Shiny silver microphone in front of a blurry monitor.
Freelancer, Training, Virtual

Screen Casting Made my Life a Little Brighter

I recently had the opportunity to use screen casting software for the implementation of a large procedure manual. When I was approached about adding screen cast training videos to the project, I was happy to give it a try. The instructions and live trainings I’ve provided in past work led me to feel prepared, and I’m always eager to build new skills.

I’ll be honest; I got so sucked into the process, I lost track of time. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun just exploring new software since I learned the full scope of queries and reports available in Access. In other words, it’s been a while, and I’m looking forward to adding this to my service offerings.

During my career change, I attended an absurd number of webinars, and the quality varied significantly. I took my experiences as an audience member into account in planning my training videos.

Screen Cast Basics

Structure

  • Plan before you record
  • Stick to short videos with a single focus, people are busy

Audio content

  • Clearly enunciate and speak slowly
  • Project a positive attitude without being saccharine

Visual content

  • Progress through slides/pages and actions gradually
  • Choose screens or videos that contribute best to the topic without distracting
  • Choose effects only as necessary to guide viewers

The Process

As is the case with any kind of presentation or training, preparation is key. A full half of my time was spent on scripting and identifying the ideal pages to use and links to click during the video. A quarter of the time was spent on the recording and another quarter was used on editing. I would expect these latter two tasks to get faster and easier with practice, but the planning stage will always be significant.

I chose to record audio and video simultaneously for timing purposes. Some people find this too much to focus on at one time, and that’s a fair assessment. It’s a good idea to experiment with short samples to see what works best for you.

The Gear

The work site had Camtasia 9 connected to a laptop and a pretty nice tabletop microphone. I think I’d prefer a headset going forward, as it would ensure I can keep my eyes on my screen, while still projecting to the mic. I would also prefer a larger monitor in the editing stage, but that’s not a deal breaker.

My learning curve was low. I’d worked heavily in slide show programs such as PowerPoint and Presentation, and had done a bit of video editing for YouTube in the past. This meant many of the technical details and functions were familiar. The transitions and effects were fun, but like slide show software, it’s important not to go overboard on these.

The piece that took me the longest to implement was the closed captioning. If you’ve scripted your video, it’s pretty easy to copy that content into a caption track. Editing the captions for pacing is one of those pfutzy tasks, but can make a world of difference to your audience whether they are deaf/hard of hearing or find it easier to process audio and video content when accompanied by written words.

Screen casting is one of those ways we can have fun using technology while serving a valuable purpose. I’m definitely looking forward to my next opportunity to use this skill.

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