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Most Common Mistakes in Screencasting

When people think about how to start screencasting1, they often forget that screencasting is not only a very interesting way of showing something quickly, comprehensibly and easily; it’s also a way of advertising their products. It’s a shame to see how many websites out there lack a beautiful looking screencast, as this can make products look a lot more attractive to potential customers.

What most hobby screencasters don’t know, is that screencasting is not simply the act of sitting down and recording the screen; simple screen recording was something we did four to five years ago. Screencasts have a long history, starting from “I just record my screen” to the fancy product demos you see today. Nowadays, a screencast is almost necessary for start-ups and new products, especially in the tech business

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

My career as a screencaster started a couple of years ago. By that time, I was already blogging; sitting in front of Ableton Live (which I found to be a very original new workflow), I asked myself: what would be the best way to show others what I’m doing? The answer was clear: to record my screen.

That same night, I started using Snapz Pro X. My English was terrible5 and it felt awkward to record this thing — then to re-record it about ten times. Since then I have recorded hundreds of screencasts, including for Mac OS X Screencasts6. Having gained a lot of experience, it’s now time to share this experience with others.

How Not To Do a Screencast Link

In the early days of screencasting, there were a lot of YouTube videos which now look like screencasting “dinosaurs.” This was to be expected then, but there are still people making the same terrible mistakes we all made in the early days.

Handheld Cameras Link

We probably all know that scenario; we’ve found a new function that apparently nobody uses in a program, and are so excited that we instantly want to share that idea on YouTube. It’s easy to grab a video camera or mobile phone and just point it at the computer screen, right? No. Never ever do that, as the videos will look terrible7!

On the other hand, if the video shows something really, really extraordinary, people will watch it anyway. Content is king! If that video ends up on another website that showcases a product or service, it’s obvious that someone should invest precious money in screencasting software.

Facial Cameras Link

We have seen this a lot of times around the Web: screencasts with a smaller rectangular screen showing the person recording the screencast. Most of the time this screen is put somewhere in the video, and is always on. Even famous people like Merlin Mann8 are doing it. Merlin is great, by the way, although he’s no professional screencaster; all he intended to do was show his cool new workflow in TextExpander, which is great. Recording with built-in cameras is great too, but as I will describe later, use these functions wisely.

Consider the following:

  • Is it necessary for a face to be there all the time?
  • Does the audience really need to see a face to follow the screencast?
  • Will the face distract people from watching the screencast?

I agree that for introduction purposes, it’s a good idea to show someone on a built-in or external webcam; but as soon as we move to the main content, it’s a good idea to fade that video out. In my latest screencasts, I do exactly that: at the intro my facial camera is on while I tell my audience what they are about to see — and then when I get to the first section, I fade this video out.

Here’s a recommendation: do a big close-up as your introduction, centered on the screen. Then say something like, “Hi, my name is Andreas and today I’m showing you Whatever™ product by Some, Inc. Whatever™ is great, and I love it; you will love it too, and here’s why.” Right after “…and here’s why,” either fade the video out or decrease the size of the video while moving it to the lower right/left corner. Then, leave that video a couple more seconds on screen before fading it out completely.

Distractions During Screencasting Link

When I started recording screencasts, this was one of the hardest things to learn: leave the mouse pointer wherever it is on the screen and don’t use it as an extension of your hand. If you own good recording or production software, callouts or zooms and pans are better tools to emphasize a particular thing on screen. It’s not necessary to move the mouse while describing something. Also, when you are editing the screencast later on, it’s much easier to make your edits when the mouse stays still so there is no distracting mouse movement between shots, or mouse jump at a jump cut.

On the other hand, the mouse pointer has to be used at times as it’s the only thing people can focus on to follow detailed instructions. Just using keyboard shortcuts is a bad idea. I would recommend on first showing, that you display the menu entry and point out that there’s a keyboard shortcut. On the second showing, use the shortcut (please do tell the listeners prior to execution, otherwise they won’t be able to recognize what you just did).

