A mouse with purpose
July 17, 2017 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I want graceful mouse cursor movements in my screencast. How can I achieve this?

I'm going to record a screencast to demonstrate the use of a website. However, I'd like my mouse pointer to move gracefully. (My attempts at moving it using the trackpad are far from graceful.) I want the final screencast to feature a cursor that moves with purpose from one UI element to another without dithering or meandering about the screen.

Is there a browser extension or something that can record my interactions with a web page then replay them, pointer and all, and smooth out the mouse movement? Even better, is there a browser extension, or anything, that might allow me to script cursor movements?
posted by popcassady to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would say: first, get yourself a bluetooth or usb mouse, and a large mouse mat. Trackpads are rubbish for smooth mouse movements - the ergonomics aren't up to the task. There are some decent tips here as well. The main advice seems to be: practice. Learn to use the website fluently. Write a script and learn it. Work with a mouse set at an appropriate speed.

I don't know of any easy way to script cursor activity. Certainly it's possible, but the time and effort involved is likely to require way more time and effort than is warranted for a screencast.
posted by pipeski at 2:28 PM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you considered using a mouse recorder that allows you to save movements and create scripts for mouse actions?
posted by xyzzy at 2:35 PM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Set tracking speed low to medium and acceleration minimum to very low.

Yes, you can in principle do this with capturing and smoothing pointer info, and then playing back, and then overlaying and syncing with video and audio, but with all due respect, fuck that.

Just practice a few times and it will be fine, and much faster than the time it will take you to learn/make/adapt/adopt some new-to-you technology and work flow*.

(*assuming you are making less than a few dozen. If you are making a hundred different screencasts or whatever, then I apologize :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:03 PM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is probably not what you want to do, and it may not work if you have animations or complex interactions. But I worked on a project for a major site where we took stills of the various screens and edited them into a video with an animated cursor. No actual screen recording or mouse movement. It's a lot easier to get the timing and motion just right that way. But if would start to be a big pain if you need to scroll the page or if it contains animations or things that can't easily be shown by cutting together stills.
posted by primethyme at 3:20 PM on July 17, 2017

Adobe Captivate does it, but is a big hammer for this nail. Mouse recorded that xyzzy linked looks good.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:27 PM on July 17, 2017

I've done this.

Definitely use a mouse, not a trackpad, with the tracking speed set to slow as Salty suggests. Trackpads are way too precise and jumpy. You want slow and fluid.

When recording, reserve A LOT of space for the mouse, because with slow tracking, it'll need a couple of square feet to work right without picking it up again.

And most of all: move the mouse very very very slowly, like ridiculously slowly, and accurately, centering it in the buttons or whatever you're trying to do perfectly.

Then accelerate the video later, to a pleasant "natural" speed, and add your audio on top of that.

Works great.
posted by rokusan at 4:08 PM on July 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I make a lot of screencast videos and my top tip is: do not plan to narrate and record your screen at the same time. If you're concentrating on smooth mouse movements, you will forget what you want to say/will be unable to read your script. If you are speaking well, you will forget to click the thing you need to click in a timely manner. Record your screen, make those mouse movements into a work of art (yes, external mouse is very important), then, separately, record your audio, then edit together. Use Camtasia. You can extend any single frame of video as long as you want so the mouse on screen exhibits perfect Zen-like stillness until just the right moment for the perfect smooth arc you executed during recording. Camtasia has a "narrate" tool to do exactly the workflow I recommended. Record video, turn your mic off, don't worry about talking, then narrate. Edit each track so they fit together seamlessly.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:13 PM on July 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

is there a browser extension, or anything, that might allow me to script cursor movements?

AutoIt has a MouseMove function that does exactly what you're asking for. You can also script mouse downs, ups, clicks, wheel scrolling and so forth as well as issuing simulated keypresses.

I've used AutoIt as a last resort for automating Windows applications for which no native scripting option was available, and it works pretty well.
posted by flabdablet at 12:52 AM on July 18, 2017

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