Grant Shaddick
December 21, 2020

Make Better Videos with Scenes

Last week we launched Slides. Our newest feature lets you create professional video presentations in just a couple of minutes. All you need to do is import some slides and press record.

Slides is also the fourth kind of scene that we've added to Tella. A scene is like a building block for your video. Scenes can be combined to cover different topics or types of content. Along with screen + camera, screen-only, and camera-only, the new slides scene gives you another way to tell your story. Whether you're creating product demos, tutorial videos, or lessons, using scenes is a simple way to make your video more engaging.

This article explains how you can use scenes to make better videos.

Think in scenes

When planning a slide-deck for a presentation we visualize some version of the following: Start with an intro slide, then a contents slide, then one about background information, then a slide for the first point... and so on. Making a presentation causes us to think in slides. A similar thing goes for writing.

When writing an essay we start with a paragraph for the introduction, then some paragraphs for its main points, and end it with a paragraph for conclusions. We're thinking in paragraphs and using them to form the structure of our writing.

So like slides in a presentation or paragraphs in an essay, in Tella scenes create the structure of a video. Let's look at an example.

Each month I send a video update to Tella's team and investors. It's normally 6 or 7 minutes long and consists of: a progress summary, a few key topics in detail, and some thoughts about the following month. These three main parts form the structure of my update. When I create this in Tella I use a separate scene for each part.

I try to keep the progress summary short and sharp. The viewer's focus should be on what I'm saying. A camera-only scene is perfect for this.

Text makes a camera-only scene more lively. More on that later!

During the key topics section I want some visuals to help viewers understand the detail. I might be talking about a new feature we're working on, or discussing some metrics. For each topic I use a slides scene containing a few images for illustration.

Cool slide, bro.

My update ends with some closing thoughts and a look ahead to the next month. I use another camera-only scene to return the viewer's focus to me.

Using separate scenes for each part makes it easier to stay on topic and keep the video short. Separate scenes also make it easier to re-record one part without affecting any others.

πŸ‘†The scene bar. I name my scenes to stay organised while editing.

Know when a scene works best

Different scenes work best in different scenarios. Knowing when to use a particular scene will help you construct a better video, faster. Let's continue with the slide-deck comparison.

The job of an introduction is to tell viewers concisely what the presentation is about. The slide used for an introduction usually consists of a large headline that stands out from a background. The boldness and simplicity of this slide does the job for an introduction. Using a different slide, like one with a small title and a list of bullets, would not be suitable for an introduction.

When we put together a slide-deck we're thinking about what we want to say and choosing the slides that help with that. When creating a video in Tella we want to use the scenes that help get our message across. Let's look at the scenes types in more detail.

Screen + camera

This is the most popular type of scene in Tella. It displays you and what's on your screen. Having your camera visible while screen recording will help keep your viewer's attention, especially if you're explaining something complex or long.

Screen + camera

Camera-only puts the focus squarely (or roundly) on whoever is behind the camera. This scene works best if you don't need to show something on screen. It will emphasize your speech and expressions, and make your video feel more human. Good communication is about making a connection with your audience β€” and humans like connecting with other humans. 😊

Screen (and audio)

Screen-only lets you record your screen (and your mic's audio). If you're demonstrating something short or simple then screen-only works well.


There are two main ways to use slides:

  1. As a traditional presentation, where it's the slides that need explanation (imagine an all-hands where last quarter's financial results are discussed).
  2. As a visual aid or cue, where the slides emphasize what you're saying. So instead of the slide being explained (like the first approach), it's the slide that helps with the explanation (think of a talk show like Last Week Tonight, where John Oliver has an image over his shoulder that relates to his subject).

Combine scenes that work together

So far we've thought of scenes as having a one-to-one relationship with part of a video. For example, a camera-only scene for an introduction, a screen + camera scene for a demonstration, and so on. This is a good way to start, but we can get more out of scenes. By using multiple scenes for a single part of our video we can create a viewing experience that's more dynamic. Just like paragraphs in an essay, often more than one are needed to make a point.

Let's use my monthly update video as an example. When showing a new feature that we're working on, instead of using a screen + camera scene I could use the following combinations:

  • Multiple screen + camera scenes that split the demo into smaller chunks (first aspect of the feature, followed by the second aspect of the feature, and so on).
  • A slides scene and a screen + camera scene, where the slides scene covers the goals of the feature and then screen + camera scene focusses on the demo.
  • Multiple screen + camera scenes with camera-only scenes in between. The camera-only scenes can be used to break the demo into smaller parts, or emphasize a point during the demo.

Scene combinations like these will keep your viewer's attention and make it easier for them to process the information being shared.

Side note: you don't want to go too wild on the combinations. Unnecessary scene changes will be distracting and hard for viewers to follow. Start with one scene per topic and then find opportunities to shorten longer scenes, and you should be golden. πŸ‘

Add annotations!

For some videos combining scenes isn't always possible nor the best thing to do. Instead, a longer, single scene might work best. When this happens we can still create individual scenes that keep viewers engaged β€” this is where Tella's annotations help. Annotations are visual elements that are added to a scene after recording. Add text, images, gifs, stickers, and buttons to make a scene more fun and entertaining. Here's a few ways to do that.

Illustrating a point

Like slides, annotations can be used to illustrate a point. The difference is that an annotation is added after you're done recording. Let's use my monthly update video as an example again. During a scene I might mention a change in Tella's user numbers. But simply describing this data is not an optimal way to communicate it β€” including a chart would be much better. I could adjust the chart's timing so that it appears while I'm talking about it.

Look, data!
Adding humour

Gifs and stickers are an easy way to lighten the mood of a video. For example, if you're demonstrating a new feature, add a reaction gif when something cool happens. Adjust the timing of these annotations for extra impact (a reaction gif only needs to be visible when it's relevant).

lol whut
Structure and emphasis

Add titles and captions to give viewers a better way to follow along and process the information. For example, if a scene contains three points, you could show the name of each point on screen for a few seconds using a text annotation.

Timing is everything.

Point-out and highlight things on screen using arrows and shapes. This will prevent viewers missing something important.

Sign up for Tella here and try out scenes for yourself.