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Simple Screencasting Tips

Second Life Tutorial - screencastDoes anyone visit Second Life anymore? Perhaps not, or at least not often. But video tutorials are still very helpful, which makes screencasting a useful skill to develop.

We’ve covered screencasting in this space before, beginning with this introductory guide. It’s still well worth a look, even nearly five years later, and the basic workflow for screencasting hasn’t changed much.

It’s one thing to read through the basics of screencasting, though, and another to actually do it. Over the summer, I’ve needed to develop my own screencasting skills while working on a major project, and I’ve learned quite a bit in the process. Here are a few tips that have helped me:

  • If you need to sound professional, invest in a decent microphone. Forget about background noise — my voice itself sounded bad when I tried to use the computer’s built-in mic. Fortunately, a mic that works reasonably well (for those of us who aren’t musicians or audio professionals, at least) needn’t be hideously expensive. I’m finding that Blue’s Nessie works well for me, but there are a lot of reasonably-priced options.

  • Keep the screencast reasonably short (two to four minutes). I’m working on videos introducing students to using WordPress. I’m finding that it’s better (for example) to create a short screencast that demonstrates how to create pages and subpages and another that demonstrates how to use them to create a menu, rather than create one longer screencast explaining both.

  • Have a script, and read from it as you record your actions on screen. I’ve found that writing the script out ahead of time forces me to think about what I’m going to do on screen, and it keeps me on track during the recording. I make fewer mistakes, which makes editing the video much less time-consuming than it might otherwise be.

  • Having a script and reading from it also makes it much easier to create an SRT file with closed captions. (Whatever tool you use to create the file, the process for uploading it to YouTube — assuming that’s where you’re hosting your screencasts — hasn’t changed since George explained it a few years ago.) If you’re reading from a script, your captions are already written, and it’s a straightforward (if potentially time-consuming, especially for longer screencasts) cut and paste job to sync your captions with your recording.

These are just a few potentially helpful tips for screencasting. Do you have others to share? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user torley.]

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