How to Record Your Desktop with Screencasting

What is Screencasting?

A screencast is a video recording of your computer screen, and usually includes audio. Screencasting is also referred to as video screen capture, and is a great way to teach or share ideas. Think about your digital life. All that time sitting at your desk. Think of your apps, websites, IMs, emails, and everything that makes up your digital world. What if you had a camera in your pocket, ready to capture and record in full, crisp HD at a moment’s notice? What types of videos would you create? Would you ever want to share what’s on your screen? How could it help you work better?

Common examples of screencasts are onscreen tutorials, video lessons, or slideshare presentations. A major benefit of screencasting is that the viewer can watch the screencast at a time when it’s best for them, because learning doesn’t always take place in an academic setting. Additionally, the viewer can absorb the information at their own pace by pausing and rewatching portions. Screencasts add a personal touch in ways that other methods (I’m looking at you PowerPoint decks and written proposals!) simply cannot.

Here at TechSmith, we understand the power of screencasting. We make both screen recording and video editing software because we know that being able to capture your computer screen at work increases productivity. We realize that you may want to make a more polished screencast, but sometimes a quick-n-dirty vid can get the job done, too.

Screencasting–also commonly referred to as a “secret weapon” by seasoned screencasters–is a work hack you can jump in and use it today. Here are some great screencasting pointers to get you started!

9 Ways Screencasting Can Make you More Productive at Work Today

1. Revitalize your onboarding and retain knowledge

Getting the new person up-to-speed can be a time consuming process. You’re not only trying to get your job done, but you’re also having to explain it every little step of the way. You feel like you’re on the spot (which you are) and it can be overwhelming.

Take the pressure off you and record a screencast instead. With screencasting, you don’t have to continually start and stop to answer questions, which allows you to focus on the material. The new hire can start, stop, and re-watch the screencast as many times as they need, because nobody worries about interrupting a video recording! Screencasting allows you to train your new hires effectively and free up your time.

When people leave companies for new opportunities or to retire, there’s often a knowledge void. This is especially true if the departing employees were experts on certain tasks or procedures. A great way to retain this knowledge is to have them record their computer screen as they walk through the steps. By having experts capture their workflows, you ensure that best practices or important information is not lost. These videos are extremely valuable when onboarding new hires.

If you’re looking for inspiration, see how Virgin Media is using video to retain knowledge at their company.

2. Record the screencast once and share it every time

How many times a day do you have to answer the same question?

“How do I reconnect to the printer?”
“How do I access those Q4 files again?”
“What is the best way to input the data?”

You know. It’s that type of question. It’s the question you’ve answered countless times and by now your response is totally autopilot. Snap out of it! And snap your co-workers out of it too by creating a screencast that leaves a lasting impression.

Why not create a little library of screencasts that answer frequently asked questions? Screencasting not only saves you time answering the same questions over and over, but it has been proven that 80% of viewers can recall a video they have seen in the past 30 days. Oh, and did we mention that it will make you look like a rockstar?

3. Record live streaming video, like a company meeting

Nowadays, it’s not unusual for companies to have employees dispersed throughout the world or working remotely. That’s why live-streaming video is being used in the office more and more. Live-streaming a company meeting makes it more accessible, but streaming alone doesn’t ensure that everyone in your company will be able to attend the meeting. By recording the live video, you’ll have it available to share with colleagues who were unavailable or otherwise unable to attend the meeting. Also, you or anyone else can go back and reference details of the meeting at any time. This is something we do all the time here at TechSmith.

If recording live streaming video sounds scary, we promise it’s not. Here’s a great post that walks you through how to easily record live streaming video.

4. Walk your sales client through a proposal

These days, sending an email proposal is the bare minimum. As you know, most business decision makers don’t have the time or energy to go through every proposal that hits their inbox. You can’t just have a great proposal, you need to find new and creative ways to stand out from the rest of the pack.

What if you guided your lead through a sales proposal with a personalized video? Helpful explainer videos ensure there is little chance that your message will get lost in translation. By screencasting, you can also add the extra details that are not typically included in a PDF proposal. A short video is easily shareable, allowing the lead to forward it easily to all of their additional silent decision makers.

Lastly–and perhaps most importantly–sharing a screencast is a highly personalized interaction that can provide the crucial opening to a larger conversation. For example, Snagit user Chad Ridderson now closes 50% of his cold sales bids simply by adding screencasts to his email proposals. What could screencasting do for your bids?

5. Make a software or product demo

There is no better way to show off your product than by actually showing off your product! The Content Marketing Institute says that consumers need numerous touchpoints before they decide to make a purchase. Did you ever consider that explainer videos, walkthroughs, tutorials, and helpful how-to vids are all awesome additional marketing opportunities to show (and not just tell!) the value of your product?

Oftentimes potential purchasers need to feel what the experience is going to be like before they commit. However, by viewing a screencast, they are expressing real interest in your product and possibly intent to purchase. Video is a powerful tool that keeps eyeballs on your website.

6. Provide clear feedback

Sometimes the best way to provide clear, concise feedback is to talk it out. Yet what if the person needing feedback is in a different location? Or a different time zone? Screencasting is a solution that helps bridge the gaps for today’s globally connected workforce.

A major part of providing feedback isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Context is everything when giving constructive critique. Recording a screencast allows the person on the other end to actually hear your voice, and provides important context to your words. So the next time a webpage, PDF, or video edit is sent to you for feedback, consider dropping the red pen and record a screencast instead!

7. Record Skype or Google Hangout Video Calls

Interviewing customers or subject matter experts makes for great video content. But with time, distance, and budget constraints, it can be nearly impossible to visit everyone in person. Technology like Skype and Google Hangouts solve this problem, allowing you to get in touch with anyone, anywhere. Conduct and record interviews in video calls and then bring the recordings into the videos you create.

Not sure how to record Skype or Google Hangouts? It’s easy-peasy. Learn how to record Skype and Google Hangout Video Calls.

8. Create a Quick How-to Training Video

It makes sense that words alone aren’t always the best way to show someone how to do something. Recording your screen and sharing a video with colleagues is typically a better technique that allows you to demonstrate exactly how to perform a task. Want to show someone how to log in to the new company system? Or give a quick rundown of how you created a mock-up for the web team? Use Snagit to record your screen as you walk through the process. Here’s how!

The best part about recording your computer screen and turning it into a quick video? You won’t need to write a lengthy email or repeat yourself. If your trainee forgets any steps, they can reference the video at any time to get a refresher. And if anyone else asks you to explain the same process, you can simply send them the video you’ve already created.

