I’m on a mission to help people make and use video for learning purposes. To record learning video like a professional will elevate your deliverables. If you haven’t already read about the importance of conducting a needs analysis, spending time scriptwriting, and going through the process of pre-production, please do not read this post. A professional learning video requires careful planning before you set up the lights and connect the microphone.

Perhaps you are ready, or you want to look ahead so that you can be ready. Either way, let’s level up your pro-skills. Check out the five steps to record learning video like a professional:

  1. Makeup and meet up
  2. Light like a professional
  3. Record professional audio
  4. Red light is good
  5. Track the takes


So let’s get to it!


Thank you for coming today. I’m so looking forward to helping you look amazing on-camera today!

~Chris Karel, addressing professional actors and employees when they arrive on set. 


5 Steps to Record Learning Video like a Professional

Whether you are talking to your team, the client, or a professional actor, remind them what you are doing. You can say:

“I appreciate your help with this project. This video is different from a commercial or a product promotion piece. We are making a video for learning purposes. These types of video come with the promise to improve knowledge, skills, and behaviors.”

Then, explain how their role will help deliver on the promise. Once you’ve set expectations – which includes establishing a positive and collaborative tone for the shoot -it’s process time. And, process time starts with makeup.


Guidelines for reopening learning video production - “STAY SAFE” from COVID 19

Clients, crew, actors, and employees at the location should:

  • Avoid work if symptomatic (dry cough, sneezing, fever)
  • Agree to have their temperatures taken by an infrared thermometer.
    • If anyone presents an elevated temperature or symptoms, they must leave the recording session and return home.
  • Maintain a distance of six feet or more at all times.
  • Wear a protective mask that aligns with CDC guidelines at all times. (Actors may remove their masks only for the period of performance time.)
  • Practice safe hygiene behaviors:
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or a “dab
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after meals.
  • Avoid personal greetings that involve touching.
  • Ride separately to and from the location.




Makeup and meet up

In video for learning productions, there is usually no budget for a dedicated makeup artist. As a result, makeup duties tend to fall to the production crew or the management team.

Pro-tip: Have a simple makeup kit on hand.

A makeup kit can be as simple as a comb, brush, hair spray, powder, cover-up, scissors, lint roller, and nail clippers. I also highly recommend a pack of oil absorbing sheets. It’s very common for the talent’s skin to look oily on camera. Powder or oil absorbing sheets will reduce hot spots, making them look fabulous and camera-ready in no time.

As you meet your on-camera talent, start by addressing their wardrobe and then check their makeup under the lights in front of the camera. Ideally, you should have worked out what they are to wear on camera in pre-production. Even so, you may still have to make selections and adjustments to their look on the day of the shoot. Video lighting and high-resolution cameras reveal human imperfections.

Guidelines for reopening learning video production - “STAY SAFE” from COVID 19

Due to the CDC informed guidelines related to COVID-19, I suggest that all actors bring their own makeup to a shoot. You can be prepared by keeping a stock of individually packaged powder or oil absorbing sheets. To stay safe, we suggest the actor or on-camera talent apply the makeup themselves.

Helpful links related to DIY makeup

DIY: On-Camera Makeup Tips for Women
A simple little hair/makeup kit for no-budget

Light like a pro with lights


Light like a professional

Good lighting is a skill that requires practice and should not be taken “lightly” (pun intended). If you are not using a production crew, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you record learning videos that look professional:

  • The overall look and feel matches the content
  • Shadows have soft edges (soft light is the best light for learning video)
  • There are no hot spots, bright spots, or glare
  • Use backlight to separate the subject from the background

If you plan to do a lot of the recording yourself, I suggest learning about the basics of 3-point lighting, a technique that is an industry-standard. You can get a decent overview from the following links:

How to Set up 3-Point Lighting for Film, Video and Photography
Filmmaking 101 – Three Point Lighting Tutorial

Guidelines for reopening learning video production - “STAY SAFE” from COVID 19


  • All equipment should be sanitized prior to arrival on site.
  • The number of people who handle gear should be limited.
    • Ideally, each crew member should handle their own gear if possible.
    • Clients will not be permitted to assist with or handle any gear.
  • All equipment should be sanitized upon completion of the recording day.

