How to Make a Video

Since conferences and teaching are likely to be virtual to an indefinite period of time, here is my life experience in trying to make an engaging video.

For the ACL presentation, I spent an unhealthy amount of time making an 11 minute video.


The internet has a short attention span.
If the opening to your video does not suggest high-quality or does not involve the unexpected disappearance of facial hair, the apathetic Youtuber is going to click along to the more alluring Transformers video (both Michael Bay and BERT are rivals).


  1. Plan
  2. Execute
  3. Edit

But those aesthetic words make for a terrible acronym, so instead let’s alter Edit to Prep. Remember to plan!


To be able to film a video one must know what the video should contain. This doesn’t seem difficult at face value, but writing out a full script requires time.
Bullet points are easy, but actually planning each sentence is time-consuming. This is especially important for the next phase, as one must roughly know what to say, and how long the script will take.
Reading a script out load BEFORE you start recording everything will take you n-length time, but will save you n2 time in the prepping phase.


This is hard. How hard can it be to memorize 30 seconds of a scrip and then record it?
Really hard unless you are a professional actor. Here you are faced with two decision points:

  1. Record everything sentence by sentence
  2. Record everything in natural chunks.

The first option is more time efficient. It is easy to remember and to enunciate a single sentence. But splicing them together, you will have small differences in posture, background, positioning, etc. I chose the harder route. I expected it would take one hour to record 10 minutes. After five hours, my battery died and I stumbled away in search of food.
It is very easy to lose your train of thought by the 3rd or 4th sentence. And each of these chances is independent of one another. So if you have a 1% chance of screwing up each word you only have a .99 * .99 * .99 … chance of getting through your whole paragraph. And the longer you go, the more your brain is fried and the more mistakes you make.

I initially thought it would be easier to do with a camera helper. However, given the amount of time it takes, you’re better off investing in a tripod (~$20 for a wobbly smartphone one. I assume more for a real set-up). I assume there’s less stage fright as well if you only have yourself to dissapoint everytime you forget the next word and make an awkward pause.


Unless you are a professional and know what you’re doing, this is rough. I used iMovie and that took hours of unexpected time. Why? Mainly because exporting your 10 minute video can take an hour in high quality resolution.

Syncing up music with video is a pain. Editing sound ex-post-facto is not worth the effort; go back to the Execute step. I had mispronounced Harbingers and had to spend an hour rerording audio takes of a single word pronouncition, and adjusting overall volume to try to sync up the original audio with a re-recording. Background noise will get you.


In personal experience, I unexpectedly found that 1 minute of video takes an hour of effort. Perhaps longer if you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. (As an excercise for the reader, how does one stand in the EXACT same place when filming with a tripod?)