Another Call for Help – Screencasting Tips for New Screencasters

In the words of a great band, The Beatles,

“Help, I need somebody, Help, not just anybody, Help, you know I need someone, help!”

Yes, I need your help! More and more people are screencasting. We’re looking to gather and compile a list of the best screencasting tips to share with people that are new to screencasting or looking to take their screencasts to a new level.

If you have any tips to share, would you please comment on this post? I look forward to seeing your feedback and creating a great resource! So the question is:

What three things would you tell a new screencaster they must do to be successful?

Where will we use the info we gather? We’ll post the results in a future newsletter and blog post.

Together we can make better screencasts! Thank you for your input – we could not do this without you!

  • jdornberg

    1. use a good mic (it doesn’t have to be really expensive though)
    2. do several practice takes– watch and listen to yourself critically– and learn from your mistakes
    3. if you’re showing text onscreen, make sure the font is readable– use a BIG font size

  • Mike Steele

    Avoid narrating the moves on the screen as your audio. Let the visuals speak for themselves. Instead, talk about how the individual moves you are making help the individual understand and be able to complete the process that you’re demonstrating.

  • http://janetalkstech Jane

    1) Try not to have too many applications running on your computer at the time to avoid things like running low on memory, accidentally crashing Camtasia or what you’re taping. I’ve done all three and that’s my #1 tip for the newbie. :)
    2) Check out the tutorials on the TechSmith Learning Center ! Those tutorials have proven to be immensely helpful for me.

  • John V

    1. I second the good mic suggestion.
    2. Plan your screencast if you can with at least an outline of what you are going to cover and do a test run to get a feel for it.
    3. Record in as quiet a room as possible.
    4. Use the mouse tracker, it’s a huge help to viewers.

  • Meryl K. Evans

    1. Caption your videos — very easy today.
    2. Capture only the important parts of the screen. It doesn’t have to be the entire window.
    3. Make sure text is readable and has clear contrast to whatever is behind it.

  • jra

    First, to echo jdornberg… practice… do a run through once or twice.

    Second, turn off all applications and processes that may impact your screencast. Specifically: instant messengers, email alerts, screen savers, and and anything else that may pop-up an unwanted alert or change your screen while you are recording a session.

  • Mary M

    1. know your material cold
    2. be confident
    3. record in small chunks

    If you can divide your material into several small chunks, you can record each piece and refine, then join together. It’s oftentimes easier than trying to maintain voice, pitch, composure over a longer stretch of time

  • Robin Holwerda

    1. To add to the “good mic” suggestion, if possible, have audio done in studio by a professional. It is amazing the level of quality you’ll receive!
    2. I prefer to record the video first, leaving large pauses as I go, and then sync with the audio at the end (shortening up or eliminating the pauses).
    3. Don’t rush! Have others review your work and critique, if possible. You’ll end up with a better product in the end.

  • Luke Schnoebelen

    Don’t over practice.

    Have a conversational tone. Don’t read bullet points, rather read like you would to a child (or adult ;) )

    Turn off all the extras. (IM/Email/Backup/Applications)

    Take your time. You can always edit later.

  • Dennis Jeffrey

    Here’s my process:

    While my process is lengthy and convoluted, it produces a high-quality professional presentation. I do instructional materials.

    1. I record my video in segments (separate videos) with pauses between steps. I use a 1:1 video image for highest quality.

    2. I do not record the audio portion while I am creating the videos. Since I am editing the video segments, this would not work anyway. If I make a mistake, I repeat the process correctly, then edit the video later.

    3. I find that it’s very difficult to concentrate on what you were going to say, while you are performing a task on screen. More on the recording in a bit.

    4. In Camtasia, I place each of the video segments into the timeline. I then do a run through, clipping segments out where I’ve made mistakes, adding captions and transitions until the video flows smoothly.

    5. I use Audacity to record the Audio portion. It is freeware and works very well. I have Adobe CS4 Production Premium – Soundbooth, and Audacity does it better. I run the Mike input through an equalizer box that changes my voice a bit and improves sound quality. Audacity allows for editing and has effects that are essential (fade in and fade out) for quality sound production.

    6. For audio recording, I create a script using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10. When recording the audio I utilize the text script to narrate my video. This helps to eliminate stumbling over what to say next.

    7. While running the Camtasia video portion, and watching the screen from time to time, I will record the audio from the script. If I mess up the audio, audacity allows me to create a new channel from which I can copy and paste audio until I get it right. The combination of Camtasia and Audacity is just about perfect. I export the audio to a WAV and import it into Camtasia.

  • Erik Reagan

    1) I can’t stress the mic one enough. A quality screencasting mic won’t break the bank.