9. Send Customized Sales Videos

It’s easier to be personable in a video than through an email or over the phone. Video allows you to showcase your personality, letting the customer see you and your body language. This will help you gain trust and build stronger relationships. Furthermore, instead of trying to coordinate a phone call, video allows you to communicate with someone when it’s most convenient for them. And best of all, screen recording can help you close more sales.

Take Chad Riddersen, owner of Deviate Labs. He was able to improve his close rate from 33 percent to 50 percent when he started adding quick Snagit videos to his outbound proposals. Check out Chad’s story to see exactly how he used screencasts to create high-converting sales proposals.

Screencasting: From Script to Screen

With Screencasting, it’s all about process. Pre-recording, recording, and post-recording are each equally important phases of the project.

Of course, you might not know this unless you’ve also spent ridiculous amounts of time redoing screencasts because you forgot to add an element or messed up a certain action on the screen.

In the interest of saving you time, I’ve jotted down a bunch of tips over the course of this experience that can help streamline your screencasting process. In order to achieve this, it’s important to put some forethought into the moves you’ll make in the video.

What do you want your viewer to take away from the video, what do you want them to learn? What do you want to show them, and what kind of visuals would be the most efficient way to do this? Your pre-recording process begins by answering these questions and starting to outline the scope of your screencast.

Pre-Recording

Write your script. While this may cramp your “wing it” attitude, this will help you plan out your visuals for your screencast. By pairing your audio with an action on the screen, you can clearly envision what’s happening at each point in the screencast. This will help you cut out any unnecessary content and keep your video focused. In the editing phase, it’s incredibly helpful to see this outline for easier clip splicing. When you’re finished, read over your script out loud to see if it makes sense logically and flows audibly.

Record your audio. Pay as much attention to your narration as your visuals. Ideally, you should use an external microphone to record your audio, but if you’re using an external webcam, they might already have a great microphone built-in, test it out. Read one line of your script at a time with brief pauses in between.

During editing, this allows you to cut, rearrange, or insert audio clips easily in between each other on your timeline. Before you start your screencast, make sure to edit down your audio so you’ll have those verbal guidelines properly timed and matched up to your script to help you figure out what visuals go where.

Plan out your screencast. Are you going to use a specific website, application, or program? Know what each action on the screen will consist of and what you need to set up first in order to record it. Of course, the idea that you have while writing the script may change when you actually start recording – that’s okay.

Don’t forget to set up your screen so it’s camera-ready: hide your bookmarks bar in your browser and any other icons or folders you don’t want seen on your desktop. Also, make sure to disable any alerts so they don’t disrupt your screencast.

You’re almost ready to start recording. However, you also need to think about where this video is going to be uploaded – who’s the audience and how will they watch it?

This matters not only for the content of the video, but also for recording the correct dimensions so you don’t have a stretched or fuzzy video. If your end goal is YouTube, record in 1280×720 or 16:9 resolution. If you’re recording in PowerPoint, the same goes; however, you must change the default slide size to 16:9.

Now, before you even think about starting your screencast, you should practice, practice, practice! Trust me, you’ll be grateful later. Or, you’ll waste time redoing your screencasts.

Recording

Hopefully, you practiced your screencast because now it’s time to record it for real. Double check your recording settings to make sure they’re in the right resolution.

Also, check your microphone settings under the recorder’s audio output setting. Open up any applications or programs ahead of time unless you want to show how to get to them in the screencast.

When you do start recording, keep in mind how a viewer would see each of your actions. Be deliberate with cursor movements to guide the viewer’s eyes to the elements you want them to focus on or be aware of. Don’t linger on pages unless you have a reason to.

As people’s attention spans get shorter and shorter, it’s more necessary than ever to stay on task and keep the viewer engaged. Be concise and focused while navigating your content.

If you need help with any aspect of screencasting, don’t knock the helpfulness of tutorials until you’ve looked through them thoroughly. Be sure to check out our library of free tutorials and guides for Camtasia.

Post-Recording

Before you do anything drastic, clean up your screen recordings; trim ends and splice out loading pages and unnecessary bits. Keep the pace lively, but focused enough to follow. Below are some more specific tips to help you get the most out of editing.

  • Use elements of repetition to structure your content for the viewer’s benefit such as specific transitions to mark changes in topic.
  • Transitions are key to a well done video. Too flashy and they draw attention away from the content. I recommend the fade transition for a smooth, seamless look.

  • Callouts can also make or break a video. Use them to guide the viewer’s eyes and focus. Don’t visually assault them; let the callouts enhance your narration rather than distract from it.

  • Zooming and panning can help clarify and emphasize audio instructions. However, use them sparingly as it may be jarring for viewers if used too frequently.

  • Keep track of your tracks. Don’t let clips linger at the end of the video only to be rendered and included in the final version. Check to make sure there aren’t any extra clips, sound bits, or callouts lingering in other tracks before you produce and share your video.
  • If you want to edit large chunks of audio, disable the tracks you don’t want to change by clicking on the eye to hide the track. Then, select all of the tracks that you want to change and you can change them all at once.

  • When it comes to using licensed music, it’s incredibly important to do your research. Check the allowed uses carefully before buying or using. Creative commons licenses are fairly common and give you free reign to use the music however and wherever you want; whereas, royalty-free and standard licenses come with a bit more rules as well as a license fee. No matter the license, always check that the available uses align with how you’ll end up using the music.

Editing can help you completely transform your content. Pay close attention to detail to perfect the presentation of your screencast.

Behind the Scenes

The screencasting process is a fickle one. There are multiple parts that need to come together in the right way in order for you to produce a finished, polished product.

Two of the most important things we’ve learned (that we consistently relearned every video) was to plan and practice your screencast. As perfectionists, we redid a lot of our screencasts anyway, but the rerecording count significantly decreased whenever we thoroughly planned and practiced our narration as well as our actions on screen. Of course, things didn’t always go the way we planned, but we took them in stride and even tried out a few new things along the way that turned out pretty well.

If we were ever stuck or unsure,we were definitely the one asking my co-workers a thousand questions – don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out on Twitter @Camtasia, @TechSmith, or @Snagit, or browse the many video tutorials on our YouTube channel. In the end, the production process is a long one, but establishing a good work ethic and routine as well as cultivating your list of resources are the best way to make sure you stay at the top of your screencasting game.

How to Record Your Desktop

Most of us have heard of a screenshot, but what if you want to record video of what’s happening on your computer screen?

Whether you want to document a process or show your IT department how often your email crashes, here’s how to record your desktop and share it.

Screenshot vs. Recording Your Screen

The difference between taking a screenshot and recording your desktop is simple, but significant. While a screenshot captures a static image of your screen at one point in time, when you record your screen (also known as “screen casting”), you’re capturing video of what’s happening over time, which you can then share as a video or animated GIF.