Don’t Annoy People Link

A crucial part of a good screencast is entertainment, a fact that many people — especially beginners — don’t realize. Someone watches a screencast to get information, but why not make it a pleasurable experience? Try to create interest by using animations and other techniques.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that there are some things a screencaster can assume: for example, that people can read and have used computers before, so they know how to click on parts of the screen and they know how to write.

In an online review of Snowtape, a Web radio recording application for Mac, the screencaster reads (starting at 0:38) every menu item in the Preferences. You don’t need to do that. Aside from being boring, the screencaster loses precious time for the screencast. On YouTube, a video is usually limited to ten minutes in length. (Pro tip: I have successfully uploaded videos which were 10:50 without getting rejected.) Just going through every single menu entry cost the presenter two minutes of precious time! That means only eight more minutes to show the rest of the application.

Some of my clients refuse to upload their videos to YouTube: Why should one want to upload a video to YouTube, rather than hosting on their own website? Creating a chic, customized Flash video player and all that stuff is fun, isn’t it? There’s one main reason why that’s not a good idea: YouTube is one of the biggest video websites we currently have on the Web. It attracts millions of users daily and has an embedding feature. Think of all the thousands of blogs out there. Creating a player just for one website is attractive, because the owner remains in control over the design and the video itself, but on the other hand, disallows and discourages their product from getting mentioned in — for instance — Smashing Magazine.

I would recommend staying within YouTube’s length boundaries not only for the sake of uploading a screencast, but also for the sake of audience attention span. Audience attention span seems to be gradually decreasing, which is another reason to keep a long story short. Common lengths for screencasts:

  • Instructional (tutorial) screencasts: 8 – 10 minutes.
  • Advertising videos: 1 – 4 min.

Preparing Yourself Link

My recommendation is to write your script before an actual recording. I have found mind maps handy for this job (I’m a big mindmap fan anyway and use it for all kinds of things, like planning; sorting; thinking).

A screencast should have structure, but don’t “overplan” recordings either as it will suck the spontaneity out of your screencast. Sometimes, meticulous planning and sticking to your script is necessary to make a very straight-to-the-point screencast. However, in most cases keeping everything natural for the audience is the topmost goal. My recommendation:

  • Don’t try to sound unnatural by using overly complicated vocabulary. Keep it simple. Use spoken language. (No curse words!)
  • Try to follow the path laid out in the script, but feel free enough to make spontaneous remarks here and there. The audience will appreciate it! As I said before, they want to be entertained. Don’t try to sound like an over-enthusiastic moderator. You’re not! You won’t sound like yourself and your audience will switch off!
  • Organize in sections rather than trying for a single, long take. In most cases you may have to re-record several times, often because some little details didn’t work. This can cost you a lot of time, so dividing your screencast into sections makes recording much easier.

Sometimes, meticulous planning and sticking to your script is necessary to make a very straight-to-the-point screencast.

Sections should be three to five minutes each. After recording each section and saving it, import each section and put a transition between them. This is not only easy to do, it looks great, and helps the audience follow the screencast as they know that a new section begins when they see a transition.

One thing to keep in mind: use simple transitions over the fancy ones! Don’t think “awesome” transitions will also make a screencast look awesome. A bad screencast will not get a cool, fresh look from cool-looking transitions; what’s recorded, is recorded. Try to stick to the simple things; cross dissolve or dip through black, and if it has to look “flashy,” dip through white.

Division Link

When planning a screencast, I most often create three chapters:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Beginner Link

In the Beginner part, I talk about the basic functions of a program.[19] I tell my audience who I am; what they are about to see; what this application is supposed to do; who made it; and so on. After this short introduction I show a simple, short workflow demonstrating what the application was made for. This, again, draws people’s attention to the screencast: “Hey, that looks really useful. I’m doing that a lot. Maybe I should continue watching.” Then, the Intermediate part begins.

Intermediate Link

After an introduction and showing some basic functions, it’s time to go into detail:

  • What else does this software have to offer?
  • What are the functions a user discovers at second launch?

For example, for a text editor I focus on functions that make this editor stand apart. I might talk about software interface, shortcuts and useful functions — basically, the things users discover after the second or third time they launch the application.

