Utility film

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A utility film is understood to be a speech-free or low-speech interactive instruction film that consists of individual, linked video clips. Each step is shown in a separate video clip that is a few seconds long. The user can watch a video clip and then carry out the action; the utility film stops automatically and is only continued on command of the user. In this way the entire process is carried out.

“The generic term utility film was coined in 2006 by Robert Rothenberger (memex GmbH). It describes interactive, non-linear instruction films, the main field of application in technical documentation being instructions from the assembly and training environment ”(Schmolz 2010, pp. 68f.). Utility films enable “the detailed, effective learning preparation and preservation of expert knowledge from literally first hand” (Schmolz 2010, p. 80). In contrast to the utility film, a video instruction is a continuous film. Utility films can consist of videos, 2D / 3D animations, cartoons, screencasts (software video instructions) or other moving image media. Utility films are mainly used at workplaces. Depending on the area of ​​use and application, they are considered on laptops, displays on machines, smaller portable devices such as palmtops or special glasses.


Image-based and moving-image instructions are increasingly used in the technical documentation of companies. These instructions have significant economic advantages:

  1. Translation costs for internationally operating companies are significantly reduced.
  2. Repair or assembly processes are checked during production and optimized if necessary.
  3. There are no language barriers or linguistic misinterpretations (= fewer incorrect assemblies).

Differentiation of the terms "hypervideo" and "utility film"

The utility film is a special hypervideo with the following features:

  • Utility films show an average of 3–4 seconds of actions. These actions can be human as well as computer-controlled activities. As a rule, human activities and display messages are recorded with the video camera. The computer-simulated actions can be recorded on the one hand by screen recording programs or by 3D animation programs.
  • The utility film shows the actions without sound. Therefore, the user can concentrate fully on the visual information and is not distracted by auditory information. Another advantage: the utility film can be used immediately internationally without any translation effort.
  • The utility film shows the actions from the user's perspective so that the user can grasp and implement the actions shown more intuitively.
  • The utility film stops after each step so that the user can implement what he has seen immediately.
  • Every utility film has to pass a practical test. This practical test checks whether it is intuitively understood by the user and whether the steps shown are implemented precisely and safely.

Utility films show action steps in the form of an average of 3 to four second video clips, which are basically structured according to the KAI model. KAI refers to the sequence of actions key, action and information and was developed by Mark Wagener, then a product developer at memex GmbH (cf. Wagener 2008, 323). “The key image represents the initial situation of the episode. It should already indicate the subsequent action, so that a content-related classification is possible at first glance when searching through the film. This is followed by the representation of the action to be carried out, which ends with a still image of the work result (information). This information image can be supplemented with action-relevant additional information such as target values ​​for measuring processes, torques or tool information, which can thus be viewed during the practical phase. The completeness and correctness of his action can thus be checked immediately by the user. Only after this reinsurance does he actively initiate the reproduction of the following action step. ”(Schmolz 2010, p. 77f.)

Legal bases and security

However, if utility films are used in the technical documentation of companies, they must also meet certain criteria. As with written instructions, they must be understandable and safe, among other things. The subsequent user must not be harmed if he follows the instructions in the film. Utility films must comply with the applicable laws, standards and guidelines just as much as written documentation.


  • Christoph Schmolz: From hypervideo to utility film. In: Jörg Hennig, Marita Tjarks-Sobhani (ed.): Multimedia technical documentation (tekom writings on technical communication, volume 14). Schmidt-Römhildt, Lübeck 2010. pp. 65-82
  • Mark Wagener: Knowledge transfer with the utility film. In: tekom annual conference 2008. pp. 323–325


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