So, imagine you wanted to show someone the steps necessary to log in to an online account. You could record your screen, including typing the address into your browser and all your mouse movements and clicks to show exactly where to go and how to get there (see the videos below). Or, as noted above, it’s also a great way to show your IT professionals exactly the steps you’re taking before your software crashes.

You can even include audio when you record your screen, as narration from your computer’s built-in microphone or an external mic, or you can record your system audio (that’s the sounds that comes out of your speakers).

Short, simple recordings that won’t require much editing can be done with something like Snagit (which is what we use most of the time). For longer or more complex recordings that may need more editing, something like Camtasia will be better. Camtasia even allows you to enhance the video by zooming in on areas of emphasis, highlighting your mouse clicks, adding text or graphic callouts and more.

We’ll be using Snagit and Camtasia for Mac, but you can easily record your screen with the Windows versions, as well.

Free Trial: You can try any of our screen recorders for free. Get everything you need to record on your Windows, Mac, and iOS devices.

How to Record Your Desktop Screen

Step 1: Open Your Screen Recording Software

Choose the software you’ll use. As noted above, Snagit is great for simple, short desktop recordings, while something like Camtasia might be better for longer, more complex jobs. However, recordings made with Snagit can be easily shared to Camtasia and assembled into longer, more complex videos there.

Step 2: Choose the region of your screen you want to record

For some things, it may make sense to record your entire screen. However, if you’re only showing the steps necessary for a particular piece of software or where to click on a website, you may want to choose to record only that window (or a portion of it), rather than the entire desktop, to ensure your users can focus on what’s important.

Step 3: Record!

Now that you know what and where you want to record, go ahead and do it! If you’re documenting a process, it’s not a bad idea to have some notes about what you want to include and the order you want to include them, just to avoid confusion. If you’re narrating your recording, having a script or at least some talking points is a good idea to ensure you say what you want to say in the way you want to say it.

Note: If you’re doing a full screen recording, it’s a good idea to clean up your desktop a bit so that it’s not too cluttered or so you’re not revealing anything you might not want the whole world (or at least your customers or colleagues) to see. The same goes for bookmarks or your browser history, if you’re going to be recording any browser activity.

Also, you’ll notice in the video below, we have blurred out the username when we log in to WordPress to avoid anyone trying to hack the account.

Step 4: Edit

Once you’re finished recording, you’ll probably want to edit it a little. Even the most carefully planned recordings will have something you want to cut out, such as any wasted time at the beginning of the recording or the part at the end when you move your mouse over to stop the recording. With Snagit, you can easily trim your recording to remove unwanted pieces.

Step 5: Share

Once you’re done editing, there’s nothing left but to share it with the world (or at least with the people you need to share it with). With both Snagit and Camtasia, you can save your video as an MP4 (one of the most widely compatible video file formats) or as an animated gif. Camtasia for Mac also allows you to export as a QuickTime .mov file.

Both Snagit and Camtasia offer a wide variety of options for sharing directly from the software, including YouTube, Screencast.com, Google Drive, Dropbox and more. You can also save as a file to your local drive.

BONUS TIPS!

  • Camtasia’s advanced (but SUPER-easy-to-use) editing capabilities allow you to add audio tracks after you record your screen. Whether you want to record your narration after the fact or want to add some plucky music, you can do it!
  • Be prepared to record the your a time or two to get what you want. Almost everyone messes something up along the way. But recording your screen is so easy, it won’t matter if you have to do it again.
  • That said, don’t get TOO hung up on making everything perfect. If you’re demonstrating a process, make sure the steps are clear and easy to follow. If you’re narrating, you can decide how many “umms” and “uhs” you can live with. It also depends on your audience. Things meant for people outside your company probably need to be more polished than things you’re sending to one of your fellow employees.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When You Record Your Computer Screen

Whether it’s for training, tutorials, demos, or presentations, here are seven mistakes to avoid when you record your computer screen.

Mistake #1 – Have too many programs running

How can you possibly guide viewers succinctly through a task when you have 35 unrelated windows open? Clutter on your computer screen is distracting. And there’s nothing worse than having to fumble through unnecessary apps and programs to get what you actually want to show in your video.

A better way: Tidy up your desktop beforehand. Only keep open programs and windows you plan to show during your video.

Mistake #2 – Forget to turn on your mic

We’ve all done this at some point. It’s beyond frustrating to deliver a rousing rendition of your entire presentation only to realize that the mic has been off the whole time. Or, that the mic was on, but the volume wasn’t up enough. Or, it was up too loudly (ouch).

A better way: Make a point of checking your audio levels before you start recording. Do a short (30-second) narration test run, then review it to confirm that the correct mic is on (are you using your built-in mic, or an external one?), and the volume levels are correct.

Mistake #3 –  Stumble over your passwords

Showing on-screen workflows includes logging in – which is suddenly tough to do when you’re used to relying on password-autofill to do it for you. The same goes for usernames and other qualifying info. Hunting for your login information can mess up your momentum.

A better way: Know all your passwords before you begin recording (and make sure you know the URLs of the login screens, too – especially for websites that you have open indefinitely and don’t readily know the “start screen” URL.

Pro tip: Sometimes it’s actually better not to show the ‘typing’ part of logging in. Why? It’s kind of boring. You can easily trim it out. In your finished video put a “wipe transition” on the typing – show the first few characters of your user/pass, then jump to the end, when you’re ready to press “login.” Your audience will get the idea, and won’t have to sit through a straightforward process they already understand.

Mistake #4 – Forget you have a roommate

Whether it’s your kids, spouse, housemate, or dog, Murphy’s Law guarantees they will unceremoniously pipe up at an inopportune time during your recording.  Any of these background noises – crying, laughing, sneezing, yipping, or inquiries into “Who ate the last of the cornflakes?” – distract from your presentation and are a pain to trim out.  This goes for workplace noises, too, such as hallway chatter, printers, and ringing phones, as well as sounds coming in from open windows – trains, motorcycles, birds, and lawnmowers.

A better way: Record in a quiet room, with the windows closed. Put a sign on the door that lets people know you’re recording, to avoid unnecessary barge-ins.

Mistake #5 – Get ‘dinged’ every two minutes

Notifications are great, except when you’re in the middle of a recording. Hearing your email chime every few minutes is annoying at best, and takes away some of the polish from your video. With more apps than ever getting in on the notification game, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll have some unwanted “ding” come through, or an annoying pop-up alert box,

A better way: Turn off all your notifications (email, apps, etc.) before you start. If you don’t need to record sounds from your computer, turn off your system audio altogether.

Mistake #6 – Go too fast

Maybe it’s because we’re just a little nervous. Or maybe it’s because we know the workflow so well that we talk waaay too fast when we’re presenting. Especially when we’re showing detailed digital processes on-screen, it’s easy to overwhelm viewers by slinging your mouse across the screen and clicking too fast.