Record professional audio

Professional audio is invisible. For example, think about a time when you could barely hear someone talking in a video or there was a loud noise that distracted you from the message. Just like 3-point lighting, audio gathering is a skill that requires practice. If you are not using a production crew, here are some suggestions to make your audio sound clean and professional:

  • Use a good microphone
  • Use the right microphone for the situation (a single lavalier mic might not be the best choice for recording a group of people, for example)
  • Always monitor the audio as the camera is rolling
  • While monitoring, ensure your levels are between -12 and -9
  • Listen closely for unwanted sounds (sirens, traffic, appliance hum, etc.)
  • Ask for another take if you think the audio is compromised

Here are some more resources that will help you gather audio like a pro even without a crew:
The Three Keys to Great Audio for Video
The Basics of Recording Audio for Digital Video


Guidelines for reopening learning video production - “STAY SAFE” from COVID 19


  • All equipment should be sanitized prior to arrival on site.
  • Every effort should be made to use a boom microphone for audio recording.
    • If a lavalier mic is required, fully sanitized equipment should be used.
  • All equipment should be sanitized upon completion of the recording day.


Red light is good!

When you record learning video, there will be some decisions you’ll make in terms of your involvement with the actual recording. Will you operate the camera or do you manage the project? Regardless of your role, you must make sure the red light is on to verify the camera is recording. For every. Single. Take.

On a video shoot, there is a common exchange you may hear. It goes like this:


Director: Audio?

Sound engineer: (signals thumbs up)

Director: Prompter ready?

Prompter operator: Ready.

Director: Roll camera.

Camera Operator: Speed.

Director: And…action!

In this context, the word “speed” is a code word that means, “I pushed the record button and the camera is now recording.” Even with this procedure in place, things can happen. Beware the dreaded phantom take: a perfect moment that was not recorded.

Above all, more than one person should be watching the timecode ticking upward and verifying that the beloved red light is on!


Track the takes

As you work your way through your shot list and script, mark it up for your editor. Script markup and/or notes are helpful during post-production. This information lets them know if there were multiple takes for a particular scene. A good editor will scrub through all of the footage you capture, often referred to as logging the footage.

You can help this process tremendously by marking which takes you think are the best. Tracking the takes is highly valuable because it can save expensive editing time in post-production. Marking the good takes or edits to the script also improves the communication between stakeholders and the editor. In other words, crystal clear communication is key to success when recording learning video.

Mark-up Suggestions:

  • If the dialogue changes, cross out the old language and write the new lines
  • Number the takes sequentially and circle the one you feel is the best
  • Write the timecode of each take on the script or shot list (only if the editor will use it)
  • As you complete a shot on the shot list, check it off
  • Provide your editor with a copy of the marked-up shot list and script, and keep one for yourself
  • Review your notes and marked-up script/shot list with your editor before they get to work



Recording a learning video like a professional takes careful practice and confidence. First, be confident that you can make effective learning videos! If my imperative command is not enough, then take the time to study how professionals create excellent videos. As you read above, it takes a variety of processes and procedures that start well before the big shoot day. Once you are there, set a positive tone, create soft even light, record and monitor your precious audio and video, and take careful notes for your editor.

You can make a learning video like a professional! If you use these tips, please drop me a line via email or Linkedin and let me know how it went. The key is GSD!

Make it happen!


Helpful Links

Before you greet anyone on recording day, you may want to learn what you should do FIRST. Here are the first 5 things to do on your eLearning video shoot day.

Do you need more help learning about what you should do before you show up for a video shoot? Check out my The Ultimate Checklist for Learning Video Pre-production

Looking to improve your learning video scriptwriting skills? Check out these six posts that will help you be more efficient and process-oriented.

Part 1: Scriptwriting for Learning
Part 2: The Writing Process for Learning Videos
Part 3: 4 Must-Have Skills for Writing Scripts for Learning
Part 4: 5 Best Practices as a Learning Video Scriptwriter
Part 5: 3 Learning Video Storytelling Formulas
Part 6: The Mindset for Writing Learning Videos


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How can these processes be better? Share your voice with me.

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