MIT's OpenCourseWare has many video courses. They are very helpful, but compared to the majority of MIT curriculum they're only a small part. So, how much effort does it take to record video courses?


4 Answers 4


I'm in the middle of recording lectures for a class now, and I'm doing all the work (recording/processing/uploading) myself. Luckily, I like doing the technical part of it, because it is rather time intensive. I've also taught a course that had dedicated software to take care of the entire process (BB Collaborate). I'd walk into class, log into the system, push "Record" and lo-and-behold the videos (with everything I had on my computer desktop at the time) were uploaded to the site a few hours after class (and were available live to the students who wanted to watch and participate remotely). So, the effort varies depending on what situation you are in at your school.

If you have no supporting system (like BB Collaborate), plan on at least an hour or so per class of your time (not to mention render and upload time, which can take many hours depending on the length of your class and your Internet bandwidth), and this is once you get everything figured out. Oh, and that doesn't include editing bells and whistles; I basically put raw class footage online and take as little time as I can for post-processing and editing.

For a self-built system, you'll need a number of things:

  1. A decent Camcorder ($200-300 will get you one)
  2. Flash based media ($25 for a 32GB card)
  3. A tripod ($25)
  4. A remote microphone ($150 for a decent one)
  5. Video editing software (I started with iMovie on my Mac ($15) and have since graduated to Final Cut Pro X ($300) and Compressor ($50). I assume you already have a computer, but you'll need that, too ($500-1500).)
  6. External hard drive with a fast connection (Firewire or USB 3, $100 for 1TB). This isn't strictly necessary, but you'll find that you may run out of disk space quickly without one.
  7. A YouTube account (free), with a relatively fast internet connection (I'm currently faced with a molasses-slow upload speed in Djibouti, Africa, so that hasn't been fun). Make sure you verify your YouTube account so you can upload videos longer than 15 minutes.

Once you get the equipment (total cost ~$1000 without the computer), you'll need to learn how to use everything. You have to remember to record all your lectures, and plan on spending five minutes or so setting everything up before class, unless you have your own classroom. I simply focus the camcorder on the board and me, with a bit of room on the sides for me to move around. If you want panning and zooming, you'll have to rely on someone else to do it.

Getting up to speed with the editing software can take time, especially if you haven't done it before. You could spend months editing a 1-hour class, but as I say, if you keep it bare-bones you can get the editing down to an hour or so of your time, including setting up all the steps to upload to YouTube. I record all my videos at 1080p, but I upload to YouTube at 480p because of my slow connection (and my students have the same slow connection). I find that the board is difficult to read, even though the camera is only 10 feet away -- I also upload my slideshows and try to write big!

Bottom line: either convince your school to invest in a professional system so you don't have to do much work yourself, or plan on spending a good bit of time (and money, if your school won't pay for it--I bought everything out of my own pocket, but as I say, I'm enjoying it) to learn the setup and edit/upload videos.

  • 1
    Jesus,I always thought school will provide you everything and you just have to do the teaching stuff,never thought it will take so much time and efforts.You are truly doing great things. Apr 8, 2013 at 12:49
  • @AveMaleficum I appreciate that -- as I said, I'm enjoying the process, although it does take time. Apr 8, 2013 at 13:30
  • 1
    I'd recommend to add 2 additionnal external hard drives: for backups, one "close", one "far" (so that if the building burns, you still have that copy). When one of the 3 HD fails (the main one, or one of the 2 backups), replace it immediately. IOW, have 3 copies at all time, the "working copy", and the 2 backups, one close, one "away" (at a friends/parent house?). Test the backup disks at least once a month (and upgrade when the technology gets obsolete). Nov 5, 2013 at 12:09
  • Accessibility concerns often require video transcription for the purpose of creating subtitle files. For this reason at my institution we are not to use any video that is not closed-captioned. Oct 11, 2017 at 2:13

Vincent Racaniello made a useful youtube video about how he records his lectures:



By far the biggest cost consideration is time.

CGP Grey said in a 2013 Q&A (YouTube video, transcript):

I've tracked my time to get an accurate answer and every minute of final video you see takes me between 10 and 20 hours of writing and animating to make. So a typical 5 minute video is 50 to 100 hours of work.

While that's a lot, it doesn't include the research phase which is difficult to quantify -- some of the videos I've made I'd been collecting notes on for more than a year before starting.

Note though that CGP Grey is a one-person production studio. Moreover, he seems to be a perfectionist and his videos are IMHO very good.

Many other video courses I've seen put in much less work. It seems to me that some (e.g. Salman Khan) do an impromptu, one-take recording. One tradeoff is quantity vs quality - CGP Grey has 88 YouTube videos in total, while Khan has thousands.


You might be interested in Erik Demaine's set up for video classes, which seems to require less work: http://erikdemaine.org/classes/recording/

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