    2) If you type during the screencast be aware of your mic stand and keyboard being on the same surface. When typing the mic could pick up the “thuds” while typing

    3) If you are using a laptop along with the built-in laptop mic be sure to type quietly, tap your touch-pad rather than click, and turn your laptop fans down during recording. These aren’t essentials – but they get on my nerves personally :)

  • Marcelo Lewin

    1) Use a good mic.
    2) Edit the video
    3) Add good call outs.

  • David Demyan

    I am in complete agreement with Dennis Jeffrey’s process. It is amazing to me that instructional developers, working separately, could come up with nearly identical workflows. It validates my own methods and Dennis can take comfort in at least one other producer using identical hardware, software, and practices.

    I can only add the following, comprising my three tips:

    1. Plan to make a plan, make a plan, then execute the plan. Did I mention the importance of planning? It does no good at all to create a flawless screencast if it does not serve a purpose. The plan should include audience analysis, purpose of the video (goals), content to be covered, and methods of accomplishing the goals.

    2. Amplify the goals identified in #1. Why are you creating a video? Has it already been done? What are you contributing to the existing body of knowledge about the subject? Determine which category your screencast will fall in: motivational or instructional. Create appropriate content to fit your selected category. Don’t be tempted to cover both categories at once! Either sell or teach, but do it separately.

    3. Determine in detail how you are going to accomplish the goals. Create a storyboard, identifying how every element will support the attainment of your goals. Discard those elements that do not directly support your goals.

    4. (FREEBIE) Identify organizational flaws and correct them at any point before final movie production. Naturally, you will want to accomplish this as early in the process as possible, but be willing to discard an unworkable plan or storyboard at any point in the process and start over, if needed.

  • Gene Rosen

    Photogenec Design LLC is now using Camtasia for Mac for our client screencasts. Here are some production tips:

    A quality ‘cast will get lost in a small viewing factor. Don’t shy away from using a larger viewing area: 600×400 or even 800×600. You can post a smaller factor on a landing page that includes a link to a larger one.

    Keep the ‘cast moving. Don’t have dead spaces in your video when only the audio is running.

    Use music during title transitions. Use the Camtasia audio tools to transition the volume.

    Don’t forget you can easily mix PowerPoint or KeyNote effects in your ‘cast. Create your presentations, add transitions and effects, then record it all with Camtasia. Later, you can mix this recording in with your live segments.

    Don’t forget that iLife 09 comes with a great selection of sound effects and soundtracks. The collection is worth the purchase of iLife itself.

    Use a thumbnail as the first image in your ‘cast. Design the thumbnail so that the video start arrow icon is not hiding something strategic – like someone’s nose!

    Keep the ‘cast highly focused and short. Let the viewer know up front that something interesting is about to happen.

  • Brooks Andrus

    It’s perhaps not beginner fare, but ,as outlined in this blog post, I’d look at screencasting as no different from cinematic storytelling. There’s much to be learned from world of filmmaking.

  • Jena Taylor

    1. Not to sound redundant, but use a good mike
    2. Do a script or mock up so that you can see if your flow or process makes sense
    3. Don’t be put off by comments or criticism from others; get feedback and put it to good use.
    4. Use Camtasia tools to cut your audio and video portions as needed

  • Jim Augustin

    Create and follow a ‘pre-recording’ checklist(s). By this I mean … document the settings that add value to each type of content and audience you record for (this will likely be trial and error). I have found that some content benefits from capturing the mouse clicks (and sound), some external mics require a little ‘settings’ tweak, some cameras require extra lighting for quality PIP content, sometimes launching (and minimizing) programs ahead of time helps. Following a checklist prior to recording has proven helpful for me, especially when recording live events that cannot be re-created. Snagit works great for documenting settings.

  • Susanne

    The above comments are great. I’m capturing several and dropping them into Evernote for future reference. If I may add, for those who are new to Camtasia: Just do it! Get started, make mistakes, but get your feet wet. If you wait until you’ve got it all figured out, you may never get started. It really just takes practice and some time on the forum to figure out what is going to work best for your needs.

  • Holly Gef

    Legibility is the most critical element. Make your instructional parts as visual as much as possible, sometimes audio is not necessary if the screen steps are easy enough to follow. For deep drill downs, use audio and callouts because novices often forget where to find something in a detailed application.

  • Lynda Grant

    1. It doesn’t matter how good your video is if your audio is painful to listen to. Use a good mic, sound proof and practise until you get it right.
    2. Zoom and Pan is great for emphasising an area but too much and it can give your audience a headache!
    3. Get feedback on your product before you broadcast it to make sure the recipient is receiving the message you intended.

  • Howard

    1.Just jump in and start one…it seems overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, its very user friendly.
    2. Do most of your work in Powerpoint. But do the narration in Camtasia. Its easier to move the narration to keep time with the actions on the screen in Camtasia.
    3. Keep portions of the screen available in Powerpoint for text in the Camtasia view screen. And the narration can be timed exactly for when you put the text up on the screen.