A better way: Slow down your explanations. What may sound slow to you is probably just the right speed for your viewers to understand what you’re explaining. That goes for your mouse, too. Point and click with purpose. Consider using a screen recorder that has a cursor highlighter, to more clearly show your movements.

Mistake #7 – Wing it

You’ve done this workflow a million times before.  But….once you get off autopilot and start actually explaining all the steps, the words don’t seem to flow. Or, they flow too much and you end up rambling.

A better way: Write a script ahead of time. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Even a rough outline can help a lot. For extra credit, do a dry-run walk-though.  You might be surprised how a quick rehearsal changes your strategy on how to present your material.

Of course, there are other ways to mess up a recording (ever run out battery while recording?), but this list covers some common ways. When you know how to avoid these pitfalls, you’ll finish recording with fewer retakes, and be more happy with your overall video-making process.

How have you tried screencasting? What did you think? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

The post How to Record Your Desktop with Screencasting appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Create Alternative Text for Images for Accessibility and SEO

If you create or publish digital content of any kind, it’s likely by now you’ve at least heard something about the importance of creating content that’s accessible for people with disabilities. Alternative text (also called “alt text”) helps ensure people who are blind or visually impaired, or who may have other physical or cognitive disabilities can access and understand visual content such as images, charts, and graphs.

In the United States, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all digital content be accessible to people with disabilities. Other countries have their own requirements. For people who use screen readers or other assistive technologies to access digital content, accessible content is essential to ensure they are able to access and understand the content in the same way that someone who does not require assistance would.

What is alternative text?

Alternative text, in its simplest form, is background code added to a digital image that allows a screen reader or other assistive technology to describe the image’s content and meaning to those who cannot see the image or may be unable to process the image due to a cognitive disability.

It’s used in several ways:

  • Screen readers use it to describe the image to users so they can access and understand the content.
  • In browsers where images are blocked, the alt text is displayed in place of the image.
  • Search engines use it to determine the content and context of images.

Screen readers can tell when an image is present, but they cannot analyze their content. The alt text is read in place of the image to give users understanding of the image’s meaning and context.

How to add alt text to images

Unfortunately, there is no one way to add alternative text. Different software platforms do it in different ways. Check your software’s documentation or help files for information on how to add alt text to your images from within that platform.

In Microsoft Word, for example, right-click on the image and choose Add Alt Text. Then, add your text into the alt text window in the sidebar that opens. When you’re finished, simply close the sidebar and your alt text will save with the image.

Animated GIF showing a user right-clicking on an image and filling in alternative text using Microsoft World

Alt text vs. captions

Alt text and captions are similar in many ways. Both provide a description of the image and context of how the image fits in with the rest of the content. However, alt text is typically “behind the scenes,” whereas captions are visible to anyone accessing the page. Furthermore, captions may not always include a full description of the image and its contents, as they are typically used to enhance or provide context for a visible image.

However, captions can be more useful for accessibility purposes. Captions are especially helpful for images that might require a lot of alt text to accurately describe. Rather than creating long and less useful alt text, longer descriptions can be made using a caption. Then, the alt text can give a brief description of the image and suggest the user look to the caption for a more complete description and/or context.

Alternative text best practices

Creating good alt text isn’t a science — it’s more of an art. Too short and it may not give enough detail. Too long and it can be tedious. But here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re creating alt text.

1. Accurately describe the content and function of the image

People who use assistive technology rely on the contents of the alt text to give them not just what the image contains, but any context for the image if it’s not readily available. Depending on the complexity of the image, it may be better to provide context in the text of your content to avoid overly long alt text.

2. The shorter the better, but not too short

One of the main concerns with alt text is the length. For the most part, screen readers will read either all or none of the alt text as written. In other words, there is no way for someone using a screen reader to skip ahead to find more relevant content or to pause and go back to something they didn’t understand. If the most relevant content is at the end of your alt text, the user would have to listen to all of the irrelevant information before discovering why the image is included.

Give enough detail to accurately describe the image, but avoid minute details that don’t necessarily enhance the meaning of why the image was included.

A photo of back-end web site codes on computer monitor. Developer working on a web project in a busy office. There is a shallow depth of field in the photo. There are lots of code line in the file.

For example, in the image above, there are a number of ways you could describe it depending on what it’s trying to convey in the context of the surrounding content.

It would be tempting to just describe it as a computer screen. And, in some cases that might be enough. But, in an article about using screen blur to hide sensitive information, you may need to describe the image as a computer screen with the file tree blurred for privacy.

If the article was about a specific type of coding and the image was attempting to show an example of that code, you may need to go into more detail about what code is displayed.

Or, maybe the article is about the width of bevel on the computer screen, so there would need to be detail about that, instead.

In this sense, creating good alternative text is more of an art form rather than a science. Your alt text should be long enough to accurately describe the image, but not so long as to be cumbersome.

3. Use proper punctuation and spelling

A screen reader will read the alt text exactly as it appears, spelling and punctuation mistakes included. In programs like Microsoft Word, there is no way to check the spelling or grammar of your alt text, so you’ll want to be extra careful.

Similarly, you must use proper punctuation or your alt text may sound like a really annoying run-on sentence, or worse, not make any sense at all.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to create a new document where you can compose the alt text using Word’s built-in spelling and grammar checkers and then, when you’re satisfied and it’s mistake-free, copy and paste it into the alt text window of whatever software you’re using.

Most modern browsers automatically check for spelling, so if you’re writing something in a content management system (CMS) or into Google Docs, it’s likely your spelling and grammar will be checked, but it’s good practice to proofread regardless.

Pro tip: Make sure your content reviewers also check to make sure your alt text is a correct description of the image, uses proper spelling and grammar, and is clear and concise when they’re reviewing the rest of your content.

4. You don’t need a title for accessibility, but it can be helpful for other reasons

From an accessibility standpoint, giving your image a title isn’t necessary. Most screen readers won’t even bother with it. However, the title will show up as a tool tip when someone browsing your website hovers over the image. The title can also help search crawlers better grasp the image’s content and purpose.

That said, you should never sacrifice clear and concise alt text that accurately describes the image in favor of scoring an extra point or two on the SEO scale.

5. Don’t include “image of,” “photo of,” etc.

When a screen reader encounters an image, it will tell the user that it has encountered an image. So, if your alt text included the phrase “image of,” the screen reader would say something like, “Image. Image of computer screen …”

6. If your image contains text, it must be included in the alt text

Because any text within an image would not be readable to a screen reader, it must be included in the alt text if it is relevant to the image’s meaning and context with the surrounding content.

A sign reading "ASK MORE QUESTIONS" in all-caps on a wall between two analog clocks.

