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Tips for Blackboard Style Videos 

 
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” - ​Benjamin Franklin 

Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way to make the gear work best for 
“blackboard-style” videos. We know there are more, but this is just a start: 

Hardware 
You need to equip your talent with the ability to write on the screen and to record their 
voice with high fidelity. We recommend: 
● A plug in graphics tablet (e.g. ​Wacom Pen​, or ​Monoprice​), or a pressure sensitive 
tablet computer 
● A good-quality microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern, like the ​Samson C03U​. 
● A quiet place to record like a sound booth, or a not-especially-echoey room 

 
Software and Resources 
In order to write on the screen and capture your drawings and your voice, you need two 
software programs: 
● A screen capture program (e.g. ​Camtasia​, ​Screencastomatic​, ​Debut​, 
QuicktimePlayer​) 
● A drawing program (e.g. ​Sketchbook Express​ or Adobe Photoshop for Mac, 
SmoothDraw​ for PC, ​GIMP​ for all) 
 
Optionally, you can also acquire some editing software, like Adobe Premiere Pro. Ask 
Anthony for a license for the Adobe Creative Cloud. 
 
Setting Up the Drawing Canvas 
● Set up a large canvas so that you have the flexibility to scroll up and down, e.g. 
width of 6400 pixels, height of 6400 pixels. If you don’t need to scroll up and down, 
you can set up a smaller one, e.g. width of 1920 pixels, height of 1080 pixels. 
● Try to keep your drawing space clear – hide unnecessary windows. The most 
important window is the color palette so that you can make quick color changes. 
● Set your background layer to black – when you are in the background layer, select 
the flood fill bucket with black ink and fill the entire canvas. 
● Write on any of the other layers (not the background layer). This way, you will be 
able to erase any mistakes without erasing the background. 
 
Choosing Your Preferred Writing Tool 
● Remember to check that the ​pressure sensitivity​ works! 
● We find that if you are using Sketchbook Express, the pencil tool works well. 
● Try to use pastel colors that mimic blackboard chalks -- e.g, bright red ink on a black 
background can come across as too garish and distract from the content, but a 
pastel red would be okay. 
 
Preparing Your Images (if any) 
● If you have images that you want to use in the video, you may want to insert them 
onto the canvas before you start making the video. 
● Do make sure that you have the rights to use the images or that the images are 
compatible with the Khan Academy’s BY-NC-SA Creative Commons license (only 
images listed as public domain or CC-BY). 
● A great place for free use images is​ ​Wiki Commons​: 
○ Gray's Anatomy plates​ (public domain) 
○ Sobotta's Anatomy plates​ (public domain) 
○ Medical illustrations​ (a category with several licenses) 
● If you’re having troubles finding images that you can use, take an image you’d like 
to use and apply a layer over it in sketchbook. Trace over the image, and then 
delete the original image layer. 
 
Recording Your Screen 
● The screen capture software will allow you to capture all or part of your screen. We 
find that choosing a section of the screen works best – this allows you to keep 
windows like the color palette open, but outside the recorded section. (Photoshop 
also allows you to set two colors to toggle between; the keyboard shortcut for that 
is X.) 
● The software will record your screen and your speech at the same time, so you 
don’t have to do the recording twice. (Make sure to select the microphone input, 
and not the default option, which will be your computer’s internal microphone.) 
 
Practicing Before You Record 
● When starting out, many people find it difficult to write on the tablet while looking 
at the screen. We agree that this takes a little practice, but if it helps, most people 
get proficient after a little while! 
● Alternatively, you may want to consider using a tablet computer that allows you to 
write on the screen. 
● Alternatively, some people find recording the video and audio separately easier. 
You can then sync up the speech and video up later when you edit the video. 

Video Tutorials 
Here are some awesome video tutorials on how to make blackboard style videos: 
● Hardware and Sketchbook​ (annotations: ​never​ use your laptop’s built in 
microphone and always set your background screen to black) (by Ryan). 
● Camtasia​ (by Ryan) 
● Common pitfalls in educational YouTube videos​ (a lesson by Sal) 
● Pen sensitivity​ (by Gricelda)