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When is an action complex enough to warrant video over photos?

I'm wondering if there is any general guideline the DWS experts might have on when it would be appropriate to use video instead of a series of photos to describe an action?

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Videos make a great supplement to guides, but when you're thinking about including a video, remember the advantages of using photos instead:

  • Portability (you can't print a video).
  • Internationalization (photos are language independent, but a video with audio directions will need captioning or dubbing to translate).
  • Quick access to information—a photo conveys the entire message in a single glance, while a video may require waiting for the relevant part to play.

That said, there are plenty of times when a video is a great supplement to your guide. The Tech Writing Handbook has some great examples:

Use videos when…

  • Demonstrating rotation procedures, like how to turn an out-of-the-way valve.
  • Demonstrating involved actions, like threading a sewing machine, picking a lock, or tying a knot.
  • Demonstrating states that do not translate via photography or text, like testing if the custard you’re making is “jiggly” enough, identifying which clanking sound an engine is making, or determining if the concrete you’re mixing is thick enough.
  • Demonstrating how much force to use, like how hard you have to pull on an iMac cover before it actually pops off.

A good rule of thumb is to always start with photos and lay out the entire procedure. While you're taking pictures, you may find specific procedures that are too difficult to clearly share with pictures. That's when it may be video time.

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Author avatar Eric Doster will be eternally grateful.