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Tips and Methods for Effective Screencasting

I have spent last week making a four-minute video tutorial on how to use a medical database called AccessMedicine.   It has been a while since I have worked on screencasting.  And of course, I lost all my documentation I have created in my previous workplace.  So, it took a while for me to remember how things are to be done to make a video tutorial effectively.

A little belatedly, I remembered that a crucial thing in making a video tutorial is doing things in the right order (meaning what works for you). So I thought I would share some methods I have experimented in the past.  I will call them method A, B, C.

The tools I used are Audacity-free sound-editor-and Camtasia. If you have a Mac, you can use GarageBand instead of Audacity. If you do not have Camtasia and would rather not use Jing or any other free screencasting tool because of the difficulty of recording both voice and screen at the same time, you may want to try MS Powerpoint.

Method A is what works for me best.

Method A

  1. Outline the tutorial and decide on what is going to be covered.
  2. Write the script while checking each and every item you want to cover in the tutorial.
  3. Re-read the script several times to make each narration brief and succinct.
  4. Record the narration using Audacity and a headset.
  5. After recording, import all mp3 files into Camtasia.
  6. Record the video portion of a tutorial while listening to the recording.
    (This allows one to create a video clip in which things happen in a way that matches the audio instructions, thereby saving a lot of efforts in video editing later on.)
  7. Create Title clips (slides or images) and other slides to be inserted into the Camtasia Project file.
  8. Import the video files, audio files, and slides.
  9. Add transition effects.
  10. While playing repeatedly,  arrange video, audio, and slides in the right sequence.
  11. Add special effects such as zooming, notes, spotlights etc.
  12. Do Audio Enhancement in Camtasia.
    (I even out the volume and increase gain by about 1/3 of the original to make the narration loud enough. The new clicking and clipping options are very useful. These sound editing and enhancement can be done in Audacity as well. But doing it en masse in Camtasia saves time. )
  13. Close all the programs so that the computer can concentrate on producing a smooth video.
  14. Produce the video in swf and mp4 format.
    (Make sure to fill in all the metadata.)
  15. While the video files are created, don’t do anything on the computer. It may cause bumpy transitions or flickering on the produced video file.
  16. Done!


This procedure works for me because I seem to be unable to focus on the mouse movement and the computer screen while I am also recording instructions at the same time. So I separate voice recording from video recording.

Method B

However, those who have no such problem can easily use Camtasia or Jing-a free screencapture/screencasting software – in order to create a video tutorial in a very short time in a much simpler manner. There are many simple but effective web tutorials out there made with Jing without any special effects.  Also, once-recorded, Jing can convert the recorded video so that it can be further edited in CAMTASIA.

Method C

Another way to make a video tutorial fast is to create Powerpoint slides. You can create Powerpoint slides with instructions and screenshots and then narrate your voice over the slides. If you can handle voice recording while simply moving slides, which is much easier than actually doing a live demo and recording the screen, using powerpoint slides for a video and focus on voice instruction is a great way to cut down time spent on creating a video tutorial.

This method works well for instructional tutorials which use a limited amount of screenshots but  less so for tutorials that are meant to be a demonstration.  I tried making demo tutorials using Powerpoint.  It required a lot of screencaptureing, Photoshop editing, and loads of special effects in Powerpoint and the heavy use of animation feature. Once you perfect your Powerpoint this way, you can create a PPS file (Powerpoint presentation) which can be downloaded and run like a movie. So you may not even need Camtasia to create a tutorial this way. But I would not recommend using this method in order to create a demo tutorial because importing sound and image files into Powerpoint and adding effects and using the animation feature heavily can be very time-consuming.

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