If you’ve been hanging around One Month a little while, you know that we love screencasts around here.
A screencast is a video that shows something happening on a computer screen while a voice-over explains what’s being done. Sometimes there’s also a little bit of webcam activity to provide the personal touch only a real face can communicate.
Why Make a Screencast?
There are a number of reasons to make a screencast. Most screencasts are educational and, usually, they aim to explain how to accomplish a task. They’ll show you how to write a bit of code, or how to install a program on your computer, how to program an iPhone app, or how to find the Easter egg in the video game you’re playing but totally stuck on.
At One Month we use screencasts to walk people through the process of learning to code. And you know what? It works great. Seeing a tutorial combined with audio explanations helps learners understand the steps in a project, differently than one or the other, or just reading a boring list of steps without any visuals.
How Do I Make a Screencast?
The first step to making a screencast is to download a program to help you record. There are a lot of programs that help you make screencasts, but some are better quality than others. At One Month, we use a program called ScreenFlow. It’s affordable, easy to use, and it’s really well designed. The only flaw we’ve found with ScreenFlow is that it’s a Mac-only product, so if you work with a Windows machine you’ll need to find a different app. (A combo of Open Broadcast Software with Camtasia editing software would do pretty well for you).
So, the first step is to select and download the right app for you. The ScreenFlow free trial is super generous, giving you access to every feature on the program, so we recommend checking it out. The only thing you’ll need a license for is to export your videos without a watermark (but fair’s fair…if you like the program that much and intend on screencasting regularly, the license is worth it).
Once you’ve downloaded and opened the program, you have a few options. These will let you choose what settings you want for your video. Let’s look at them:
1. Record Desktop From
This option lets you choose which desktop the app will record from. If you have multiple monitors, you can choose one of them. Since many of us only work with one monitor at a time, the program will default to that unless you have something else hooked up.
2. Record Screen From
Plug in an iOS device. Go ahead, try it! This button will let you record the screen of any iOS device you have plugged into the computer so you can record yourself doing something on your smartphone.
3. Record Video From
This option allows for a separate video feed. Say, if you want to record yourself from a webcam. Play around a bit with the dropdown menu to determine the best format for whatever camera you’re using. Camera aspect ratios and resolutions change depending on the product, so either research the specifications for your camera (mine is 720p with a 4:3 aspect ratio) or play around until you find what works best.
(You also want to make sure you’re comfortable on camera! If you’re not quite there yet, here are a few transferable skills.)
4. Record Audio From
Not every screencast needs audio, but it sure does help when you’re explaining how to do things. The Record Audio From button will default to recording your voice from your computer’s internal mic, but if you have any other microphones hooked up (say, something really fancy with great noise cancellation and such), you’ll be able to select it instead.
5. Record Computer Audio
Finally, use this button if you want your screencast to include any sounds, such as music or sound effects, that result from what you are doing on the screen. For example, the video game sounds from that Easter egg game you’re still trying to crack).
6. Hit the Red Button!
Once you’ve gotten all of these down, you’re ready to roll. Hit the red button and you’ll get a countdown to your recording. Now everything you say or do will be recorded by the computer! This is your chance to share your amazing knowledge with the world.
Pro Tip: Make sure your computer or phone is in “do not disturb” mode, so you don’t get interrupted by notifications!)
When you’re done with what you would like to record, click the stop button (or Shift+⌘+2), and the video will stop recording. Then, you’ll be given options for editing the screencast. Now it’s time to make it pretty and professional!
Editing and Exporting Your Video
First, remember to save your project before you edit.
ScreenFlow’s documentation has a lot of great advice on how to edit your videos so that they look excellent. Here are a few pro tips to get you started:
- The Letter T is Your Friend: The most fundamental thing to remember is the letter T. The T key is what lets you make cuts in your video’s timeline. Say you recorded some footage from a webcam but don’t want your face to be there the whole time. You can use T to make a cut and then drag that selection of video down under the desktop, and voila! It disappears! (Though this will also take the audio with it… so be careful not to lose that.)
- Resize the Canvas: You want your video canvas to be 1920×1080, but it may not have recorded that way itself. You can fix this by can resizing it in the video editor. Select the video layer and then hold down the shift key to lock the size ratio as you resize. Easy peasy.
Finally, you can export your video to the hosting platform of your choice, like Vimeo or Wistia.
- Screencasts are an easy and excellent way to create educational tutorials.
- There are many options for screencasting software depending on your budget and overall needs. Some great ones include Open Broadcasting Software and ScreenFlow.
- Make sure you’ve set your screencast up to record all the elements you want (desktop, webcam, mic), and that any video feed is set to its optimal aspect ratio and resolution.
- When editing, the T key will let you make cuts. Just make sure you don’t accidentally cut your audio out, too.
- Make sure your editing canvas is set to 1920×1080. This may require you to resize, but that’s a very easy process.