Screencasting 101

I gave this presentation as an introduction to screencasting at PodCamp Nashville 2010.

Aside from my rather hurried audio track, there are couple of goofs in this presentation from what I intended. First, the slide with an example Camtasia Studio 6’s recording feature wasn’t included here. Here’s what that screenshot looks like:

SnagIt Capture

Secondly, a couple of slides got swapped after uploading. You’ll probably catch on, but the Audio Editing slide should have come after the video editing slide.

In the presentation I state that I recommend .MP4 as my preferred file format to export a screencast. I did get a question if the free tools I mention all support this. They do not. Many will only export to .SWF (Shockwave Flash) format, which is certainly fine for web imbed Flash video. I answered the question that some tools, CamStudio in particular for this person’s needs, would export to either MPEG or .AVI formats, which are both widely used formats. I typically use .AVI when .MP4 isn’t available.

Some Hardware Resources

  • The M-Audio Producer USB mic that I use. This mic really seems to produce some rich, flat voice recordings (which is ideal for this application). However, I found that it needed more software gain when recording on a mac (PC was fine as is).

Software Resources

The following table contains a (by no means complete) list of some software available on various platforms for recording screencasts. I’ve broken the list out into cheap (free, freemium, or open source) options and pro options (pay apps). This is an expanded list from what was included in the session.

I didn’t include web-based recording tools in my session at all due to time constraints but they’re also a great option for sharing screen recordings.

Platform Mac Windows Linux Web
Free,
Freemium,
Open Source

Copernicus

QuickTime X (Snow Leopard)

Jing

CamStudio

Windows Media Encoder

recordMyDesktop

XVidCap

Istanbul

Wink

ScreenToaster

screencast-o-matic

Show Me What’s Wrong (powered by Screencast-O-Matic, but geared towared helping your tech dependants)

Screenr (Mac/Win only, targeted to Twitter but will let you repost or download files)

Pro Apps

IShowU HD

Screenflow

Camtasia mac

BB FlashBack (Express version is free)

Camtasia Studio

Mimic

Adobe Captivate

DemoRecorder  

Mimic (Win) and Wink (Linux) record your screen in slightly different ways than the rest. Rather than continuous video, these programs take static screenshots of each change and then allow you to add notes or captions in post editing. The mouse movements are recorded as vector paths, which are then animated automatically for you. This results in some limitations as far as flashy animations but can result in tiny file sizes. These tend to work best as tutorials, in my opinion.

Mobile Device Screencasts

I really didn’t discuss this at all due to time constraints, but screencasts are equally useful for mobile applications. Often, these aren’t recorded on a mobile device itself but a emulator running on a computer. Many developer kits include these emulators and you may use any of the above screencasting tools and processes. There are some specialty recording applications which can be used to represent some of the haptic interfaces used in mobile devices:

However, don’t be afraid to use a video camera to record devices with touch interfaces. Many of the screen recorded simulators don’t capture the touch or gestures (or just show highlights to represent touching), which might not convey the interface so well. There’s a good reason all those Apple commercials so someone’s hand in action.

Some Additional Utilities

Here are some other utilities or applications that can be helpful in setting up and recording your screencast:

  • Distraction Hiding software can help to block out all but the application you want to demonstrate. Desktop hiding software like DeskTopple (mac) can hide all the icons on your desktop, as well as various applications and even set the desktop temporarily.

Some examples, tips, and best practices

Credits

The image credits for the prominent photos used in the presentation. Each of these images was published under a CC license to Flickr.com:

Other images and logos used were screen captures and considered fair use.

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