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Video Production Tricks With Philip Ebiner

“No editing software is going to actually make your course better. It’s HOW you use them that will.”


Phil Ebiner


Hometown: San Dimas, California
Udemy Birthday: September, 2012
Favorite Udemy Course: Photography for Kids – Phil created this course with his younger brother and they split the profits!
First Pet: A caterpillar named Fluffy


Phil has published a huge range of Udemy courses, from resume writing skills to cat ownership tips! However, his true passion and expertise lies in video production. Video production is a skill that all high quality Udemy instructors need to have – the making of videos is a large part of the course creation process, after all. Phil’s level of knowledge may be advanced, but he still believes in an elementary budget (ie. cheap). Take a look at Phil’s suggestions for producing a successful Udemy lecture!

  1. Planning: “Having an idea for how you want the course to look and feel will change how you shoot, light, and edit your lessons.” Take the time to test all of your equipment as well as experiment with different background and lighting. The Udemy Studio is a great resource for gathering feedback on different equipment and setup options. For more guidance on course planning, go here.
  2. Recording and Exporting Video: Make sure you’re recording in at least 720p (HD). This resolution is required by Udemy’s Quality Review process! Udemy’s standards also require you export video no smaller than 1280 x 720. However, Phil actually recommends rendering in 1920 x 1080! “Even though Udemy doesn’t support 1920 x 1080 playback right now, soon everything is going to be that quality or even higher. All new computer screens and even mobile phone screens are that quality or even better. So prepare yourself for the future.”

Equipment and Software Recommendations:

  • Microphone: “Currently my favorite piece of equipment for teaching online is my Blue Snowball Microphone. Audio quality is super important for online courses because a lot of courses will be screencasts or presentations (i.e. powerpoint), and audio. For $50, you get an amazing microphone that sounds wonderful to people listening. It more than doubled the quality of my videos since I got it.”
  • Screencasting: “Screenflow & Camtasia are the way to go. For a $99 investment, you get SO MUCH!”
  • Motion Graphics and Animation: “Another piece of software that I love is After Effects. It is a more advanced video editing tool for motion graphics and animations. For creating custom course intros, title cards, etc, it is a great skill to have. After Effects has opened up a whole world of possibilities that even I haven’t put into place in all of my courses.”
  • Editing Software: “I edit on Adobe Premiere Pro (after using Final Cut Pro and iMovie for 7 for years). I would never go back to iMovie because Premiere Pro is very flexible and has way more advanced tools. That being said, it is totally possible to edit high quality videos with iMovie. If you have great audio, great video, and well-designed presentations – then you can create amazing courses. Remember, these editing softwares are just tools. No editing software is going to actually make your course better. It’s HOW you use them that will.”

Lighting. Lighting. Lighting.

Phil typically uses a paper lantern from Ikea (around $15) and puts it behind his camera/computer. He describes the light as “nice and soft.” Otherwise, he makes sure to sit in front of a big window.

“In the end people will forgive you over poor lighting. But if you have bad audio or a bad screenrecording (i.e. it’s hard to see what’s on the screen or poorly designed slides), then people won’t continue watching. So focus on those two things, then once you have those down… work on lighting.”

DIY Studio

  • Find the right space: “Rule number one is to try to find a space that you can leave set up. You don’t want to have to break down lighting/camera/etc every time you’re done shooting a lesson. I batch record lessons – so once I have a setup, I’ll leave it like that for a couple weeks while I record lessons.”
  • Compare backgrounds: “Some people say ‘go for the clean background look’ and ‘find a white wall to shoot in front of’ – but I think there are so many people that try that approach, and it’s really hard to get right. So my approach is to find a background the fits you! For example, for a few of my courses I sat in front of a wall of photos and artifacts that I found around the world. I set it up in a way that was pleasing to the eye and not too distracting. And people didn’t have to wonder why I was trying to create an Apple commercial…”
  • Think about sound: “Be aware of what’s going on while you record. All of the normal sounds that you deal with every day will be an annoyance in your videos. So shut off the air conditioning, close your windows, close your doors, make sure no one is taking a shower next door.” You can also create a “studio” by bringing in pillows and blankets from around the home and covering all the hard surfaces (desk, floor, appliances, etc). But Phil’s final advice on sound? “Getting a good microphone is the best way to get better sound.”

Lecture Length

“This is a very subjective and diverse topic. It really depends on what you are teaching. If you’re giving lessons about how to live a happier life, then you better have nice short videos. But if you’re doing a course on teaching a more technical skill, people will be more willing to watch for a longer period of time.

My rough sweet spot is between 5-7 minutes. I actually work with a lot of people who do online learning at UC Berkeley, and they’ve done studies that show that for online learning 5-7 or 6-8 minutes is a good period of time.” Udemy has also established some standards and best practices for lecture length, which you can view here.

Get Phil’s Look: The basic system for $200!

Mic: Blue Snowball (as mentioned above)

Camera: Logitech HD Webcam – “I like having this external camera even though my iMac has a high quality camera within it because I can move this camera around to get a better angle.”

Recording/Editing: ScreenFlow (for Mac users) or Camtasia (for Mac or PC users)


We’ve asked a variety of bestselling and innovative Udemy instructors to host one hour Q&A sessions in the Udemy Studio or Faculty Lounge. These “Ask Me Anythings” are a chance for the instructor community to get their questions answered in real time by instructors we consider to be true mentors. To view the Ask Me Anything session hosted by Phil Ebiner, go here (Note that you will need to be a Studio member to access the link).