Screencasting Best Practices

Screencasting Best Practices

The Basics

  1. If you are recording more than one video, decide on a standard set of options for your organization. For example, will your videos highlight the cursor? Should your videos all be the same size ? Will you record with a caption or system stamp?
  2. Practice, practice, practice. Overall, how much and how often you practice will be the key to creating professional videos. It takes practice to learn how to correctly move the cursor or open applications so they appear in the recording area. You will need to practice to get the positioning of browser windows and other applications just right.
  3. Perform several "takes," replaying them after production to see ways of improving the video. By viewing glitches and correcting them in succeeding takes, you will eventually come up with a professional-looking video sequence that you can save.
  4. Be patient. Even a one-minute video can take a while to set up and record. A beginner might need 30 minutes or longer to get it right. Leave plenty of time for extra takes.
  5. Applications such as Camtasia Studio, SnagIt, and Jing record anything on your screen. To ensure you get the best looking videos, clean up your browser and desktop by closing or removing all nonessential applications, browser toolbars, and desktop icons. Also, a plain background on your desktop is better than a busy wallpaper image. Keep in mind that a cluttered work space can draw attention away from what you are actually trying to show.
  6. If your video does not include pop-up windows, make sure they are turned off by using a pop-up blocker or the browser’s built-in pop-up blocker.
  7. Normal mouse and cursor movements can appear jerky, hesitant, or too fast in the recording. To eliminate some of these problems, practice using the mouse around the screen in a slow, fluid motion .Also, when showing cursor movement, pause a fraction of a second over the element, then click. This will allow cursor position to be established in the video before the next action takes place.

Scripting and Narration Tips

  1. For lengthy or involved sequences of action, write a script before recording. With a script it is easy to go back redo parts of the audio that you don't like. It also helps define what should be happening on the screen, and help avoid any unnecessary tangents or extra information.
  2. Think through the actions, in detail, that you want to capture, and then write them down in sequential steps making sure that the script accurately reflects what's currently happening on the screen. The script should also contain the exact words that you will record. Avoid using repetitive statements or words and avoid long pauses or hesitations in the narration.
  3. Avoid narration filler by using words such as “umm” or “ahh.”
  4. Know your lines and practice them over and over in front of a mirror so it comes naturally to you. This way you don't have to think about the script while you’re running through the recording phase.
  5. Include an overview of the recording in the first line or two of the script.
  6. Print the script in large type to make it easy to read while recording.
  7. To eliminate the sound of paper shuffling, tape the script pages together and hang them near the monitor so they are easy to read.
  8. Speak slowly and enunciate properly.

Get Great Sound

  1. Generally, USB microphones provide a better sound than other microphones (minus the high-end equipment) since you do not have to rely on your computer’s sound card. Sound cards can sometimes add noise to your recordings. Also, the USB microphone uses less computer resources, and records far better audio than an analog mic connected to your computer's audio card.
  2. The microphone may be difficult to get used to at first; take time to experiment with different volume levels and placement settings allowing different distances from the microphone to choose the right one. You should probably be about six inches from the microphone—close enough to record full tones but not so close that other noises interfere.
  3. Another factor in achieving high-quality audio is the area you use to record. Record in a quiet location since even cheap microphones pick up nearby noises. Most office areas have a lot of background noise that you may or may not notice. Take a second and listen. What do you hear? You can probably hear the fan of your computer, the air from the air vents, people talking, and other noises. When you record, minimize these noises since they will be picked up by your microphone and be included in the recording.
  4. You cannot turn off your computer, but you can block the humming sound that emanates from it. Some creative ways to block the sound: build a small box lined with foam to put your microphone in as you record, use pillows or blankets to muffle the noise, cover your head with the blanket (this actually works very well). Additionally, minimize hard surfaces that sound can reflect off of and minimize any incoming background noise.
  5. Consider not only how the audio sounds but also how you present the audio. If you want a professional, polished presentation, a script helps you produce the best sounding audio by allowing you to avoid mistakes or saying um or uh. If you do not want a formal presentation, an outline can help reduce some mistakes, as well as other unwanted sounds (again the ums and uhs).
  6. To make a good recording, you need to project and enunciate, so that your voice recording sounds clear and crisp on replay. As an aid in determining a good vocal level and tone, imagine you are addressing a small audience in a large room.

Microphone Examples

The quality of the microphone being used greatly influences the overall quality of your audio recordings. Remember with most audio equipment, you will get what you pay for. Inexpensive microphones do not usually work as well and the free microphone that came with your computer is not going to provide you with the best audio quality. However, depending on your purpose and audience it may provide what you need.

Tips for Recording Audio in Various Scenarios

Camtasia Studio allows you to record in a variety of different environments. However, each environment might require a different microphone in order to capture good audio quality.
The following gives some general overview information on the different kinds of recording settings. However, as with all recordings, you will want to try out your audio equipment and Camtasia Studio settings before making the final recording to ensure the best results.

Telephone Audio Recording

To make a telephone audio recording, you will need to buy an adapter to send the audio to the computer microphone input jack. The adapter allows you to record both sides of the conversation without the cutout of typical speakerphone conversations.

Teleconference Recording

One common problem that occurs in recording teleconferences is that people speak at different levels. It is difficult to adjust the recording audio level during a teleconference session. One solution is to use a telephone with a handset volume control. Increase the volume for a quiet speaker or decrease the volume for a loud speaker with the level control on the telephone.

Conference Recording

A lapel or lavaliere microphone may be preferable for recording a conference session for just one speaker. The lapel microphone clips on the speaker’s clothing and has a cord that plugs into the computer microphone input jack. Most are powered by a button battery and have an on/off switch.

Web Conference Recording using Voiceover IP Audio

Web conference recordings typically use traditional teleconferencing services. To record web conference audio or any phone conversation, simply place your microphone close to a speaker phone. Or alternatively, you can purchase an adapter which will connect your phone directly to your computer.

Some web conferences deliver audio via Voice Over IP. In the web conference services that use voiceover IP audio, the participants talk through microphone headsets connected to their computers and the audio comes across the Internet. No special type of hardware is required to record for this type of web conference.