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6 minutes reading time (1255 words)

Practical tips for video recording your teaching


What app(s) do you use for recording video on your smartphone or tablet?

Stella: On my Android phone and tablet, I usually use the app that comes with the operating system. The various makers of Android devices (Samsung, Motorola, etc.) each provide a video recording app for their devices. Although the app that you get from each manufacturer is different, all of them function in about the same way. Keep in mind the fact that the quality of the hardware is even more important than the quality of the app that you use for recording. Generally speaking, better phones will have better cameras and will produce superior videos. 

George: All Apple devices (a.k.a iOS devices) come with a basic video capture app from Apple called Camera. For most people, it does everything that they need. For assembling a video out of multiple clips and adding a music track, Apple also offers iMovie for iOS. If you want to take control of things such as frame rate, screen resolution, and volume level, MoviePro is an excellent choice. It should be noted that the most recent devices have the capability of recording at 60 frames per second (fps), which makes it possible to create remarkably smooth slow-motion videos. 

What app(s) do you use for recording video on your laptop?

Stella: On my Windows computer, I use either Windows Live Movie Maker, software that comes with the Windows operating system, or Camtasia, an excellent program that is capable of capturing video from the computer screen as well as from external sources. Camtasia also offers amazing editing options.
George: All Macs come with iMovie, a program from Apple. Although iMovie is great for recording and especially editing a video, I find that the easiest way to make a quick and simple video is to use the recording feature of QuickTime Player, which also comes with every Mac. If I am going to create a sophisticated video that is assembled from multiple video clips and may include screen captures like those found in Mario Ajero's videos, I use ScreenFlow from Telestream. I hasten to point out, though, that Camtasia, which Stella uses, is also available for the Mac and is a terrific program.

Does your video recording app have any special features that are noteworthy?

For example, it is handy to be able to trim unwanted frames from the beginning or the ending of a video. Or, you might want to dub a music track or record audio from an external microphone.

Stella: On my Android tablet, I have enjoyed using VivaVideo, which has a good range of editing features, including trimming, copying, transitions, text, dubbing, music, etc. Edited video can easily be shared directly from the app. Another nice video editing app is VideoShow: Video Editor & Maker. This app has fewer features than VivaVideo but offers nice choices, such as an ability to draw directly on the video in order to add comments. Edited videos can easily be shared. Although these Android apps offer an abundance of editing features, I still prefer to edit videos on my computer. A desktop or laptop computer provides more choices and control over the process.

George: I agree with Stella about using a desktop or laptop to edit video. Although it is nice to capture video with a mobile device and perhaps do something as simple as trim the video and then share it, anything more complicated is much easier to do on a computer. Having said that, if I wanted to do fancy stuff on my iOS device, I would use MoviePro.

How do you upload a video to YouTube or Vimeo? Do you have to go through a computer or can you send it directly from your smartphone or tablet?

Stella: For sharing videos, I use YouTube exclusively, and I make sure that the videos on YouTube have an appropriate level of privacy set so that I control who can see them. I can post videos to YouTube directly from my Android devices, either by going to the Upload tab in the YouTube app or by sharing my video directly from the video editing app or Video Gallery.

George: Sharing videos is similarly easy on an iOS device. Once you have selected your video from within a video recording or editing app or from the Camera Roll section of Apple's Photos app, you can upload directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and other locations. Personally, I prefer Vimeo as a place to store and share videos, and Vimeo offers a variety of privacy options. NOTE: For some odd reason, videos created with Apple's Camera app are stored in the Photos app, not in the Movies app. 

Do you use or recommend an external microphone?

Stella: Yes, whenever possible, I prefer to use an external microphone when recording videos on my laptop. I especially like USB microphones such as the "Snowball" from Blue Microphones. If I choose to record video with a mobile device, I do so for reasons of simplicity, and I therefore avoid the complexity of an external microphone.

George: I agree with Stella's basic point: If I want to go for a high-quality result, I use an external microphone and record with a laptop or camcorder. If I want the simplicity of recording with a mobile device, I generally avoid adding peripherals. However, there are many choices of iOS-compatible microphones, and an app like MoviePro will let you choose which audio source you wish to use for recording. 

Do you use or recommend an external camera?

Stella: For computers, yes! The built-in camera on a computer will always be inferior to an external HD webcam. Many companies make HD webcams that will connect to your computer by USB. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is especially nice when paired with a Windows computer. For mobile devices, I do not recommend an external camera. Newer phones come with excellently designed cameras that do a great job.

George: Again, I agree with Stella. When I record video with an iOS mobile device, I use the built-in camera. I tend to update my iPad and iPhone every couple of years, so I generally have a built-in camera that is close to state-of-the-art. When recording with a Mac laptop, I love the various Logitech HD webcams, particularly the C920. The C920 has threads on the bottom that enable me to mount it on a video tripod, which is really helpful. (Oddly, the C920 is sold as a Windows-only webcam, but it works perfectly fine on a Mac.)

Do you use or recommend a stand for your smartphone or tablet?

Stella: Yes, I find that a stand for your mobile device is a worthwhile investment! Having a stand gives you freedom and options for positioning your device to capture video.

George: If you are recording from a smartphone or tablet, you should definitely use a stand. Joby makes a variety of small stands that work with all manner of smartphones and webcams. When using a tablet to record, a tablet stand (which is also handy for other purposes!) is really useful. Airturn is an excellent source of tablet stands for musicians. 

An active teacher and performer, Stella Branzburg Sick is the Managing Director of the International Piano e-Competition as well as an adjunct professor at Hamline University. She is a pioneer in the field of long distance instruction and the author of the Stellar MIDI Collection, a growing library of piano concerto MIDI files (  

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