Looking at the image above, depending on the context and intent, it may be necessary to describe in the alt text that the sign reads, “Ask more questions.” If it’s notable to better understand the intent, you may also need to describe that the text is in all-caps.

However, in an article about how to place a sign on a wall where the actual text of the sign isn’t important, you may just need to describe that the image shows a sign centered between two wall clocks.

As noted in the Alt text vs. captions section above, if an image contains a lot of text, it’s typically better to include this information in a caption instead. You may also include it in the surrounding text content. In these cases, you would want to note in the alt text that further information about the image is included in the caption or body of the text.

Because of the guidelines for keeping alternative text relatively brief, for images with markup and text like what you might create in Snagit, I suggest using the caption or surrounding text to describe the relevant markup and text. It will be far easier and useful for users.

7. Don’t rely on your accessibility checker

Many content creation tools, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat come with useful accessibility checkers. They scan the content and look for typical mistakes content creators make that could render the content inaccessible. They’re great and you should definitely use them to check your content.

But there’s a problem: Your accessibility checker can check that alt text exists, but it can’t determine the quality of that alt text. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have your content reviewer also double-check your alt text content to ensure it’s useful and correct.

8. Images with links must include the link destination in the alt text

Another tennent of accessible content is that all hyperlinks should describe to the user where it will take them. For that reason, links like “click here” or “visit us” are typically a no-no.

In the same way, an image that functions as a link should also describe to the user where the link will take them. For example, if you have a button on your page that reads, “Download a free trial,” your alt text should read something like, “Link: Download a free trial.”

Alt text for charts, graphs, and tables

Charts, graphs, and tables present a particularly tricky issue when it comes to alternative text. Because they tend to present a relatively large amount of information, any alt text could end up being quite long and difficult to follow. As such, I highly recommend using a caption that accurately describes the chart or graph content and its relevance to the rest your content. Your alt text could then just describe the chart’s title and note that a full description of the content is available in the caption or text content.

How would you describe the chart above (from our recent article on our original research into workplace communications) to someone who can’t see it? Keep in mind that your alt text (or, more likely, caption or body of the content) would need to provide all of the relevant information so that they might understand it in the same way as someone who can see it.

In this blog article, because the information in the chart isn’t necessarily relevant to the point I’m trying to make, I could simply describe it as a complex chart of information about millennials’ preferences for visual tools at work. If this article was about the research, I would need to describe the actual content in alt text, or more appropriately in the body of the surrounding content.

Unlike images, most tables are accessible to screen readers. A user is able to move through the table to get the relevant information if they chose. However, alt text can provide a brief description of the table and an overview of what it contains so that the user can decide if they want to access the table or not.

Alt text and SEO

Alt text is essential for creating accessible content. However, it comes with a bonus: it also can help with SEO!

That said, the highest and best purpose for creating alt text is to improve the accessibility of your digital content. Trying to game the system by stuffing your alt text with inappropriate keywords or other irrelevant information can actually be harmful.

In this article from Google about image publishing, they note that they use image alt text to understand the subject matter of the image and how it relates to the rest of the content. They also suggest creating alt text that focuses on “creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page.” Google notes that alt text that is stuffed with inappropriate keywords or alt text that isn’t relevant to the image or the rest of the page content risks having your site seen as spam.

Similarly, Yoast, maker of one of the most popular WordPress plugins for SEO, recommends making sure you use your article keyword when possible and when appropriate, but they expressly say not to stuff your keywords into every bit of alt text.

While this is a good overview on basics for creating alternative text for images and SEO, it’s certainly not the last word not the subject. Many organizations have their own guidelines for creating alt text, while others may not even realize they need it at all!

Are you creating alt text for images included in your digital content? I’d love to hear your suggestions, ideas, and struggles!

The post How to Create Alternative Text for Images for Accessibility and SEO appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Add Captions or Subtitles to a Video

The rise of video in social media should be no surprise to anyone. We’ve all seen the bombardment of videos all over our computers and mobile devices, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. So, while we’re all aware of video’s surge, here are some hard numbers:

  • 67 percent of users watched more videos on social networks like Facebook and Snapchat than they did a year ago
  • Video will account for 70 percent of all mobile traffic by 2021
  • Adding video to your social feeds means audiences are 10x more likely to engage and share your posts

However, there’s a huge difference between doing video, and doing video well, and one of them is knowing when to use captions vs. sound.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on captions (or subtitles) to understand your video’s content. But there are a lot of other great reasons for using them, as well.

Turn down for what?

Have you ever been at work sneaking in a few quick Facebook status updates, or on the train or bus- trying to desperately hold onto what little privacy you have- when your phone starts blaring noise from some ad or FunnyOrDie clip? You’re not alone. One of the most annoying things you can find in your Facebook feed is a video that autoplays with the sound on.

Here’s Facebook’s take on the matter, stating the most obvious: “Our research found that when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80 percent react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser” (Source)

Facebook found out that video generated content on social platforms is not the same as commercials on TV. “…it’s not TV ads. It’s TV ads with the sound turned off.” (Source). Users don’t want something that shouts at them; they want something that piques their interest without intruding on their enjoyment of the platform.

The age of captions

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen captions and subtitles on videos or in movies either in the form of translation of the dialogue from one language to another, or simply a same-language presentation of dialogue and other audio events. One of the most widely-known uses for captions — closed captioning — is a way for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to be able to access and understand the audio portions of a video.


While the terms “subtitles” and “captions” are often used interchangeably, there are some differences. Technically, subtitles should convey only the dialogue or narration happening in a video. Subtitles used for translating one language to another would likely also include translations of any foreign language text shown on the screen.

Video with subtitles

Captions often convey dialogue and/or narration plus any other audio effects that may be present, such as when (and what type of) music is playing and any background noises such as loud crashes, cars honking or dogs barking that may be integral to understanding what’s happening on the screen. In fact, to meet accessibility standards, captions must include those elements.

Video with captions and an audio cue

Millennials consume video in a much different way than their parents or grandparents. To burst into their social bubbles, these videos need to adapt to be on their level. Enter the art of adding captions to video. Captions certainly are not a new concept for videos on TV, but they are a strategy that is proving more and more effective on all social media platforms. While scrolling through your social feeds with your sound turned off (which 85 percent of users do), most individuals will completely skip a video whose meaning is lost without sound. If they can’t hear it, then they won’t get it, so who cares?

However, when you add captions to videos, viewers are more likely to be drawn into it. Facebook’s internal tests show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12 percent. Anything you can do to capture a viewer’s attention — even seconds more than than they normally would — can add up. In fact, 74 percent of ad recall is achieved in 10 seconds of Facebook video campaigns. In a world without sound, captions are one of the best ways to increase those numbers. With these numbers, it’s no surprise why marketers are obsessed with Facebook video.

