Since I started to put serious amounts of time and effort into screencasting last summer, I’ve gotten a lot of requests to blog about how I go about making these things. Starting with this post, I’m going to do a multi-part series here about making screencasts -- or at least how I make screencasts, which is a long way from perfect or canonical, but it’s what people asked for! I hope it’s useful for people who are interested in this kind of thing and need some pointers; and I hope too that those with more experience and better ideas than I have can share.
First, let’s start with a few FAQ’s.
Q: What is a screencast?
A: A screencast is a video of stuff that is happening on your computer screen. There is often, but not always, some kind of voiceover happening in the background as well. So a screencast can be a lot of different things: A recorded Prezi or PowerPoint slide presentation; a demo of computer software; a “whiteboard” lecture with audio capture; a video of you playing Angry Birds; or any linear combination of these.
Q: What’s the point of a screencast?
A: I suppose you could do just about anything with a screencast, but mainly the point is to instruct. Some people make short screencasts to show a remote collaborator or student how to do some little task on their computer, like this one I made on the fly in Linear Algebra class last Thursday morning to show students how to get MATLAB to produce $latex \LaTeX$ code. Or you can record partial or entire lectures (like many of the ones I did for my department’s YouTube channel) for students to watch outside of class. Or you can record lengthy demos of software usage like I have done in my ongoing series of MATLAB screencasts. Or you can record every level of Angry Birds you play. Suit yourself.
The screencast is just a means of conveying some process or stream of information that can be represented on the screen and therefore captured using software and disseminated on the web. It’s a pretty much wide-open medium.
Q: So what kinds of software and hardware and other stuff do you use?
This is a good question, but at this point I have to stop the FAQ’s and explain why there are going to be multiple posts in this series. I have a toolbox of software and hardware items that I use, but the exact combination that I use depends on the kind of screencast that I am trying to make. Basically, there are three different kinds of screencasts that I make:
- Lecture capture screencasts, where I am going through a Prezi or slide deck and giving audio narration;
- Whiteboard screencasts, where I am using an input device to hand-write things on the screen so that it looks like a typical whiteboard presentation; and
- Demo screencasts, where I am doing a straight-up screen capture of something happening on my computer (as opposed to a presentation or “whiteboard” work) in real time.
Each of these kinds of screencasts requires a different set of software and hardware tools, as well as a different set of approaches for actually making them. So I’m going to spend at least one post on each. Actually, most of my screencasts are really combinations of these; for example a lot of the MATLAB screencasts start and end with a lecture capture and have MATLAB demos in the middle.
In the next post, I’ll start things off by focusing on lecture capture screencasts and how I work with those. They’re probably the simplest of the three kinds I make.
Do you have any specific question or topic you’d like me to address as part of this series?