Tips for Making Tutorial and How‐To YouTube Videos

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

Search on YouTube and you’ll find endless videos that explain how to do everything from kissing a girl after the prom and drawing a freehand circle to replacing an iPhone screen and making an epic movie trailer. YouTube even has videos on how to make a how‐to video.

Some of these how‐to videos provide lessons that are quite informative; some are also quite entertaining, whereas others simply serve as examples of how not to make one.

If your goal is to make a good vide rather than the typical not‐so‐good one that’s too often found on YouTube, you’ll need to heed the following advice:

  • Know the subject. It sounds obvious, but some of those less effective how‐to videos suffer from a lack of understanding of the topic from the production side. Stick to what you know best and take it from there.

  • Prepare a script. A good script acts like a roadmap for making the movie, no matter what the subject matter. So, tutorials are no exception. Though everyone has their own method of tackling a topic, one idea is to create a skeleton of the entire process by writing down every step. After that, you can rewrite it as a script, taking into account video content and (of course) witty puns.

  • Use title cards. Title cards are not only cool in an “old school” kind of way, they can also help viewers understand the topic. Using words in your video helps the lesson sink in. You can use title cards to introduce each step, and to provide a summary.

  • Shoot cutaways. A cutaway is one of the most effective components in a movie. It’s basically a break in the current video by the insertion of another shot, one that’s often related to the action at hand. Close‐up and detail shots provide a clearer picture (pun intended) of the use of cutaways, but don’t do them while shooting the actual video lesson. Instead, shoot them afterward, or before if that’s the way you roll. Why? So that you have clean shots to edit later. It’s often jarring for the camera to zoom in during the lesson.

  • Shoot multiple takes. Editing is your friend, so shoot several versions of the same scene to try out different approaches or simply to get it just right. These alternative shots give you enough content to work with while editing.

  • Make sure the narration is clean. Clean means clear and concise speaking, simple phrases, and no jargon. And one more thing: Read the text many times to get as comfortable with it as possible.