The rise of video isn’t just social

Facebook video is powerful, but video is on the rise in education and in the corporate world as well. As of 2015, 77 percent of U.S.-based companies offered online corporate training to improve professional development. With the non-social use of video, we also have to consider other reasons why captions are crucial. When you offer video-based training or learning, you need everyone to have access. Enter the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and compliance concerns. How can people who are deaf or hard of hearing learn from your video without being able to hear it? This is where video in particular can be a powerful tool, sound or not. Check out the below video explaining “Deaf Gain”:

Universities, community colleges, and even K-12 are also adopting eLearning tools rapidly and with open arms. Since 2000, growth in the eLearning industry has skyrocketed by 900 percent!  To put this in perspective, 64 percent of full-time faculty at community colleges teach distance education classes. The question we have to ask ourselves is not if we should adapt to video, but what can we do to make our videos the most accessible, engaging and effective as they can be?

Why add captions?

As noted above, the most common use for captions is to provide a text-based representation of any audio happening in a video. Subtitles are most often used for providing a text-based translation of dialogue. For accessibility purposes, all videos should have closed captions available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

But there are a lot of other reasons to use captions as well. One of the more practical reasons, especially for web videos, is so that people don’t need to have their volume turned up to understand the content of your videos. Imagine someone scrolling through their Facebook feed and coming upon a video. As that video auto-starts, they can’t hear it because their sound is turned off. They’re far more likely to scroll past that video (and miss all your great content) than if that same video contained captions or subtitles that conveyed the dialogue or narration.

The same is true for videos playing in places where there is a lot of ambient noise. If people can’t hear your video, the captions provide the content, no matter how noisy the room.

Don’t get caption crazy

Captioning is an effective tool when sound is not an option, but there will always be scenarios in which sound is simply required to communicate your message. Sometimes a teacher making an online video might want to personalize his or her video with their voice – add human warmth to an otherwise dry topic. Or add an air of authority to reinforce their lesson. Here’s an example of a student learning ESL – a scenario that would be impossible without the benefit of sound.  How would you caption a lesson on the violin? In many ways, captioning is the wave of the future and of enhanced video comprehension. That being said, some things can only be communicated by sound:

So, how do you add captions and subtitles to a video?

Most video editors have captioning capabilities. I’ll show the steps for adding video captions in Camtasia for Mac.

Step 1a: Start with a script

This step is more about saving time than anything else. If the narration or dialogue in your video was read from a script, you’re already way ahead of the game. You can use your script (or transcript) to copy and paste the spoken words into the captioning editor. When writing content for subtitling, these tips are also helpful to consider, such as reading speed and length. If you don’t have a script or transcript, skip to Step 1b.

Step 1b: Transcribe your video

If you don’t have a script, you may want a transcript of your video. There are a few ways to accomplish this. If you prefer to just type your captions or subtitles in manually, you can skip to Step 2.

  • You can watch your video and type out exactly what’s being said. This works fine if you have a short video (say, less than five minutes). But longer videos will become more difficult and will take far longer. Even the fastest typist will likely need to stop the video occasionally to ensure an accurate transcription.
  • You can send your video out for translation. There are a number of companies out there that specialize in transcription. A quick Google search will yield a ton of results.
  • Use your video editor’s speech-to-text feature. Many video editors (including Camtasia for Windows) feature speech-to-text ability for your video’s narration or dialogue. The accuracy of the transcription can be affected by a number of factors, including how much other noise is happening in the video, the overall quality of the audio and more. Overall, this is a great feature, but remember that you will definitely want to check the accuracy of the transcription before you share your video.
  • Use YouTube’s automatic transcription services. You can upload your video to YouTube and then download the transcript when it’s completed. As with any auto-transcription, you’ll want to review it carefully to verify its accuracy.

Step 2: Add a captions track to your audio track on the timeline

Step 3: Add your captions to the captions track

This is where having a script or transcription really saves time. Select the caption space on the timeline and a caption dialogue box will open below the video preview and the selected portion of the video will play. Then, just copy and paste the portion of the script that’s heard in the selected caption space. You can then click the right arrow button to move to the next caption space. Repeat until you have added all the captions.

If you don’t have a transcript or script, the process is very similar. However, instead of copying and pasting the appropriate portions of the script, you’ll type the corresponding narration or dialogue into the dialogue box. Make sure that you’re typing only what you hear in each selected portion of the video.

Step 4: Review for accuracy

As with any work meant for public consumption, you’ll want to make sure it’s accurate. Once you have added all the captions (and any other necessary audio cues) to your video, review a time or two to ensure the captions match up with the dialogue or narration as perfectly as possible.

Step 5: Produce and share!

Once you’re satisfied your captions are correct, you’re ready to share your video with the world.

Have you added captions or subtitles to your videos? If not, are you ready to give it a try? Download a free trial of Camtasia and give it a go!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

The post How to Add Captions or Subtitles to a Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

New Research Reveals Failing to Focus on Visual Communication Threatens Productivity and Engagement Levels

Millennials are transforming the workplace in many ways, but one of the most important ways is how they prefer to communicate.

However, new research commissioned by TechSmith reveals that many businesses are failing to adapt to younger workers’ preferences for more visual forms of communications.

TechSmith has been developing software solutions that help companies and individuals create and communicate with visuals for more than 25 years. As such, when we set out to research the value of communicating with visuals, we we anticipated some likely results:

  • People — especially younger workers — prefer communications that include visual content.
  • People understand and perform better when visuals are included, especially for complex ideas.

However, the results of the study were even more compelling than we expected, highlighting the extent to which visuals help everyone, not just younger workers, understand complex ideas, retain information, and carry out tasks.

The findings

In a survey of 4,500 office workers across six regions, we found that younger workers tend to prefer more visual content in their communications. They’re much more likely to use visual content to communicate on their own time (think Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.), and would prefer more visual content at work.

Additionally:

  • Millennials are twice as likely to want to use more visual communication methods at work compared to baby boomers.
  • More than 64% of millennials say they understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, vs. just 7% who don’t.
  • 58% say they remember information for longer if it has been communicated visually, vs. just under 8% who don’t.
  • More than 54% say they remember more from visual content than from text alone, vs. just over 9% who say they don’t.

Companies are failing in communicating with younger workers

The research also revealed that businesses are missing the mark in communicating with younger workers, with 44% of millennials saying their company’s communications are outdated, vs. just 29% saying they’re not.

With millennials now the largest generation in the workforce, this can be a serious problem for businesses.

Visual content helps nearly everyone — not just millennials

But this goes beyond preferences. Our research reveals lack of visual communications threaten productivity and engagement levels — and not just with millennials, but with workers of all ages. In other words, everyone benefits from more visual communications.

