Screencasts are one of the most popular and interesting ways of showing people how to use software and digital applications. They are also quite handy when we want to show how to follow a procedure that involves different stages.
A screencast is a great way to effectively capture a sequence of actions in a digital support. The result is a digital video recording of a computer (or mobile) screen which usually includes audio narration and sometimes different visual elements — like arrows and call-out boxes — that help to convey the message and facilitate recollection. This format of video is perfect for user guides and tutorials.
There are 3 basic steps to plan and shoot a high-quality screen-casting video: Preparation, recording and editing. Here are a few screen-casting best practices you should follow:
Step 1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
- Create an outline. We cannot stress this enough: preparation is key! We highly recommend creating a basic structure for your screencast highlighting the key information you want to convey. That’s the only way to ensure you make the most of your recording opportunity.
- Identify the actions you want to record and split your screencast into different sections according to the themes you want to cover. If you divide your content in more digestible chunks, you are effectively helping your viewers find what they need. In the editing phase, you can add titles to each part and organise the overall experience.
- Write a basic script, rehearse it and test your equipment. It’s not easy to create the perfect screencast on your first try. If you go over your talking points a few times (without trying to memorise them, otherwise you’ll sound too scripted!), you won’t have to struggle to find the right word while recording. Similarly, testing will ensure you are well versed in handling technical glitches before going live.
Step 2. The recording phase
Preferably, record audio and image separately. It’s harder to get a polished looking screencast when you’re trying to speak and record screen actions at the same time. Focus on each of these two different tasks separately and then edit both tracks for a smoother result.
- Record in a noiseless environment and use a good microphone: screencasts with poor audio quality seem amateur, are hard to listen to and, most importantly, can scare away viewers! Some headphones have built-in mics; these are much better than your computer’s internal microphone.
- Remember to speak slowly and clearly.
- Use keyboard shortcuts and limit mouse movements: excessive mouse movements are distracting and tiring. Find a good list of keyboard shortcuts and memorise the ones that are relevant. Use them to switch between windows and applications while recording; your viewers will thank you.
- Remember to scroll smoothly: have you ever tried to watch someone scroll up and down quickly? How did that make you feel? Remember to allow your viewers to follow your movements without feeling disoriented. You can even install a smooth scrolling extension.
Step 3. The editing phase
- Aim for a good length. Any second over 3 minutes is stretching it too far. It’s been proven that video length is negatively correlated with viewer’s engagement: the longer the video, the less engaging it will be. Aim for a maximum duration time between 2 and 3 minutes.
- Insert covers at the beginning of each section: just like chapters in books, each topic should start with a cover slide that identifies the topic being covered.
- You can use animations to make your screencast look more appealing and highlight different parts of your screen to keep your student engaged. Just make sure you don’t overuse it! Keep your animations to simple zooms, pans and callouts.
- Remember to trim the edges and cut out dead moments: your video should start as soon as your viewers press “play” and end as soon as you sign off. Dead air is unprofessional and a waste of everyone’s time.
- Make the most of your software: take the time to learn about its features and become proficient in the tool you have chosen.
When you are ready to start screen-casting, you want to make sure you have a tool that is simple to use, but also robust and flexible enough to take on larger and more ambitious projects. You can look for a screen-recorder with a built-in editor — this will allow you to edit both video and audio. Some free options, such as Loom, will render great results. Movavi is another low-cost alternative that promises multimedia fun and a wide array of features, such as multiple-source audio grab and high-quality screen capture for video conferences. Camtasia has been around for a while and has built a strong reputation.
You may also find interesting:
How to create a video training course: the step by step guide (eBook)
5 ways to overcome a small budget for video training (article)
Free tools for low-cost professional looking video production (article)
Course Production Pipeline template (excel template)
Would you like to learn more about how bugle can help you improve your training programme?