Advanced Link

When it becomes clear what the application does, I then concentrate on showing the really advanced stuff. You have reached your goal when people think: “Wow! This is crazy! I didn’t even think that would be possible with this. I really need to check this out!” Maybe, it’s an export function nobody thinks of; or, a hidden preference setting somewhere. Who knows? This is why it’s so important to be well prepared and to be familiar with the product; for example, I recorded a screencast on how a very simple stop-motion app named Smoovie10 can be used with AppleScript and Automator to record time lapse videos.

Screen Recording Software Link

People often wonder what screencasting tools are available, and how to decide on one or the other. Although some tools are already mentioned in the article Screencasting: How to Start, Tools and Guidelines11, I want to make a short addendum to this list. Since the release of Snow Leopard, QuickTime Player is also capable of recording the screen. Although it leaves an icon in the top-right of the screen, this is probably the cheapest solution.

Using simple “screen-record-only” software has the downside that you need to find other software to edit your video; this means, again, a bit more time and effort. If someone wants to take screencasting more seriously, I would recommend ScreenFlow or Camtasia. Both are well equipped “editing-and-recording-all-in-one” solutions able to handle everything needed for a good screencast. They have layers, editing tools, callout functionality and more. Most screencasters edit on ScreenFlow or an equivalent before exporting the video to Apple Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, where lower-thirds, transitions or a table of contents are added (this is the workflow of Don McAllister12, for example).

Animations (Using Zooms, Pans and Callouts) Link

A common mistake among screencast newbies is not to make use of the zoom and pan functions. While I recommend their use, there is a slight difference between using and overusing.

Zoom Link

New screencasters often don’t use zoom [213] at all, but don’t be afraid to zoom in to show something with bigger detail. In a standard ten-minute screencast, often all I see is someone else’s screen; a moving cursor is all that changes, or maybe some windows pop open or a checkbox gets ticked. Wouldn’t you feel totally bored watching a moving mouse cursor move for ten minutes? I have had clients saying they want exactly that. Honestly, although I usually enjoy hearing myself talk, watching such screencasts makes me sleepy.

Zoom in on a detail, talk about that function, and then zoom out or pan211514 to the next function.

So, make use of the zoom function to make a screencast a bit more exciting. Zoom in on a detail, talk about that function, and then zoom out or pan211514 to the next function. That way people see a more dynamic visual change, which creates interest and holds peoples’ attention. As with other things, like callouts, this function should be used wisely: not wherever possible, but wherever useful.

Pan Link

While zoomed in on a detail, the audience can’t see everything outside the cutout. Pans are useful to move the “camera” around — while remaining zoomed in! I use pans when my (mouse) cursor is about to move out of a cutout area. I try to move the camera along with the mouse pointer; that way the pan action looks very natural and seem to make more “sense” instead of moving the camera first, and then the mouse.

As a rule of thumb, choose the solution you think makes more sense to a person watching your screencast. Always consider the audience! Standard pan lengths, as well as standard zoom lengths, can get annoying as they are very repetitive. Professional screencasting applications allow you to customize the length of an action. Make use of that possibility!

Callouts Link

As an example of what not to do, a common mistake is to have the checkbox in ScreenFlow which says “Show modifier keys when pressed” enabled during the entire screencast. Another checkbox says to display mouse-clicks as Radar, or to make clicks audible. These options are not bad, but again, overusage is not a good thing; people intuitively know that when a window comes to the foreground, someone must have clicked on it, so why bother them with a stupid effect?

On the other hand, when saying something like: “…and when this checkbox is enabled, the app automatically does such-and-such…”, it’s a good idea to turn on visual click effects. Split the clip before the click happens, then split the clip afterwards, and enable click effects for this new separate clip. Done! Probably the best tip for you: use effects to support your explanations, not as something fancy to have. When I realized this, it changed my whole way of doing screencasts.

Overlays And Lower-Thirds Link

When all the edits are made, it’s a wise idea to add a bit more of that extra magic to the video such as a table of contents or lower-thirds. The options here are wide open. Although professional apps like Camtasia offer mandatory support for animations, they are no power houses in that regard. Try to find another application to create those overlays and import them to your screencast.

