How to record a screencast

How to record a successful screencast

More and more people are starting to record a screencast to create more conversion, sell more products and provide online training.
Simply put, a screencast is a digital video recording, showing the actions that take place on a computer desktop. The videos are usually accompanied by a voice-over, explaining what is happening. A screencast is a very useful way to show how operating systems, software programs and website features work.

In this article, we’ll explain how to record a screencast, step by step.

1. Get the right tools

In order to record a screencast, you’ll need a computer, a microphone and video-capture software. There are various free software programs you can use, such as Screenr and Jing. If you require high end software, look for premium programs like ScreenFlow. As for the microphone, you don’t need an expensive one, but try to get one that delivers decent audio quality.

2. Create a screencasting plan

A successful screencast requires a solid screencasting plan. Think about what your viewers need or want to see and what you want your viewers to do after they have watched your screencast. Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter, visit a specific webpage or to buy something? Once you have that written out, you can start visualizing. Think about where you want to show your screencast: YouTube, your website, someone elses’ blog? Will your screencast be viewed on mobile devices? This is important because it will determine your aspect ratio (wide screen 16:9 or traditional 4:3). Determine how long your screencast will be, and remember that longer is not always better! Also, consider writing a script first. This doesn’t only make your narration easier, but it will also ensure you don’t leave out any vital information in the voice over. Once you’ve determined the aforementioned factors, it’s time to write everything down. This way, you’ll have a better overview.

3. Prepare for recording

As for ambient noise, make sure you’re in a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off cell phones, air conditioners, fans and other machines that produce sound. Make sure you have a chair that doesn’t squeak.

Now, clear your desktop. Remove any weirdly named desktop folders. You might even consider temporarily removing your desktop folders – this can easily be done using a program such as Fences. Also, close all the programs you don’t need for your screencast; you really don’t want to be interrupted by e-mail notifications, Skype, or your iCal informing you about your doctor appointment tomorrow. Also, remove potentially offending wallpapers. It’s best to stick with a wallpaper in a solid color, to minimize distractions.

If you’re doing screencasts regularly, it might be easier to create a separate user account on your computer; this way, you won’t have to worry about hiding all your personal information every time you’re going to record.

Pre-size all your windows, so they match your aspect ratio. If you need to show a browser window, try to enlarge the text if that makes it easier to read. Sometimes it might help you increase the size of your icons and even your mouse pointer. Do a quick walk-through before recording to make sure that everything you need during your recording is directly available.

4. Record your screencast

During the actual recording of your screencast, your pause button will most likely become your best friend. Remember, you don’t have to record everything in one go and you will make mistakes, script or no script. When you make a mistake, pause for about five seconds or so. This way, you can easily identify your mistakes in your timeline during editing, and cut them out.
During recording, try to control your mouse movements; pointlessly moving your mouse around while you talk can be extremely annoying for your viewers. If you have a habit of moving around a lot, try taking your hand of the mouse when you don’t use it.

5. Edit your screencast

Premium screencast programs like ScreenFlow can be used to edit your video, but you could also use a video editor like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere. Import your video and audio recordings. Begin with some raw editing: remove any dead space and mistakes. It helps to add some watermarks, so you can easily find back certain parts of your video. When creating transitions between various shots, try to keep it simple.
Check if your video and audio are still synchronized. Then, see if inserting text boxes and zooms can maybe reinforce your spoken words. Add some music where it’s appropriate.
Finally, play back your video several times to check for mistakes and see if everything runs smoothly. Once your happy with the results, it’s time to export your screencast.

6. Export your screencast

First, make a ‘master copy’ in the highest possible quality. In most cases, this is a 1280X720 MP4 file with 96 bit audio. Then, export another copy, resize for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Miro Converter is a handy tool to create multiple copies.

7. Publish your screencast

How and where you publish your screencast depends on the goals you have determined in your screencasting plan and is entirely up to you. However, after publishing you need to create awareness and promote your screencast. Use social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to let people know you have a new screencast online and invite them to take a look at it. If you have something interesting to say, chances are your screencast will get picked up quickly!

record a screencast