Our study of 125 office workers performing real-world tasks found that communications that include visual content such as screenshots, screencasts, or videos are better, faster, and more engaging than text-only communications for nearly everyone in the workforce. People perform better and feel more engaged than with plain text — and that could boost productivity.

In fact:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of employees are better at completing tasks when information includes text with images (screenshots) or video than by communications featuring text alone.
  • Employees absorb information 7% faster when it’s communicated using text with static images than when it’s provided only with text.
  • Overall, companies would see an 8% improvement in accuracy by using text coupled with visuals — and a 6% improvement by using video.

67% of respondents were better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with static images than by text alone. 33% of respondents were not better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with static images than by text alone.

On a per-task basis, 7% or 8% improvement may not sound like much. But what if you think about it in terms of an entire workday, work week or an entire year?

Suddenly those small productivity gains start to add up. And that’s just for one employee. What if you have 200 employees? 2,000? 10,000?

In those terms, that could spell real consequences for the companies that fail to adapt.

Our research methodology

TechSmith helps anyone create professional, impactful videos and images to communicate and share knowledge with others, so we have a vested interest in making sure our products help people do what they need to do. A survey of our user base would have yielded results, but only from people already creating images and video.

We wanted real, independent, verifiable data on how visual content, such as screenshots, screencasts, images, and video improves communication for businesses worldwide. These particular research findings are based on the following two types of research that were conducted by external research firms:

 

The Scientific Laboratory Study

The scientific laboratory test was conducted using 125 office workers in January 2018 by award-winning doctor in behavioural economics, Dr. Alastair Goode.

Scenarios:

Each participant was asked to complete three everyday office tasks:

  • Uploading a post to a website
  • Downloading new software application
  • Filling out an expense form

Method of instruction:

For each task, one-third of the test subjects were communicated with at random by each of the following instruction methods:

  • Plain text (for example a text-only email)
  • Text with static images (for example an email with text and annotated screenshots of the tasks)
  • Video (for example a recorded walkthrough of the task with voiceover)

Participants were measured on their understanding, recall and speed, and the results for each type of communication were compared. Participants were also examined on their engagement levels and questioned on ease-of-use.

The Opinion Research

For the business opinion research, 4,500 office workers across six countries/regions were surveyed in December 2017, including – Australia (500), Canada (500), DACH region (1,000), France (500), UK (1,000), US (1,000).

The generational data was analyzed according to age and gender (split by generation: Before 1928, 1928 – 1945, 1946 – 1964, 1965 – 1980, 1981 – 1997).

How can companies easily add more visual content to communications?

Change is hard. But there are a number of ways to begin adding visual content that doesn’t require a culture shift to achieve.

We have several blog posts that provide ideas on how you can start incorporating visuals into existing workflows and processes:

 

 

What’s next?

Follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our email newsletter to learn more and ensure you don’t miss more research findings that we will be sharing throughout 2018.

 

The post New Research Reveals Failing to Focus on Visual Communication Threatens Productivity and Engagement Levels appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Add Captions to Video for Accessibility

People who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on captions to gain meaning from your video content. But there are a lot of other great reasons for using them, as well. Here’s how to add captions to video for accessibility.

What are captions?

One of the most widely-known uses for captions — closed captioning — enables people who are deaf or hard of hearing to access and understand the audio portions of a video.

While the terms “subtitles” and “captions” are often used interchangeably, there are some differences. Learn more about the differences between captions and subtitles here.

Captions provide a text-based way for people to get the audio content from your videos. Adding captions to video for accessibility should provide an accurate portrayal of any narration and/or dialogue, as well as any musical cues, relevant background noises, and/or markers that note the emotional state of the person or people speaking.

Don’t confuse captions with subtitles, though. While the terms “subtitles” and “captions” are often used interchangeably, there are some notable differences. Learn more about the differences between captions and subtitles here.

Accessible content is necessary (and the right thing to do)

According to World Health Organization (WHO), five percent of the world’s population (or about 360 million people) has disabling hearing loss. When you create video content that does not include captions, you are leaving out a significant portion of your potential audience. That’s a lot of potential lost revenue.

But let’s be clear, there’s a better reason to provide accessible content: It’s the right thing to do.

Refusing or neglecting to provide accessible content is no different than failing to provide wheelchair access ramps to your physical business. At best, you’re ignoring the needs of a significant portion of the population (and your customers). At worst, it can get you into trouble.

But don’t take my word for it. Two New York federal judges say so, too. In fact, since 2015, at least 750 lawsuits have been filed regarding inaccessible digital content, 432 of those were filed in the first eight months of 2017 alone.

Benefits beyond accessibility

As noted above, captions most commonly provide a text-based representation of any audio happening in a video, especially for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

But there are a lot of other reasons to add captions to video as well. One of the more practical reasons, especially for web videos, is so that people don’t need to have their volume turned up to understand the content of your videos.

Imagine someone scrolling through their Facebook feed and coming upon a video. As that video auto-starts, they can’t hear it because their sound is turned off. They’re far more likely to scroll past that video (and miss all your great content) than if that same video contained captions or subtitles that conveyed the dialogue or narration.

The same is true for videos playing in places where there is a lot of ambient noise. If people can’t hear your video, the captions provide the content, no matter how noisy the room.

Added bonus: Accessible content is better content

Here’s another great thing about providing captions on your videos (and providing accessible content in general): They actually make your content better. Accessible content typically requires you to better plan your content, so you’ll end up with a better product. Better planning = better content.

For example, because captioning means you’ll want to start with a script, instead of just winging it, your video is going to be better. Sure, you can probably get your point across shooting from the hip, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you take the time to actually write it all down, you’re more likely to speak more clearly and concisely, and stick to the most relevant points. Oh, and you’re also less likely to forget anything important.

How to add captions to video for accessibility

Note: If you read my recent post about adding captions and subtitles to video, the steps are exactly same. However, I’ll list them here again for convenience.

Most video editors have captioning capabilities. I’ll show the steps for adding captions in Camtasia for Mac.

Step 1a: Start with a script

This step is more about saving time than anything else (though, as noted above, it makes for better content). If the narration or dialogue in your video was read from a script, you’re already way ahead of the game. You can use your script (or transcript) to copy and paste the spoken words into the captioning editor. If you don’t have a script or transcript, skip to Step 1b.

Step 1b: Transcribe your video

If you don’t have a script, you may want a transcript of your video. There are a few ways to accomplish this. If you prefer to just type your captions or subtitles in manually, you can skip to Step 2.

