How do you make a good screencast?
March 26, 2013 7:53 PM   Subscribe

My screencasts sound horrible because they either have awkward pauses while I try to think of what I'm going to do next, or (when I script them) I lose my place and everything gets confusing and out of sync. How can I improve my screencasting skills to make them look and sound more polished and professional?

I've been trying to make a good screencast, but since I'm a bit of a perfectionist I'm running into some difficulties. So far I've approached it in two ways:

1) Record the screencast and audio at the same time. This leads to me using a lot of "um"s and "uh"s and seeing lots of little mistakes. It's not the worst thing in the world, but I'd like it to look and sound more polished.

2) Record the screencast first, then go back and script the audio portion. This works a bit better, but I have problems getting everything synced properly.

What are your tips and tricks to making a killer professional screencast?
posted by bjork24 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I make a lot of screencasts using Camtasia for consumer audiences. I typically write a "storyboard" and script, and then record the screen first, and then quickly edit to tighten up if needed.

The script/storyboard (in reality, some bolded lines) makes sure I do the main things I'm supposed to do during the screencast (typically a software demo), in order.

After that, I go through the screencast and read the script, doing a dry run.

I then record the audio reading the script. I frequently stop, so there are multiple audio cuts throughout the piece.

This means that if I screw something up, I don't have to throw away perfectly good audio up to that point.

I realize that I could just go in an edit the audio and insert something new wherever I flub up, but that takes too much time. Creating short audio segments allows me to quickly lay down a good narration for the screencast.

I also find that I can't manage the Camtasia controls (in this case, Stop Audio Recording when I screw up) and read from the script at the same time, so making frequent cuts means I actually have a bit more creativity when reading the script - it sounds more natural.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:06 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Break it down into bits and pieces. Get one 30-90 second segment down pat. Take a breather (no need to stop recording!) and then press on. When you're done, pull out each segment and put them together. (Most of my screencasts are under 10 minutes, I think a few hit 15 minutes.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:09 PM on March 26, 2013

Best answer: Yes, heed the advice above:

1. Record the screencast without audio. Remember to be slow and deliberate as you record. Add separately recorded audio after.

If you find that you are not leaving enough time to slip in enough explanatory audio from your script at certain points, here are some options:

a) Shorten the script. It's easy to be verbose.
b) Cut the recording into pieces and add static screenshots as placeholders for as long as needed to allow you to speak. Camtasia and similar programs make this easy.
c) Develop your script in advance and deliver it as you record the visuals, but don't record the audio. Talk at a reasonable, clear pace as you record, but if you make some error or say "um", it's no big deal. You're just using your talking to get the timing right.

2. Record your audio and/or a combined audio-video segment in small pieces. You will screw up less.

In addition, if you want to sound better, these recording tips are helpful (part 1 and part 2). I found that just standing up instead of sitting when recording made a real difference. I have not tried the foambrero.
posted by maudlin at 8:22 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Camtasia is cool but remember that it's almost always easier to cut audio to video than it is to cut video to audio.
posted by Sphinx at 8:51 PM on March 26, 2013

Response by poster: Lots of good answers here. Thanks guys!

I have Camtasia. I need to read a little deeper into the docs to figure out how to do a few more things to make my screencasting easier.
posted by bjork24 at 9:02 PM on March 26, 2013

I always record audio + video together. This requires you to do a dry run, as mentioned earlier. The second cut is always better.

Here is the key point for the second cut: As soon as you screw up, stop talking. Pause for several seconds. Be silent. Once you have collected your thoughts, repeat from where you stopped. This method makes it very easy to snip out errors in Camtasia. You will see the erroneous bits as flat lines, you can listen around those areas to crop to best fit.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:24 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was doing audiobooks, I would make a BEEEEEEP noise where I wanted an edit. It's easier to find those sounds (as they're big solid blobs of waveform) than pauses during the edit.

More useful still was when I found software that allowed me to drop a marker during recording by pressing the spacebar. I just dropped a marker everytime I goofed and stepped through them on the edit, and it was very, very fast.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:16 AM on March 27, 2013

I always record an initial version of the audio first, and then record the screen based on that. Then I go back and record the audio again. We also put the entire transcript onscreen, so I can be watching the script and sort of watching the video simultaneously when I do the rerecord of the audio.
posted by freezer cake at 5:28 PM on March 28, 2013

I record the same way crazycanuck does because I tend to like to be a little off the cuff and unscripted. And I just pause so mistakes are easy to find and do a quick cut out of the mistakes after
posted by hilaryjade at 8:47 PM on March 31, 2013

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