An animation program needs to be capable of producing transparent movies, which are added as a separate layers on top of the screencast. I create mine with Keynote, which can export transparent movies using the Share function. Go to Share > Export. Then select Custom… in the Formats drop-down menu. Make sure to enable Include transparency. I use the Apple Animation codec for exporting.

Apart from Keynote or even Linux software, and if you want to invest a bit more money, Apple Final Cut Pro’s Motion; Adobe After Effects; Red5, and a lot of other programs are specialized for creating these effects. Most screencasters I know use the Apple Final Cut Pro Suite, where Motion is included. Others stick with After Effects. Both are professional, advanced tools.

Recording Equipment Link

The audio quality of a screencast is often determined by the hardware used. Many people use their built-in microphone on a laptop, which is fine most of the time but has several downsides:

  • People will hear you typing and clicking.
  • The recording will have more hiss, because of the poor microphone quality.
  • The recording will have more ambient sound (such as a printer printing, the phone ringing, the wind blowing or a car honking).

Buying a good microphone is another steep investment, but it’s definitely a good one that adds a lot of value to your recording equipment. Sure, for me as an audio engineer, it’s quite easy to pick the right set of equipment. But newcomers often have problems with this. The good news is that most screencasts don’t need high quality recording equipment. There are dynamic and diaphragm microphones to choose from; in my opinion, it is usually better to buy a diaphragm microphone, although it picks up more ambient noise. Dynamic microphones are less sensitive to accidental “pops” or other unwanted noise, but sound less clear and clean.

Wrong tools doesn’t necessarily mean that you are using wrong coding or designing applications, it also can mean a wrong environment or computer setup. On the photo above, the setup looks solid and well-organized. Image credit17.

I ended up buying a USB microphone that has an amplifier built-in, so it doesn’t need any other special equipment; dynamic microphones usually need a separate amplifier. I know some screencasters who buy “stand” microphones, which they attach to a freely movable arm that is attached to the wall. That way, they can move their microphone around and always have a good position to their microphone.

Placing a microphone is quite easy. I would recommend not putting the microphone directly in front of you, as some vowels (like “p” or “t”) can “pop” the microphone, resulting in a distorted recording. Most recording microphones have a cardioid polar pattern18 that records well when sound comes from the front, but is less sensitive to sound from the side and the back. As humans, we are orbital emitters which means that for us, speaking into a microphone placed to the side of our mouths sounds equally good as speaking directly into it. The only difference is that the “p” and “t” sounds don’t influence the diaphragms’ movement, because all of the sonic energy doesn’t go in the microphone’s direction. [319]

Some screencasters, like me, prefer headset microphones as they are always the right distance to the mouth. A possible downside of professional diaphragm headset microphones, however, might be the need for a separate audio interface. Fortunately, mine wasn’t that expensive; I’m using a MiPRO MU-55HN.

I can’t recommend buying microphones that just “look good,” such as those blue-light emitting microphones. Low price usually means low quality. I suggest going into a professional music shop to ask for help, as they have enough experience to sell you the right microphone — perhaps an even cheaper and better one — than the amateur shops would.

Recording Studio Link

How do you choose an appropriate recording studio? Some people record their screencasts in their offices, which have bare walls; this makes the recording sound equally “bare,” like you have recorded in a washroom. There’s nothing you can do about that, except by putting more stuff on the walls and desks. Placing “reflecting material” helps the sonic waves spread across the room, resulting in better audio quality. The recorded voice will always sound like the room it has been recorded in. If it shouldn’t sound like your office, don’t record there! It’s simple as that! Spend one or two hours in a different venue getting your audio recording right, and then move back into your office for editing. It’s really worth it!

