Screencasting 101?
February 26, 2015 12:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm hoping for a boost up the learning curve for recording and hosting/playback of PC screencasts.

I work for a huge, bureaucratic, heavily regulated and dysfunctional organization. I'm the guru for a complex and niche system that has a web client used by ~60 customers, who are smallish financial institutions.

We're about to perform a major upgrade of the system and the web client is changing radically(new software architecture, new look and feel, no continuity in location of menus/task items).

I need to train the customers to use the new web client. I'm thinking the most efficient way to do this will be to record screencasts of me demonstrating various functions with accompanying audio narration.

I expect little to no support from my employer in this endeavor (well, I could start a project to procure the screencasting software, get it approved by budget, get it approved by IT risk, etc. etc., and possibly have it available 6 months after the ugprade completes), meaning that I'll need to obtain the screencast recording software and hosting of the recordings on my own. Would like to keep total budget <$200 if possible.

I'll be recording on a Windows 7 laptop, and the majority of the recording will be of web browser applications (either Firefox or I.E.). The system web client is mostly text based with occasional PDF document images appearing. I don't see any need for HD resolution recording playback as long as the screen text is clear and legible.


Recommended screencast recording software for Windows 7?

Any hardware I should get? Should I buy a microphone?

What are my options for hosting the recordings where the clients won't be bombarded by ads? I'd really, really prefer not to host on youtube. I'm not opposed to paying for hosting.

Any pointers, advice, or references/tutorials you can point me to so my recordings look somewhat polished and don't bore the customers to death?
posted by de void to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can buy the Tuts+ course Pro Screencasting for the Rest of Us for $15. I haven't watched it, but Jeffrey Way is a pretty excellent screencaster. Only caveat is that it may be too Mac-centric for you.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:52 PM on February 26, 2015

Use Jing and host on Screencast (limited free. $99/year subscription) which is built into Jing.

Buy a decent USB Headset.

Get right to the point. Don't ramble on. "today I'm going to show you how to do ABC. First you click on.." - don't go on about what ABC is for. If you need to explain that, make another video.

Make them as short as possible.
posted by royalsong at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2015

Get Snagit. It's free as a Chrome app/extension (use the app - it fails less), or you can buy the full program that even has limited editing capabilities.

From there, you can upload the file anywhere.

I use my iPhone earbuds as a microphone and it works pretty well. I also open a photo window (like skype or an empty google hangout) so I can put my face in the video - it does make a difference, I think.

If you want to pony up for a decent program, Camtasia Studio is awesome and is made by the same people as Snagit.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:40 PM on February 26, 2015

It's not screencasting per se, but it's cheap and easy...
If you already have access to GoToMeeting software (or use the 30-day trial), then all you'll need is a USB headset (microphone and at least one ear, about $20) and a computer that can do whatever you're demonstrating.
- Start (host) a Meeting - no attendees
- Set the audio to use your USB headset
- Click Show My Screen (if you have two screens, you can choose one or the other)
- Record the 'meeting', with you demonstrating the process and doing voiceover
- End the meeting
That will get you a video of whatever you did on that screen, with what you said into the headset as you went. It'll be in a GoToMeeting format, but there's a setting to convert it to .wmv format, which any Windows PC can play.
So fiddle with the GTM settings a bit, then get your demo and voiceover script together, start a 'meeting', record it, convert the recording, post the recording.

If you spring for a full membership ($60/mo?) there's a GoToWebinar feature that will let you do your demo over the web to 25 people at a time live, if that's helpful.
posted by bartleby at 10:22 PM on February 26, 2015

Oh, right, and you can start a Youtube account and upload/convert those .wmv recordings to it, so you don't have to fuss with self-hosting the videos.

And keep them short and specific, one item/feature at a time. Instead of (or in addition to) a single 5-minute run-through video of the whole interface, do several 1-minute or 30-second clips of each feature ('How to Sign in to the ~~' , 'How to Enter New Client Data', 'Generating TPS Report Coversheets', etc.) Makes it much easier for customers to find what they're looking for.
posted by bartleby at 10:31 PM on February 26, 2015

I record a lot of screencasts. Jing works quite well if you don't care about being able to edit. However, I prefer Camtasia, which is easy to learn and which gives you a decent amount of control over the sound and video. I think this would come in handy for you because it lets you zoom in, add annotations and highlights, etc. A license is $299.

Like Jing, Camtasia is a TechSmith product, so it works with Personally, I use Google Drive to share videos, while some of my colleagues just upload to YouTube and leave the videos unlisted. However, I don't know if those methods would be an issue for a bureaucratic organization.

My company also uses for screencasts, but don't do that unless you have a reliable internet connection. It's annoying to have your recording interrupted because your wifi dropped.
posted by neushoorn at 1:28 AM on February 27, 2015

I do a lot of screencasts for my day job, and I gave this talk about app videos to a group of local developers last year. The first half of the video is general advice, which you'll probably find useful. The second half is more specific to the Mac and iOS software crowd.

The basic video tips: Know your audience, and what they need to hear. Don’t wing it — write a script. (A/V script format is super useful for screencasts.) Simple concepts and short pieces are better than one monolithic training video. Practice smooth actions with your mouse. Edit afterwards. Use a decent microphone (i.e., not the one built into your laptop). An inexpensive USB headset can work fine, like some of the options in this Wirecutter article.

From my Windows-using friends, I hear good things about Camtasia Studio, but I haven't used it myself.

Vimeo is great for hosting if you don't have your own space, and you can host a decent amount before it's something you need to pay for.
posted by mboszko at 3:16 PM on February 27, 2015

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