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Posted on:November 13, 2023 at 10:52 AM

Todd's Guide to Creating Video Tutorials

Part 4: Time to do some prep work

Okay, you’ve gotten your script mostly written; it’s time to start doing some prep work that will make your life a little easier.

Create a show code!

First, give yourself a show code — this is a small string that you can use to label all of the files associated with your video to make things easier to find later on. At Google, we used to use a 3 letter code for the show name, followed by 3 digits for the show number. This kinda follows the system used by most Hollywood TV shows (“BB408” is the 8th episode of season 4 of Breaking Bad)

A screenshot of a folder on my Mac

The old system...

I started doing that at Plaid, but quickly realized the problem with the system is that it’s hard to remember what show number goes with what content. (Was the video about Webhooks PLA004 or PLA005?) And in my case, I’m more often trying to find a video about some topic than caring about what order they were produced in. So now I use a code where the first three letters are the series name, and the second three letters are about the topic itself. So “Plaid Income in 3 Minutes” is PL3INC — PL3 for the “Plaid in 3 Minutes” series, and INC because it’s about Income — and the “Plaid Academy iOS Tutorial” is PLAIOS.

A screenshot of a folder on my Mac

...and my new system

Once you have a show code, you’re gonna want to add it to everything — put it at the beginning of your script, prepend it to the name of every Keynote file you make, every Descript project, every screencast video, and the output of all those videos too. This will make it way easier to find these files 6 months later when you’re digging through your Google drive backups or figuring out where you accidentally saved a file on your Mac.

Get organized

At this point, there’s two other things I like to do:

  1. Create a Google Drive folder, again with the show code at the beginning. That’s where I like to put my script, early renders of my videos, and content that needs to be shared with other people.

  2. Create a local folder where you can store files related to your project. Mine looks a little something like this, although the project structure has mutated a bit over time:

A screenshot of a folder on my Mac

These folders should be pretty self-explanatory, but…

I don’t put code samples or sample apps in this same folder. I have a separate folder for all of my coding projects, and they usually live in there.

Okay, now you can order your equipment

 Wait; why didn't I do this earlier?

Yeah, you might think that this is kinda late in the process to start ordering equipment; particularly if (as was my case in 2020) hardware is backordered for a while, or your organization takes some time to approve these kinds of expenses.

But the thing is, I’ve had a lot of people approach me with the idea of making videos, and they’re really excited to get started… but then never quite get around to finishing a script because other parts of their job end up taking priority.

So while it’s tempting to go spending lots of money on lighting and software, at least wait until you’ve gotten a script written. At that point, a lot of the hard work is done, and you’ve demonstrated that you actually have the time and inclination to put together a full video.

I’ll go into equipment and software choices in much more detail at the appropriate sections, but since it might take a little time to arrive (or you’ll need to start asking your manager for approval), here a list of things you should consider ordering at this point.

For hardware, you don’t need much * Beyond a computer, which I'm assuming you already have !

If you’re recording yourself on camera, then you do need a little more equipment. I’ll cover this a lot more in part 9, but here’s the summary:

For software, here’s what I use:

Start securing people resources

The is also a good time to start reaching out to other people at the company whose help you’re gonna need later on. For me, specifically, the means finding a contact on the design team who can help me clean up visuals, because my art skills are crap.

But maybe you have a video editor or, say, animator at your company who’s available, assuming they can fit you into their schedule. I find that the “I’ve finished the script, but I haven’t recorded anything yet” moment is the best time to start reaching out to them. Having a script done means that the video is really gonna happen (and you have something to share with them) but it’s still early enough in the process that you can give them a little heads-up that you’re gong to need their help in the future.

Okay, now that your files are organized and you’ve started ordering your equipment, time to start working on your visuals!

Part 5: Start building those visuals!

Hello world!