Summary Link

This article gives you a brief overview of some of the most common mistakes screencasting beginners make. I have great hopes now of seeing fewer screencasts recorded with a mobile phone! I tried to explain how to use zoom20 and pan211514 more effectively and how to emphasize different portions of a screencast; we discussed that click effects, or keyboard-shortcut-overlays, should only be used wherever helpful, not wherever possible. Some of you may have decided to acquire additional or new gear for your recording equipment collection. And of course, choosing the right place to record your audio is the final icing on your screencasting cake.

Footnotes Link

  1. I’m using the word “application” here as an example, but it can apply to everything. (jump back to the article)22
  2. Zoom may be called “scale” depending on the software in use. Professional video editing suites tend to use the word scale rather than zoom, whereas screencast-specific programs use the word zoom instead of scale. (jump back to the article)23
  3. This is because high frequency sounds are emitted more directly from our mouths. (jump back to the article)24

(rs) (ik) (vf)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9 #fn:using
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13 #fn:zoom_scale
  14. 14 #pan
  15. 15 #pan
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19 #fn:this_is_caused_by
  20. 20 #zoom
  21. 21 #pan
  22. 22 #fnref:using
  23. 23 #fnref:zoom_scale
  24. 24 #fnref:this_is_caused_by

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  1. 1

    Thanks for this article. As Marlou already mentioned, I’ haven’t seen an article about screen casting before. Sometimes on very technical topics the screen casts just covers a particular step in a whole chain of settings and tweaks but the presenter just ignores to explain what he already prepared in advance or what the preconditions are. Some other presenters just flip around with their mouse and do something but they don’t dare to explain why they have done it. A downloadable summary with the most important information would be nice sometimes too. However, I appreciate everybody who takes the time to record a screen cast.

  2. 2

    This article made me laugh, I’ve seen so many bad screencasts!
    Great article.

  3. 3

    Another reason for using YouTube is that it also works on iOS devices. (Unlike Flash Video) And you don’t have to do anything extra for it.

  4. 5

    I really enjoyed this article! Haven’t seen a post about screencasting before on webdesign blogs/magazines. Thank you, good work and props for writing about something different and interesting!

  5. 6

    I’ve been looking to get into screencasting, for tutorials or what have you. This has been an excellent introduction, and no doubt I’ll keep referring to it whilst experimenting! Thanks Andreas & SM!

  6. 7

    Interesting article.

  7. 8

    Hey Zettt,

    very good work here. Not only a comprehensive but also funny article ;-)

  8. 9

    Great article. I’ve done about 15 video tutorials for my book and the hardest part is setting the sound. I don’t have isolated place to get a clean sound so my only option is record the tutorial at night, 12-3 am.

    The other mistake is sometimes a beginner is too shy with their own sound. They speak very quietly, when their sound is not recorded they often blame their microphone.

    Thank you for sharing.

  9. 10

    Excellent article thanks, which I will quote and link to.

    May I suggest the best USB mic on the planet – Blue Yeti.

    I’m a radio guy and this is the first plug and play USB that offers THX cert. b’cast quality, great for recording screenshot work and skype interviews.

    I paid for mine and get no advantage in spruiking for Blue Microphones.


  10. 11

    Andreas Zeitler

    December 9, 2010 6:59 am

    Hey all, thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoy the article.

    @Falko: Glad you like it. ;)

    @Jeprie: Totally agree, will fit in another article quite well.

    @Tony: You can recommend those? I always shied away from those blue mics. I’m using a headset mic (MiPRO) and a USB interface by E-MU.

  11. 12


    December 9, 2010 7:02 am

    awesome screencasting tips!

    I edited a screencast for my work and another mistake, I noticed, not zooming in and focusing on what you’re talking about. I realize this can be hard to do on a windows but when you need to compress video to upload, tiny text can get blurred. thus, making the screen bigger won’t force the watchers to squint their eyes and figure out what’s there,

  12. 13

    This tutorial states YouTube’s maximum video length incorrectly. It has been 15 minutes for a few months now.

  13. 14

    Matthew Davis

    December 9, 2010 7:10 am

    Cool article – thanks for sharing!

    What would also be cool is to give some output encoder settings, talk about setting the screen resolution of computer etc… That’s the part I have the most trouble with.

    But again, thanks for sharing!

