A Tutorial on Hoop Tutorials

Hula hoop trick and movement tutorials are the key to our online community sharing its knowledge. Some tutorials are incredibly good, others are unfortunately difficult to watch due to technical failures, poor editing, or bad planning.

I’ve been a hooper since 2008, but a video producer/editor since 1995 and an educator for even longer than that. I have made scores of educational videos and tutorials.  I have some opinions about what makes a tutorial video great:

Filmed in good light with clear sound and an awareness of surroundings and distractions, the teacher knows her topic. The tutorial begins with a view of the goal. The material is explained using at least two learning modalities (visual, auditory, reading, etc). Teacher and editor know where to place emphasis in the tutorial – more time on the tricky parts, less time on the credits. The footage is filmed with the final video in mind and edited with an eye for brevity and clarity.  Overall the tutorial teaches the topic well and offers inspiration beyond the material.

Video projects have three stages: pre-production, production, and post-production. These are fancy filmish ways of saying planning, filming, and editing. Let me walk you through some of the points in each stage that you can consider for your next tutorial.

Pre-Production (Planning)

  1. What move are you teaching? Can you do it smoothly for the camera? If not, keep practicing or choose another move for your tutorial.
  2. How will you explain the material? What are you going to say?
    • It’s a good idea to “say what you’re going to say, say it, then say what you said” to reinforce the learning. In a hoop tutorial, that means a demonstration of the move, the instruction, and another demo at the end.
    • You might go as far as writing a script, or maybe you prefer to simply think through the main points. Personally, I like cue cards or notes.
    • It’s smart to practice your patter, especially if it’s your first time teaching or working on camera.
    • You can keep it short by paring the explanation to the basics, or make it longer by micro-explaining.
    • Consider your audience – beginners may need details about everything but if you are teaching an advanced move, it’s ok to assume some knowledge.
  3. Scout your location.
    • Do you have enough room? If you aren’t able to do the move in its full expresion, everyone will learn to do it wrong. Caroleeena once did a tutorial where the hoop was accidentally tapping the ground – now everyone taps the ground when they do the move, even though that wasn’t meant to be part of the move. Remember that your camera needs space, too, or you’re going to cut off your head or feet in the shot.
    • Make sure there is light. Indoors:  You want the light source in front of you, not behind you, so don’t stand in front of a window even if the view is spectacular. Frame the shot so no light fixtures are in it; these will mess up the automatic systems in your camera. Outdoors: you want the sun in your face or less than 45 degrees to your side. A slightly overcast day is good. Dappled light from leaves makes it harder to see the action.
    • Avoid distractions. Try not to have too many people moving or making noise in the background. If you’re filming indoors, it’s smart to remove clutter from the space behind you. Maybe the puppy needs to be in another room.
    • Consider the color of your hoop, surroundings, and clothing. You want some contrast so people can see clearly.
  4. Check your gear. Can your microphone pick up the sound of your voice? Is your location noisy or windy? If you can’t get clear, loud audio, consider doing a voice over with the explanations. Does your camera capture the motion smoothly? You may need to adjust frame rates or other settings.
  5. Find a tripod or stable platform for the camera. Keep the camera still when your hoop is moving. The more motion you add to your video unintentionally (via handheld jitter, wind rustling through leaves, cars speeding past, etc.) the crappier your video will look when it’s compressed on YouTube.
  6. Recruit a crew. You can film solo, but having one or two people to help will allow you to focus on teaching and not worrying about whether you were in frame. Someone to man the camera, another to hold cue cards, maybe?

Production (filming)

  1. Plan on doing two takes, at least. This will give you options when you are editing. On the other hand, too much footage takes forever to review. Strike a balance between “let’s do that again” and “let’s move on.”
  2. You don’t have to film in sequence. Go ahead and do the intro last, or get all the closeup shots at once. That is why we edit.
  3. You don’t have to film continuously. Short shots can be pieced together to tell the whole story. Change angle or view (close up, full body, etc) of each take to make the edit look professional.
  4. Keep up your energy. Do your best to maintain a similar tone through the whole video and every take. Give yourself breaks as needed. Have snacks and drinks ready if your shoot is going to run long.
  5. Shots to get (not necessarily all of them):
    • Demonstrate the move. Let the audience see what you’re going to teach them. Film the move in flow and also as a stand-alone move.
    • Introduce yourself and name the move. “Hi, I’m Kristen from Spin Matsuri and today I’m going to show you how to do the Twisty Fumble Super Hop”
    • If there are prerequisites to this move, list them. “You’ll need a hoop small enough to fit between your legs, and you also need to be able to do a jump-out from your neck, so if you haven’t got that down yet please check out my “neck jump-out”  tutorial first.”
    • Break it down step by step.  This is especially key in a sequence of moves. Don’t fail to mention grip, transitions, the hand you’re using, and hoop direction.
    • Talk it through, but if your camera microphone is weak or you are in a noisy area, consider keeping your mouth closed, showing each step silently, and doing a voice over afterwards.
    • Slow the move down either by doing it slowly as you are filming or in slo-mo when you are editing.
    • Show it from different angles. Turn your body or move the camera.
    • Get in close. If you need to demonstrate a grip or another sort of detail, use a close up.
    • Film some “b-roll” – extra bits to tuck between shots. Could be your feet while doing the move, your smile, an extreme closeup of the hoops moving. B-roll comes in handy when editing.
  6. Troubleshoot and give some tips. Explain what to do if it isn’t working. “If the hoop gets caught on your ear, try turning your face more forward before hopping through. I like doing this move as a transition between the Triple Hyperwave and the Shimmy Slot.”
  7. Demonstrate any variations or transitions in and out of the move to give ideas to your precocious students.

Post-Production (editing)

  1. Titles. Keep them short and sweet. Viewers are going to watch your video repeatedly to learn the move; don’t make them sit through a long animated introduction every time.
  2. Credits. All on one screen, if possible, for the same reason as short titles.
  3. Basic editing sequence for a tutorial: title, demonstration of move, tutorial in detail (break down, slow-mo, close-ups, alternate angles), tips and troubleshooting, demo in flow or variations, credits.
  4. Add annotations, subtitles, arrows, and diagrams as necessary. They can be effective in drawing attention to the details and they incorporate another learning modality.
  5. Cut, don’t fade.  Put the clips together in order and see how it looks.  99% of the time, you don’t need fancy transitions in tutorials. Save them for your story videos.
  6. If cutting together two similar shots, viewers will not notice a jump or disconnection if you use shots that were taken from different angles or put b-roll between shots taken form the same angle.
  7. Use music sparingly. Unless you are teaching a choreography, you can skip the BGM. This also avoids potential copyright and licensing issues.
  8. Trim away the excess. Seeing the teacher getting into position in front of the camera is not required for the tutorial. Chop it out.
  9. Edit at maximum size and let your video host do the final compression. Give YouTube (or Vimeo or whoever) the best quality you have.

That said, I don’t always follow my own advice. I’ll film in on a whim in my pajamas on the cramped balcony with the camera precariously balanced and my husband rattling around in the kitchen and then I’ll throw the result onto YouTube without editing. This does not create a really great tutorial, no matter how awesome my intention may be.  Do what I say, not what I do. 😉