Over the last few weeks, we’ve explored various ways of creating original content on your computer. Hopefully, you’ve tried some of the recommended software and generated a few digital objects. The trouble with many of these tools is that they’re quite complicated and it’s easy to forget how to accomplish specific tasks.
Fortunately, it’s simple to capture exactly what’s happening on your screen, both to remind yourself and to help other people. So, Thing 11 is all about screencasting — technology that allows you to record your computer, add a commentary, and produce a video at the end. We’ll investigate what tools you need to create your own, and also explore some ideas on how you might use this technology in your research.
What do you need to create a Screencast?
There’s lots of software out there to help you, both free and paid-for. One of the most popular tools is Snagit, which boasts lots of features but costs around $50. If you’re also interested in general video editing, it would be worth investing in Camtasia, which is designed for both purposes. Camtasia and Snagit are available through a 30-day free trial.
The following screencast was created in Camtasia. As you’ll see, it’s possible to zoom, pan, highlight, add captions, and draw shapes. You can also speed up or remove sections.
A cheaper option is Screencast-o-Matic, a web-based tool that works on PCs and Macs. It’s free for videos lasting up to 15 minutes. If you want longer videos or the ability to edit them, you’ll need to pay $1.50 per month.
Tips for producing a good screencast
First of all, you’ll need patience! Producing a polished screencast takes time and many re-recordings. It’s much easier if you plan what you’re doing in advance. Here are some tips to help you:
- Give yourself a script, with each step clearly laid out, and pin it on the wall in front of you.
- Practice a couple of times to boost your fluency.
- Make sure you’re hydrated — you’ll sound squeaky if your vocal chords are parched.
- Record the screen and your commentary separately – it’s very difficult to concentrate on both activities at once, especially when you know you’re being recorded.
- Keep your microphone as far away as possible from your computer so it doesn’t pick up the background hum.
- Shut the door to keep out noisy quadrupeds and inquisitive bipeds.
- Close any distractions on your desktop, e.g. kitten videos on YouTube or half-finished games of Minesweeper.
How could you use screencasts?
There are all sorts of reasons why you might want to capture your screen activity. Ideas include:
- Demonstrating a feature in a software application to help others.
- Reminding yourself of how to accomplish a specific task, e.g. batch modifying images in Photoshop.
- Showing the choices you made in editing, translating, or transcribing a piece of text.
- Recording a process that’s part of your practice-based research, e.g. how you edited a film.
- Creating a how-to guide, e.g. how to order manuscript materials through the British Library’s online catalogue (many people would thank you for this).
Screencasting is simple yet powerful technology that allows us to easily share tips and knowledge. Even if you don’t create your own screencasts, you can still benefit from what other people have created.
The suggested activities for this week are:
- Have a look on Google for some screencasts that might help you improve your digital skills.
- Create a short screencast to demonstrate how to do something tricky, then share it on Twitter.
- If you followed the previous Things on video and podcasting, you could have a go at creating a more sophisticated recording, e.g. showing your digital working practices.