    • 15

      Andreas Zeitler

      December 9, 2010 7:33 am

      I’ve written about this already. Check out my (business) website:

  14. 16

    Excellent and very practical article – thanks again!



  15. 17

    Zack Grossbart

    December 9, 2010 7:22 am

    Thank you for the informative article. I’ve been blown away by the great response to my screencasts and I’ve spent a while tuning my presentation style.

    I’ll throw mine in as a hopefully good example: The WordPress Editorial Calendar Screen Cast.

  16. 18

    I think it would’ve been better if this is done in screencast, not as an article.
    It’s like living by example :)

  17. 19

    Gilberto J Perera

    December 9, 2010 8:09 am

    Awesome post, very thorough. I’ve always thought that adding the Webcam video of your face during the entire screen cast was silly. Great tips.

  18. 20

    I wish more screencasts had a text version to go with them. Sometimes I just want to copy a snippit of code, or go back to a certain part of the process, without having to deal with a video.

  19. 21

    Thanks for the great tips ;) I’ll make sure to incorporate many of these tips next time I do a screencast.

  20. 22

    The absolute best screen casts at done by Andrew Kramer over at Video Copilot. Funny & straight to the point. Love him.

  21. 23

    Thanks for the article. Nice tips :)

    As a web developer I’m not used to communicate about my work but this is such a great experience. I’ve made some videos with my company about web technologies in a plateform called Zengularity ( ).

    Gaetan from France.

  22. 24

    Likewise I haven’t seen an article on screencasting before this excellent offering. Very good reference article to save and share.

  23. 25

    Great article! I can’t agree with you more about not using the mouse pointer as an extension of your hand! So annoying to see onscreen, yet such a hard habit to break!

    One small tip I would add would be to make sure you have *some* movement on screen. I’ve seen many ScreenFlows where the presenter’s voice is introducing or talking about a subject, and the only thing showing on screen his/her Apple desktop. Use this as an opportunity to add graphics or pictures that help support what you’re introducing! At the very least, add something funny or interesting just to keep people’s interest. (Why make a video if you aren’t going to show anything interesting… go into podcasting or radio instead!) :)

    Thanks again for a great in-depth article.

  24. 26

    Thanks for sharing! As someone who does the occasional screencast on web design/development related topics, I found this article really useful. Your point regarding not moving the mouse while explaining things is something I know I’m bad at, and I’ll have to keep it in mind for the future.

  25. 27

    Andreas Zeitler

    December 9, 2010 12:38 pm

    @Gregory: Thanks a lot. Really appreciate all the nice words of you guys.

    @Lynn: So true, but once you’ve done a couple of screencasts you start *thinking* about breaking this habit.
    Re the movement thing, I can’t agree more on that one as well. I thought this, subconsciously, comes across in my article. I’m putting a TOC or lower-thirds wherever needed.

  26. 28

    Just my 2 cents

    December 9, 2010 12:41 pm

    * Should not change pitch drastically at the end of every sentence.

  27. 29

    Pedro Carvalho

    December 9, 2010 12:57 pm

    Good article containing excellent advice!

    I am doing screencasts myself for the past days. These screencasts are in english and have been struggling with the fact of not being a native english speaker and, because of that, is harder to maintain the speech during long periods of time. So, in my case, using a good software with editing capabilities, like Screenflow, and thorough planning are not an option.

    About the microphone advice, I recorded the first screencasts with the built in microphone and the sound sucks! Just ordered a Blue Snowball. Still waiting for it, but I have high hopes that will be a big improvement.

    Pedro Carvalho

  28. 30

    I don’t want you to think this is spam… even tough the video that I’m linking is in Italian language and I think it is completely useless for non Italian native speakers.

    What do you think about this technique?

  29. 31

    top three mistakes:

    1. talking too much
    2. talking too much
    3. talking too much

    show as much as you tell.

  30. 32

    OOPS…The article is too long…

  31. 33

    been working very hard on honing the right screen casting techniques over the years. Love your feedback on the style below.

    There’s a free module on the homepage. I believe it’s the right balance between on screen person and screen cam.

