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How to Record Your Screen and Make a Video Tutorial

If you’ve been hanging around One Month a little while (and even if you haven’t), you’re familiar with the fact that we love screencasts around here. A screencast is a video that shows an image of someone doing an activity on their computer with a voiceover explaining the activity, and sometimes a little bit of webcam activity (for that personal touch only a real face can give you).

Why Make a Screencast?

There’s a lot of reasons to want to make a screencast, but usually they are meant to explain how to do an activity (like hey, how do I program an iPhone App?). Most screencasts you see are educational. They’ll show you how to write a bit of code, or how to install a program on your computer (or how to find that amazing Easter egg in the game you’re playing; you know the one).

At One Month (and at GoRails), we use screencasts to walk people through the process of learning to code. And you know what? It works great. Seeing a tutorial helps learners understand the steps in a project differently than just reading a list of steps.

How Do I Make a Screencast?

The first step to making a screencast is to get a program to help you record. There are a lot of programs that let you make screencasts, some of better quality than others. We use a program called Screenflow, because it’s affordable, easy to use, and it’s really well designed (never underestimate the power of good design). Screenflow’s only failing 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 that).

So, first things first with the screencast, you’re going to want to go to their web site and download the app. Screenflow’s free trial is supergenerous. You can play around with every feature on the program for free. The only thing you need a license for is to export your videos without a watermark (but fair’s fair…if you like the program that much, the license isn’t too expensive).

Once you’ve downloaded and opened the program, a few options become available to you. These will help you choose what settings you want for your video. Let’s look at them:

Record Desktop From

This 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.

Record Screen From

Plug in an iOS device…go ahead, try it. This button will let you record the screen from any iOS device you have plugged into the computer. You could record yourself doing something on the iPhone

Record Video From

This allows for a separate video feed. Say, if you want to record yourself from a webcam while you talk. It comes with a dropdown menu you’ll want to play with a bit to determine the best format for whatever camera you’re using. Camera aspect ratios and resolutions change depending on the product, so either look up the specifications for yours (mine is 720p with a 4:3 aspect ratio) or play around to see what works best.

(You also want to make sure you’re comfortable on camera. If you’re not sure how to own it, here are a few transferrable skills.)

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), it will let you select them as well.

Record Computer Audio

Finally, use this button if you want your screencast to include any sounds, such as music or sound effects (again, from that really cool game you’re easter egg hunting in). This will channel audio directly from the computer desktop into the screencast.

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 (make sure your computer is in “do not disturb” mode, so you don’t get interrupted by notifications). Now everything you say or do will be recorded by the computer! This is your chance to share your amazing knowledge with the world.

When you’re done recording, click the stop button or Shift+⌘+2, and the video will stop recording you’ll be given options for editing the screencast (like making your screen resolution high enough so text is visible if you want it). There you go! You’ve technically shot your first screencast. Now to make it pretty and professional.

Editing and Exporting

Go ahead and save your project before you edit.

Good! Now, Screenflow’s documentation has a lot of great tips for how to edit your videos and make them look excellent. Here are a few protips 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 video from a webcam but don’t want to see your face the whole time (because maybe something really wants to be seen over the full screen). You can use T to make a cut and then drag that selection of video down under the desktop, and viola! It disappears (though this will also take the audio with it…so be careful not to lose that.
  • Resize the Canvass: You want your video canvass to be 1920×1080. You can resize it in the video editor easily enough. This may require you to resize the video, but don’t worry, that’s really easy. Select the video layer and then hold down shift 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, or whatever. Some hosting platforms, like Wistia, export at 50%. Just bring it back up to 100% and then you’re ready to export.

Takeaways

  • 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 out your audio, too.
  • Make sure your editing canvas is set to 1920×1080; this may require you to resize, but that’s a very easy process.

There’s no reason not to, so get started screencasting now.