  • Brian T. Edmondson

    1. Clear your website browser history! (you know who you are…)
    2. Turn your cell phone / home phone ringer off…
    3. Always do a quick 10 second audio check so you don’t record an hour long video without audio (I hate when that happens)

  • Kathy Jacobs

    1) Practice (Ok – you’ve heard that one a few times already)

    2) Turn off your email, skype, and anything else that sends notifications or messages to your screen.

    3) Learn how to edit your audio as well as your video. Hiccups, coughs, sneezes, ums, ahs, etc. – they can be removed – IF you know not to worry about them.

    one more bonus item:
    Don’t worry about if you opps. Just take a breath, back up a bit, and re-record. The editor is your friend – believe me,

  • Guilherme Rambo

    1. Know about what you’re talking about
    2. Keep your screen with only the required information (close MSN, skype, tweetie, etc)
    3. Keep your desktop clean (without any icon)
    4. Talk slowly and calmly
    5. Edit to remove any error
    6. Have fun!

  • iBrent

    1. Use a chair that doesn’t squeak every time you move.

    2. Keep the kids out of the office while you record (along with any pets that make noise).

    3. Pay attention to how loud the keyboard clicks are recorded. Get a quieter keyboard if necessary. It’s really distracting when you hear a tremendous amount of keyboard noise when the mic is too close to the keyboard. I find the Apple aluminum keyboard is the quietest (and yes, it works on Windows machines too).


  • Torley

    A few of the best that’ve helped me:

    * HUMOR! Have (or grow) a memorable personality. It’s bloody disgusting when one screencaster hears a boring company do it badly, then thinks that’s how they must, too. It certainly is NOT. Have fun and your voice will increase immersion and effectiveness. (That IS the point.) Even if your video tutorial is educational, you are always, in some way, MARKETING.

    * Learn to improvise. Improvisation means you’re resourceful. Overly scripted stuff often lacks energy. You can stick to key points while being flexible. Those who disagree, observe Robert Rodriguez’s Mariachi-style of filmmaking.

    * Practice typography. So many text titles are done poorly. Typography is often a signifier, a glue that indicates what else you can hold together. (As so often witnessed in product packaging.) This is an incredibly un-obvious point but once you understand, you’ll be amazed.

    * Beyond having a good mic and doing an audio test first (I agree!), leave several seconds of space at the beginning and end of each recorded clip. This makes it easier to edit and trim out, not to mention numerous webcams have an initialization time that may not start recording for several secs.

    * If your room is boomy, get some acoustic foam or consider a Harlan Hogan Porta-Booth. I’m enjoying mine so far.

    * In Camtasia, learn about the dynamic compressor (in Audio Enhancements) to even out your voice. This is a really big one, because too many screencasts have ugly clipping or are too soft. I hope a future Camtasia will include a limiter, which is the #1 feature most audio-recording apps are missing.

    * Study your target formats (like YouTube, Vimeo) and learn their strengths & weaknesses. For example, YouTube’s default quality is shoddy, so you’ll need to use zooms to keep text legible. But their HD mode is sometimes even better than Vimeo’s (and free!), so if your tuts are made in a high enough resolution, they may not need zooming. However, you may still wish to “call out” or emphasize onscreen elements.

    * Automate every opportunity that can be.

  • Robert Banger

    1) Separate form from content and work on each separately; Form follows Content.
    • First, the Content; answer—what am I trying to communicate?
    • Then the Form, answer—what is the best way I can show it?

    2) Plan it before you record it.
    I would recommend drawing it out first out but at least walk through it until you’re comfortable

    3) Break it down into natural conceptual pieces – modularize
    Who would try to recite the Gettysburg Address in one breath – relax and make sure each piece is successful. Successful meaning that each module clearly communicates what you want it to and clearly shows it. And don’t worry, Camtasia has great tools specifically designed to put your modules together into a tight, clean, and successful Screencast.

    4) Bonus tip; Because “Confusion is the Antidote to Communication”, always show what you are speaking about – or to say it a different way – never show one thing while speaking about something else. Our brains don’t work that way. Communication is hard, and it’s important. It needs good tools, all our skills, and our full attention to accomplish.

  • Willem van Genk

    It must be able o record screens from protected video´s (CD´s)

    Especially for making courseware it is sometimes handy to take a piece out of an existing film and modify it for use it in this courseware.

    I use product on pc and it´s great, but as windows has not future anymore for serious development I am anxious waiting for the MAC version.
    Good luck and keep me informed!

  • Anne

    Your appearance goes a long way. Remember, use the K.I.S.S. method.

    Take still shots of yourself with different outfits and hair styles. Pick the one that makes you look like a pro.

    Tissue down any shine on forehead and nose. Ladies, take it easy on the gloss. Little or no jewelry. Hands out of your pockets and speak slowly. Remember, you have a very wide and varied audience.

    TechSmith has done a superb job with Camtasia, the rest is up to you. Good Luck!