  32. 34

    Lester Bambico

    December 9, 2010 3:41 pm

    Nice article
    There’s a little typo though on the section “Don’t Annoy People”
    Why should one want to upload a video to YouTube, rather that hosting on their own website?

    I think that should be Why should one want to upload a video to YouTube, rather than hosting on their own website?

  33. 35

    Parand Darugar

    December 9, 2010 7:20 pm

    Any other recommendations for microphones that are relatively inexpensive? I find audio to be the hardest part of the screencast to get right.

  34. 36

    Nice article. While recording my screen cast i will surely follow these instructions. Thanks Andreas.

  35. 37

    very well done! I love experimenting with screencasting but i’ve found watching ones by other people I fall asleep after two minutes. so that’s my advice to everyone is keep sections short as mentioned in the article above.

    would love more information about screencasting on the blog.

  36. 38

    Andreas Zeitler

    December 9, 2010 11:06 pm

    @ZioRIP: I have no idea what you’re talking, but I get what you’re showing. So, yes, the message comes across. It’s a good idea, when someone uses a supplemental device to show it in one corner.

    @Pedro: Don’t worry about your English. I’m from Germany, the only people complaining about my English are Germans. For English natives your English sounds like “just another accent”. :)

    @Nathan: Sooo true!

    @Mark: Really like the style. Although I think the business dress is a bit too much, but on the other hand you’re showing a business software…then I think it’s okay to wear a dress. Big plus: British accent. ;)

  37. 39

    Peter Mattsson

    December 9, 2010 11:58 pm

    Great article with lots of recommendations! Can you please give an example of what you mean by using Keynote for your animations and how you use them?

  38. 40

    What’s the wallpaper used on that Mac displays?

  39. 41


    Great article. You’ve covered so much that will really help new users get up to speed on screencasting.

    You mentioned “transparent movies” from Keynote. I use transparent “images” all the time in my screencasts but I’m not sure what you’re doing with transparent Keynote movies. It sounds like a great idea. Could you explain more?

    • 42

      Andreas Zeitler

      December 10, 2010 8:43 am


      Thanks a lot!
      I’m using animations to visualize clicks, lower-thirds, table of contents and other “on-screen” stuff on a separate layer. Hope that helps.
      I’ve switched to Motion, the workflow is quite similar though. Maybe this is helpful:

  40. 43

    I find popularity of screencasts extremely annoying. I read faster than any screencaster can talk or show stuff. Not to speak of repeating the tutorials steps. With video presentation it becomes way too hard work.

    Can you maybe recomend to speed up video and speech (like audiobooks feature)? It’d definetely save some of my time and patience.


  41. 44

    I wouldn’t want to see the face of screen-caster unless the video is humorous.

  42. 45

    Good article over at lifehacker, Five Best Screenscasting Tools. Screentoaster works well on the PC.

  43. 46

    Hey Andreas,
    what an awesome Blogpost. I’m a Screencast- Newbie and this was exactly what I needed to start professionally and avoid stupid mistakes! Thanks for blogging, this is why it’s definitely worth sharing experience!

  44. 47

    A nice read.
    Adding some background music can also help make the screencast more appealing.

  45. 48

    Hey, I don’t think I would want to watch a screen cast with Merlin Mann, without being able to watch his facial expressions. As far as Merlin goes, “If it ain’t broke…”

  46. 49

    Excellent article- I’ve recorded 50+ screencasts myself and even edited some for customers. Excellent tips. I highly recommend screenflow. My first screencasts were edited in iMovie (oh the horror!), and after that a combination of final cut pro and motion. After I found screenflow knead able to do everything in screenflow.

    Also, as you mentioned the importance of great audio can’t be overstated. Suck it up and buy a mixer and a good microphone. Audio is 9/10 of the presentation, even if it’s a screencast.

  47. 50

    @Andreas – thank you! Because it was for teachers – we felt business dress was most appropriate – however I totally agree that you need to get the tone right for your audience – dress / voice / environment etc.

