Make The Perfect Screencast With These 6 Great Tips

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Over the years screencasting, also known as video tutorials have became very popular on the internet. The reason that they have became so popular is because it lets a user record their screen and share it with others to show them how to do something on a computer.

If you browse through sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Blip.tv, you will see that there are lots of video tutorials but with very few of them clear to view and understand.

There are many things that are needed to create a great video tutorial and in this article, I will try my best to teach you some techniques I have learned along the way.

The Right Apps

To start creating a screencast, the you will need to first of all download an application that will allow you to record your screen. For Mac OS X, there are a few applications such as iShowU, ScreenFlow and Screenium. You can try out these apps by downloading them from their website. However, to be able to use the full functionality, you will have to purchase a license. If you are a Windows user then I recommend using Camtasia Studio because it has a lot of great features. Camtasia Studio for Windows is very similar to ScreenFlow for Mac OS X.

A free alternative for both Windows and Mac OS X is Jing. Jing is a screen capture tool from the creators of Camtasia Studio but has been created specifically for screencasts. Although the application can be used without any real limits, the only downside is that the limit on a single recording is five minutes.

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For Linux users, there is an open source project on Sourceforge called Xvidcap.

Set The Right Resolution

The first thing to do when creating a screencast for the online audience is to set your screen resolution to the lowest possible setting.

Screen Resolution

The reason why we do this is so that we can record as much of the screen without losing too much quality when we compress the screencast after we have finished recording. Also, when viewers on video sharing websites view it at full screen mode then the screencast dimensions will most likely be smaller than their resolution. This means that they will be able to see everything clearly including the text.

The Right Gear

When creating a screencast, it is very important that viewers can understand what you are saying so that they can easily follow what you are trying to teach or show. For this reason, it is not recommended that you use the microphone that is built into your laptop because there is a chance that they will hear the fan and you may sound distant and unclear.

If you are going to create a screencast then invest in a standalone microphone or a headset. The headset that I use is the Logitech ClearChat Pro headset and it works great.

headset

The Right Words

If you are doing a screencast for a video tutorial on how to create a script in PHP, for example; it is a good idea to perform a test run, create the script and think about what you would say at certain steps and making notes so that you can best describe what you are trying to get across. If you are creating a long screencast,it is better to pause the recording a take a break for a few minutes because if you make a mistake that you can’t resolve when recording the screencast, you can start again from the recording before you paused. If you are showing off a new tool to perform a certain task, then take some time to introduce the tool and the link to download it so that you do not cause confusion. Most probably, your viewers are those who are new to computers and don’t really know the means to search for the tool you are showcasing.

When you feel that there is no more that you can explain to the user, end the recording by letting them know the ways that they can contact you if they need help. List your Twitter username or email address.

The Right Format

Because the screen resolution was a very low setting, when it comes to exporting our screencast, keep the dimensions to 100%. The image below shows the settings I use for exporting my screencasts. For a short screencast I did recently, the size of the exported MOV file was 32MB and the duration of the screencast was 7 minutes 30 seconds. That works out to 4.3MB per minute which is relatively low to other compression techniques I have used in the past.

Movie Settings

Compressing a file can take some time, depending on how long the screencast is and its dimensions. So go and grab a cup of coffee while you wait for it to finish.

The Finishing Touches

When the file has been successfully encoded and compressed, I will then open it with QuickTime Player and add a logo at the beginning of the screencast as well as a link to my website so people who stumble upon my videos on video sharing websites know where they can find more of my stuff.

Now that you have finished all the recording, editing and exporting, it is now time to upload your screencast to as many video sharing websites as you know. I upload to many video sharing websites because different people use different services so the more video sharing websites you upload your content to, the wider the audience you will reach.

If you have a website, then you should also embed it there. When displaying screencasts on my website, the service that I use is Blip.tv because the compression of your screencast when it has been uploaded is very good and hardly any quality is lost. They also have ads within the videos so you can make a little bit of money.

It is time to promote your newly created screencast on your website, so tweet about it and ask people to retweet. Add it to StumbleUpon and del.icio.us, use Facebook to promote it and here are 5 more tips on promotion, hope they come in helpful. Don’t forget to add it to tutorial websites if it is relevant to them also.

If there is anything else that you would like to know about creating a screencast then please feel free to post a comment below and I shall reply the best I can.

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23 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Vadim P.

Good tips, thanks. I personally use gtk-recordmydesktop for linux screencasting, for whatever reason.

Wez Pyke

I’ve never heard of this application. Looks good.

Reply

Mads B.

Camtasia is great but if you are low on cash I’d recommend Camstudio. It’s free!

Reply

Nigel

These look good. However, you have forgotten to mention Snapz Pro which I use successfully.

Wez Pyke

I am not a huge fan of Snapz Pro and thought that the applications I listed were a lot better.

Reply

Ashley

I use Screenflow & liked your idea of adding a logo & link at the beginning of your screencasts. Any suggestions/advice on how to go about doing that?

Wez Pyke

Go to the media property and then click Add Media. After you have added an image of your logo drag it to the beginning of the timeline, then move all the other elements such as recordings and sound after it.

Hope this helps.

Reply

Miriam Schwab

That’s such a helpful tutorial, particularly since I need to create a screencast to show users how to use a particular functionality on a website. Thanks!

Reply

Andrew Douch

I LOVE Snapz Pro. Other than for its high price tag, its performance is great. I do also like Jing however – and a jing Pro account removes the 5 minute limitation.

Reply

Yael

Another great, FREE, screencasting site is http://www.screenjelly.com
I highly suggest checking it out.

Wez Pyke

ScreenJelly is great for sharing quick tips.

Reply

Robin

Great tips! I miss the first step which is crucial for the output. Thank you so much!

Reply

simon

Do you maybe know similar pages to video2brain or learn2use where I can upload my screencast?

Reply

laura

Great article, thank you.

I appreciate the tip on setting resolution low as possible. I am trying to make how to videos that include a TOC down the right side. It seems to me I need to cut size from the width of the video to accomodate the TOC, is that true?

Can you give me any tips on what screen size to record in that would result in the crispest image for the most internet viewers? As big as possible but will still fit in a web browser?

Many thanks.

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