Screencasting: From Script to Screen

With Screencasting, it’s all about process. Pre-recording, recording, and post-recording are each equally important phases of the project.

Of course, you might not know this unless you’ve also spent ridiculous amounts of time redoing screencasts because you forgot to add an element or messed up a certain action on the screen.

In the interest of saving you time, I’ve jotted down a bunch of tips over the course of this experience that can help streamline your screencasting process. In order to achieve this, it’s important to put some forethought into the moves you’ll make in the video.

What do you want your viewer to take away from the video, what do you want them to learn? What do you want to show them, and what kind of visuals would be the most efficient way to do this? Your pre-recording process begins by answering these questions and starting to outline the scope of your screencast.

Pre-Recording

Write your script. While this may cramp your “wing it” attitude, this will help you plan out your visuals for your screencast. By pairing your audio with an action on the screen, you can clearly envision what’s happening at each point in the screencast. This will help you cut out any unnecessary content and keep your video focused. In the editing phase, it’s incredibly helpful to see this outline for easier clip splicing. When you’re finished, read over your script out loud to see if it makes sense logically and flows audibly.

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Click on the .GIF to download this script template.

Record your audio. Pay as much attention to your narration as your visuals. Ideally, you should use an external microphone to record your audio, but if you’re using an external webcam, they might already have a great microphone built-in, test it out. Read one line of your script at a time with brief pauses in between.

During editing, this allows you to cut, rearrange, or insert audio clips easily in between each other on your timeline. Before you start your screencast, make sure to edit down your audio so you’ll have those verbal guidelines properly timed and matched up to your script to help you figure out what visuals go where.

Plan out your screencast. Are you going to use a specific website, application, or program? Know what each action on the screen will consist of and what you need to set up first in order to record it. Of course, the idea that you have while writing the script may change when you actually start recording – that’s okay.

Don’t forget to set up your screen so it’s camera-ready: hide your bookmarks bar in your browser and any other icons or folders you don’t want seen on your desktop. Also, make sure to disable any alerts so they don’t disrupt your screencast.

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You’re almost ready to start recording. However, you also need to think about where this video is going to be uploaded – who’s the audience and how will they watch it?

This matters not only for the content of the video, but also for recording the correct dimensions so you don’t have a stretched or fuzzy video. If your end goal is YouTube, record in 1280×720 or 16:9 resolution. If you’re recording in PowerPoint, the same goes; however, you must change the default slide size to 16:9.

Now, before you even think about starting your screencast, you should practice, practice, practice! Trust me, you’ll be grateful later. Or, you’ll waste time redoing your screencasts.

Recording

Hopefully, you practiced your screencast because now it’s time to record it for real. Double check your recording settings to make sure they’re in the right resolution.

Also, check your microphone settings under the recorder’s audio output setting. Open up any applications or programs ahead of time unless you want to show how to get to them in the screencast.

When you do start recording, keep in mind how a viewer would see each of your actions. Be deliberate with cursor movements to guide the viewer’s eyes to the elements you want them to focus on or be aware of. Don’t linger on pages unless you have a reason to.

As people’s attention spans get shorter and shorter, it’s more necessary than ever to stay on task and keep the viewer engaged. Be concise and focused while navigating your content.

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If you need help with any aspect of screencasting, don’t knock the helpfulness of tutorials until you’ve looked through them thoroughly. Be sure to check out our library of free tutorials and guides for Camtasia.

Post-Recording

Before you do anything drastic, clean up your screen recordings; trim ends and splice out loading pages and unnecessary bits. Keep the pace lively, but focused enough to follow. Below are some more specific tips to help you get the most out of editing.

    • Use elements of repetition to structure your content for the viewer’s benefit such as specific transitions to mark changes in topic.
    • Transitions are key to a well done video. Too flashy and they draw attention away from the content. I recommend the fade transition for a smooth, seamless look.

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  • Callouts can also make or break a video. Use them to guide the viewer’s eyes and focus. Don’t visually assault them; let the callouts enhance your narration rather than distract from it.

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  • Zooming and panning can help clarify and emphasize audio instructions. However, use them sparingly as it may be jarring for viewers if used too frequently.

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  • Keep track of your tracks. Don’t let clips linger at the end of the video only to be rendered and included in the final version. Check to make sure there aren’t any extra clips, sound bits, or callouts lingering in other tracks before you produce and share your video.
  • If you want to edit large chunks of audio, disable the tracks you don’t want to change by clicking on the eye to hide the track. Then, select all of the tracks that you want to change and you can change them all at once.

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  • When it comes to using licensed music, it’s incredibly important to do your research. Check the allowed uses carefully before buying or using. Creative commons licenses are fairly common and give you free reign to use the music however and wherever you want; whereas, royalty-free and standard licenses come with a bit more rules as well as a license fee. No matter the license, always check that the available uses align with how you’ll end up using the music.

Editing can help you completely transform your content. Pay close attention to detail to perfect the presentation of your screencast.

Behind the Scenes

The screencasting process is a fickle one. There are multiple parts that need to come together in the right way in order for you to produce a finished, polished product.

Two of the most important things I learned (that I consistently relearned every video) was to plan and practice your screencast. As a perfectionist, I redid a lot of my screencasts anyway, but the rerecording count significantly decreased whenever I thoroughly planned and practiced my narration as well as my actions on screen. Of course, things didn’t always go the way I planned, but I took them in stride and even tried out a few new things along the way that turned out pretty well.

If I was ever stuck or unsure, I was definitely the one asking my co-workers a thousand questions – don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out on Twitter @Camtasia, @TechSmith, or @Snagit, or browse the many video tutorials on our YouTube channel, I know I watched at least a few throughout this series. In the end, the production process is a long one, but establishing a good work ethic and routine as well as cultivating your list of resources are the best way to make sure you stay at the top of your screencasting game.

 

Miss any of the videos in this series?