  48. 51

    Angus Fretwell

    December 16, 2010 5:38 am

    It’s funny how many professional designers have issues with screen recording :P

  49. 52

    Thanks for displaying my setup, even calling it ‘solid and well-organized’ :-D. However, that camera (1080i) is a bit old, hardly better than the iMacs built-in iSight camera. Get a decent 1080p camera, but beware: a lot of USB-connected camcorders don’t have webcam functionality, if I’m not mistaken. The iSight is good enough for your screencasts, anyway. By the way, I’ve updated my setup last year, with a 27″ iMac, see here:
    Also, that Fast Track Pro is pretty worthless. I’d cough up extra dough for a more decent amp – or stick with a cheaper USB microphone instead, such as the Snowball Mic or the Samson C01U, which will produce excellent sound quality, as in ‘better than most web videos’ – especially screencasts. If you’re into professional broadcasting or recording, you should get even better and more expensive gear. So, to be frank, I’m not that satisfied with my setup at all. USB Mic + iSight is all you need, unless you’re recording stuff for national TV or something.

    And yeah, Screenflow is the way to go. I love it.

  50. 53

    Hello, this is very useful article. I would like your advice about creating CD/DVD tutorial. What is best format for screencast tutorials.

    I would like to write tutorial (HTML format) and record screencast accompanying the text. How do I go about it, and distribute via CD/DVD. What is best approach and best format for the sceencast, what software to use to generate HTML like ebook (but distributed CD/DVD).


    • 54

      Andreas Zeitler

      December 21, 2010 12:36 am

      Hi jk, Glad you find the article useful. Unfortunately I have to tell you this is confident information. If I would tell everybody this kind of knowledge it would totally ruin my business. In case your still interested go to my business website and book me. I’m afraid there’s no other way for you to get this kind of information.

  51. 55

    Having a whining and critical personality and beeing a perfectionist borderlining to Rain Man I find this very interesting. I have done some screencasts and what I found out immediately is that you need to do a storyboard and have a good video editing software.
    I cannot believe many of the “professional” (they want you to pay) screencasts I’ve seen where they want to do it all in one session. If you make a mistake you should NOT continue and say “oops”. Don’t talk and click at the same time, most people don’t have multi-tasking skills.
    Do all of your work on the computer first, and when the movie is done, record a separate narrating soundtrack.

  52. 56

    Crazykage Minato

    December 24, 2010 12:45 pm

    This article so helpfull for beginer like me. But can you give the alternate resource how to make screencash for Linux user, like what the best software that we have to use for recording, editing and more.

    Thanks, great work

  53. 57

    Great article!
    1. Vimeo produces better looking videos than YouTube when detail is important (in my opinion).
    2. I think it might be necessary to try and fix the aspect ratio of your screencasts before you begin so that they match your destination, e.g. YouTube. Otherwise, YouTube will try to fit your screencast into their dimensions and your well-loved video will now be blurry and distorted.
    3. Try to be conscious of background noises that you’re naturally accustomed to. Is it a hot day outside? Turn off your A/C so the blower doesn’t start in the middle of your recording.
    4. Even if you plan to dub an audio track later, always record with audio or else you’ll go too fast for later dubbing.
    5. Practice moving your mouse in straight lines or arcs. For example, I find that I naturally move my mouse in a circular motion and often overshoot targets due to a high mouse acceleration setting. These are very distracting in a video.

  54. 58

    You are so right about the tendency to use the cursor as an extension of our hand.

    For quick demos to assist clients, I would just open up Jing, record my browser and explain quickly, then wait for the upload to and email that link to the client.

  55. 59

    Things I hate in screencasting:

    Speeded up tutorial video. Because it’s impossible to follow without constantly pausing and rewinding.

    Music. It’s distracting. I’d prefer regular sounds or no sounds at all.

  56. 60

    Brett Widmann

    March 8, 2011 9:35 am

    This article was really helpful. I don’t do many screen casts, but I will keep this in mind the next time I do.

  57. 61

    Great article.
    I do worry about using YouTube because of the built in ads at the bottom. I really don’t like those and don’t want them on my videos.


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