the text is readable to someone with average vision. See our Accessibility and inclusion policy for further information.
- Keep track of your digital assets in a media log ie.source video files, images, assets, timings for editing, scripts, transcripts etc You might need these later if you need to update your video in the future.
- Using software or websites to share and keep track of files (for example Dropbox and Trello – can be helpful!)
- Beware of visuals that are likely to cause sensory overload. Visuals in images or videos should use simple colours, instead of bright, contrasting colours.
- Level out the sound, if there are big differences across the video (or across different videos – keep it consistent)
- Add background music and sound effects sparingly. Background music can be problematic for learners who have English as an additional language, who are hard of hearing or can cause sensory overload [Source]. If background sounds are included ensure they are at least 20 decibels (or four times) lower than the foreground speech.
Subtitling and transcripts
- Create transcripts and subtitles for your videos (you can enlist 3play media to do this)
- All videos require subtitles and all audios require transcripts in order to pass QA
When you’re ready to export your video file, ensure to create a video file compatible with the FutureLearn platform. Course creator will accept videos of the following standards:
- File format/container: .mp4 / .mov / .m4v
- Frame size/resolution: 1920 x 1080 (full HD) is preferred. 1280 x 720 pixel is acceptable as a minimum.
- Aspect ratio: 16:9
- Codec: H264
- Frame rate: 25 or 30fps
- Bit rate: minimum 2 Mbps constant bit rate (2,048 kbps)
- Audio: AAC 44khz stereo @ min 128kbps
- Maximum file size for video uploads is 5GB.
- If there are background sounds (music or atmospheric), they are at least 20 decibels (or 4x) lower than the foreground speech.
Our video service (Vzaar) will re-encode the video which you upload into a variety of formats to make it suitable from play out on all browsers and devices. From your source file, Vzaar will attempt to create the following encodes:
- – SD @ 768 kbps, 648 px wide
- – HD @ 2,048 kbps 1280 px wide
- – iOS optimised versions for iPhone/iPad
If the bit rate of the source video file you upload is too low, Vzaar will not be able to produce an HD option. Export your videos at a bit rate of at least 2,048 kbps. Some partners have reported issues with this when exporting screencasts from recent versions of Camtasia, where control over the bit rate of your video is limited.
Build a video step in Course Creator
- Log in to course creator, and enter your course
- Click on the activity you want the step to nest in
- Selecting '+ Add a Step'. Select Video from the dropdown list.
- You will be prompted to upload the video. Add a placeholder video if your content is not yet ready. It is not possible to add a video step without uploading video.
- Add the step title (50 characters).
- Tick the box ‘Allow users to download video’. Make videos available to download wherever possible, unless rights or contractual agreements restrict you from doing so.
- Insert copyright information if appropriate
- Insert copy that will sit below the step. All video steps should contain text below them. Videos must always contain content below them. This includes: what it covers, who’s in it, and what learners are expected to do / discussion prompt. Use markdown.
- Add transcripts or subtitles. See our guidance on creating subtitles.
- Choose and upload a poster frame. This provides viewers with a preview image of your video. You can create a screengrab of a still from your video to do this. Poster frames are not a requirement but are recommended. The poster frame for each video is flattering for your contributor/educator and is representative of the video content.
- Video steps make great Open and Highlight steps. Select them during your build.
Futurelearn has templates for the video assets we recommend using to bring consistency across your videos. These include lower thirds/straps (for the name and titles of your contributors), transition graphics to use between shots, as well as the FutureLearn animated logo and brand font (Europa).
We recommend adding the FutureLearn animated logo (alongside your logo if you are adding it) at the end of each video.This is preferable but not compulsory. However, all trailers must have FutureLearn logos at the end.
FutureLearn brand assets have been designed to be accessible to learners. Where other brand assets are used in the course, these must be fully accessible, i.e. displayed in a font, size and colour contrast that is clearly legible on a mobile device as well as a tablet or computer. See our Accessibility and inclusion policy for full requirements.
If you have a google account view FutureLearn graphics package on Google Drive. Alternatively, Download FutureLearn graphics package as ZIP file (639MB)
The FutureLearn graphics package includes an Adobe Premiere project and also as individual quicktime files (with alpha transparency) for use in other software. See our video branding guidelines.pdf to see how these assets should be used.
The asset package contains the following folders:
- 00 Guidelines and example: Guideline documentation for use of assets and a video example showing what is contained within the Adobe Premiere project – see below.
- 01 Adobe Premiere Project: Download this whole folder if you are using Adobe Premiere and wish to open the project with assets already in place.
- 02 Animated FL logo: Quicktime (.mov) video of the new FutureLearn logo animation.
- 03 Title card: Quicktime (.mov) video of the course trailer title animation. The Adobe Premiere project has text positioned in the correct place for this title card, but if you choose to use other software you will need to position your copy yourself.
- 04 Lower third straps: Quicktime (.mov) videos with alpha transparency. There are two versions provided with different animation styles.
- 05 Transitions: Quicktime (.mov) videos with alpha transparency for using to transition between scenes. There are four styles of transition. Each one is provided in four colour variations – yellow, pink, blue and white.
- 06 Static graphics: Static interstitials and titles are provided as editable Keynote, Powerpoint or Adobe Illustrator files.
- 07 Europa font: FutureLearn’s brand font which should be installed and used to add copy to your title card and straps.
The video below shows what is contained on the Adobe Premiere project. It contains examples of the following:
- A video introduction and FutureLearn start board.
- Transition into partner start board, transition into course title animation, and transition into video footage including a selection of animated transitions for moving between scenes.
- Two variations for lower thirds.
- End board sequence. Transition into partner end board followed by partnership boards (‘In association with’, ‘Recognised by’).
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary.