Digital video in training?

Subject: Digital video in training?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 13:57:50 -0500

Chris Morris wondered <<Is scripting for video documentation easier or more
difficult than writing for other mediums such as for print?>>

It's not necessarily more difficult, but it is different. You still need to
understand your audience, and what that audience's expectations are in terms
of what you're providing, plus you need to understand the subject well
enough to figure out what needs to be explained and what approach to take to
explain it. But video uses a different sequence from text: it's always
linear, and the conventions are different (i.e., there are different
standard ways to "say" something in the two media). Multimedia is more
different still, but that's not what you asked about. You also have to
understand that it's not as easy to flip back a few pages in a video,
underline the important parts, and make photocopies you can paste beside
your computer for future reference. There are many situations in which video
is simply ineffective (pace Tim Altom), just as there are situations in
which video can be incomparably better than text. But don't forget what I
posted earlier about online video in Quicken's online help: the user
perception of the experience improved, but retention and understanding
decreased. You may create a win-lose situation!

<<video documentation is more easily translated into other languages: No
translation of visuals needed, fewer words to
translate, lower reproduction cost.>>

That's overly simplistic. First, most video comes with a voiceover or
onscreen text labels, since the value we add is explaining what's happening
on the screen rather than just leaving it to the user to figure out. Second,
visual conventions also differ between languages. Although it's certainly
true that dropping a computer off a cliff looks the same no matter what
language you speak, there are plenty of other issues to consider: can you
use a male or female stunt model? If female, do you need to veil her so the
video can be used in Muslim countries? Are you aware of the various ways the
"standard English" hand gestures we sometimes make unconsciously can be
offensive in other cultures, including in different English nations? Are
there more subtle differences, such as a very direct style (in North
America) vs. a more circuitous style (apparently the norm in various other

<<Assuming this is true, do you think a rise in the share of video
documentation will mean less work for translators, or if there's a shortage
of translators, will video documentation help existing translators meet the

Nope. The nature of the work will change, but not the quantity.

<<With the lower word count and spoken verses printed language, do you think
translation software is more reliable for video script than "for print" text
(my one source on translation software is outdated)?>>

I'd say the software becomes _less_ reliable, because video is highly
contextual, and requires more support clues from the accompanying text. And
context can be difficult to establish effectively. Think of all the
documentaries you've seen over the course of your life: how many were really
effective, and how many were just "talking heads reading a book"? How many
succeeded with no words whatsoever? Because video is so much more artistic
than pure text, the nuances may actually require more skillful translation.

<<As I understand, video documentation is often preferred by technicians
(and perhaps some engineers) because it is highly visual.>>

In what contexts? Where the purpose it to show how something is done and
present a visually realistic depiction of something, then it's certainly
helpful and possibly even preferred. But making a video to replace "Open the
File menu and select Save as" strikes me as counterproductive. So rather
than making a simplistic blanket assumption, find out what kind of video
your audience would prefer and would benefit from.

<<Do you think people (possibly visual learners) otherwise inclined towards
more visual fields, such as graphic arts, may be inclined to become script

Think of all the films you've seen. Some creators are excellent at blending
both words and images, others produce great scripts but lousy visuals, and
others produce great visuals with lousy scripts. Most fall into the latter
two categories, and it's relatively rare to find someone who works equally
well with both components. In my experience, you don't get a truly great
overall result unless you have someone with strong visual skills who is able
to and willing to work with someone with strong textual skills.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Hofstadter's Law: The time and effort required to complete a project are
always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's

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