  • You can watch your video and type out exactly what’s being said. This works fine if you have a short video (say, less than five minutes). But longer videos will become more difficult and will take far longer. Even the fastest typist will likely need to stop the video occasionally to ensure an accurate transcription.
  • You can send your video out for translation. There are a number of companies out there that specialize in transcription. A quick Google search will yield a ton of results.
  • Use your video editor’s speech-to-text feature. Many video editors (including Camtasia for Windows) feature speech-to-text ability for your video’s narration or dialogue. The accuracy of the transcription can be affected by a number of factors, including how much other noise is happening in the video, the overall quality of the audio and more. Overall, this is a great feature, but remember that you will definitely want to check the accuracy of the transcription before you share your video.
  • Use YouTube’s automatic transcription services. You can upload your video to YouTube and then download the transcript when it’s completed. As with any auto-transcription, you’ll want to review it carefully to verify its accuracy.

Step 2: Add a captions track to your audio track on the timeline

With Camtasia, there are a couple of ways to get started captioning. However, the easiest way is to select Audio Effects and then drag the captions effect to the audio track on the timeline.

Step 3: Add your captions to the captions track

This is where having a script or transcription really saves time. Select the caption space on the timeline and a caption dialogue box will open below the video preview and the selected portion of the video will play. Then, just copy and paste the portion of the script that’s heard in the selected caption space. You can then click the right arrow button to move to the next caption space. Repeat until you have added all the captions.

If you don’t have a transcript or script, the process is very similar. However, instead of copying and pasting the appropriate portions of the script, you’ll type the corresponding narration or dialogue into the dialogue box. Make sure that you’re typing only what you hear in each selected portion of the video.

Step 4: Review for accuracy

As with any work meant for public consumption, you’ll want to make sure it’s accurate. Once you have added all the captions (and any other necessary audio cues) to your video, review a time or two to ensure the captions match up with the dialogue or narration as perfectly as possible.

Step 5: Produce and share!

Once you’re satisfied your captions are correct, you can share your video with the world. You can produce the video with the captions directly imbedded (called “open captions“) or you can export the caption files to upload to your favorite video hosting solution.

Caption files are exported as .SRT files, which are basically text files with timecodes embedded to help video players such as YouTube, Vimeo, and others know how to sync the captions to the audio.

Note: While open captions add a very important layer of accessibility, most accessibility guidelines recommend closed captions, which allow users to decide whether or not to have the captions displayed.

Do you already add captions to video for accessibility? If not, are you ready to give it a try? Download a free trial of Camtasia and give it a go!

P.S.

Have you created a presentation recently that you want to turn into a video for wider audience? You don’t have to play the PowerPoint presentation to capture it. With Camtasia, you can directly import the PPT slides and add them to the timeline just like any other kind of media. Then, record your audio and follow the steps above to add captions for accessibility!

The post How to Add Captions to Video for Accessibility appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Add Music to a Video

By now you know that video is essential to communicating with your customers. Humans are hardwired to process visual content, but adding great visuals to a video is just half the battle. A truly engaging video often includes music, as well. But where do you find music? When you find it, how do you add music to a video? Read more to learn how to add music to a video.

The right stuff

First things first. There’s a difference between adding music and adding the right music. Before you choose your music, think about what type of video you’re creating. For a video showing software or product features, you’ll probably want something upbeat and positive. You want your viewers to feel good when they’re seeing your product. Other types of videos may need something more somber. Who can forget the various animal rescue commercials that are all over our TVs? They pair sad, slow music with photos of sad-looking animals to compound the experience and — they hope — make us more likely to open our wallets to donate.

Not convinced yet? Trying imagining one of those rad videos of skateboarders thrashing out in a skate park with pan flute music instead of grungy guitars.

The right music enhances the experience for your viewers, while the wrong music can send the wrong message entirely. Check out this (admittedly) humorous video for an example of how music can change the feeling of your video.

Now here’s that same scene with different music. Notice anything different?

Where to find music

How can finding music be a challenge? I mean, music is everywhere, right? I have 70 gb of music on my iPhone right now. I’ll just use some of that music.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? Unfortunately, most of the music you own is effectively off limits. That music is copyrighted and, if you use it, you’ll owe the copyright owner money (called “royalties”) for every time someone views your video. Ever wonder why your local Applebee’s can’t just sing “Happy Birthday To You” when it’s your birthday? Same reason. Someone actually owns the rights to that song and Applebee’s would have to pay royalties every time it was sung in their restaurants.

So where do you find music you can use? Well, unless you want to compose your own music, the easiest answer lies in royalty-free music. There are a number of ways to find royalty-free music, but your best bet starts with a simple Google search.

Some royalty-free music is truly free. There are a number of sites that offer music you can simply download and use as you wish (though often for non-commercial purposes, so be sure to read the user agreement). Free music sites will also likely have a limited selection, so you may have trouble finding exactly what you’re looking for, or the music may not be as good as you prefer. That said, I have used free music on a number of occasions and been pleased with the result.

For most commercial purposes, such as product overviews, customer stories, etc., though, your best bet is a premium royalty-free music site. While the music won’t be free, it’s typically inexpensive, and you’ll have a wider range of high-quality music to choose from. Premium Beat is a popular choice (and one I’ve used myself), but there are many other premium royalty-free music sites out there, as well. Pro tip: If good music is a priority, make sure to build this cost into your video budget.

So you have your music, how do you add it to your video?

Now that you know what music you want to add, how do you do it? Luckily, most video editing software makes it easy. In fact, it’ll probably take you way more time to choose the music you want to use than it will to actually add it to your video.

I use Camtasia for Mac to create and edit videos, but most video editors will use a relatively similar process.

Step 1: Open your video

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I wanted to be thorough. In your preferred video editor, open the video project to which you want to add music.

Step 2: Import your media

In Camtasia, there are several ways to import audio and video files into your Media Bin. You can select Media from the menu, right-click in the bin, and select Import Media from the menu.

Or, you can choose File > Import > Media from the menu.

If you’re into shortcuts and hotkeys, you can choose CMD+I.

No matter which method you choose, navigate to the file you want to import, select it, and choose Import.

Step 3: Add your media to the timeline

Once you’ve imported your file, find it in the media bin, click on it, and drag it to the timeline. You can add it to a new track or add it to an existing track depending on your needs. I typically add things to new tracks by default so they’re easier to find later.

If no empty track is available, Camtasia automatically creates a new track if you drag your file to the open area above the timeline.

Step 4: Adjust the audio to fit your needs

Here’s where you’ll need to make some decisions (if you haven’t made them already). Do you want your music to run through your whole video? Is it just for the intro or the outro?

For this example, let’s assume that we want to have the audio run throughout the entire video. Since there will be narration, we’ll want to make sure the music isn’t so loud that it makes the narration difficult to hear or understand.

When you select the audio track in the timeline, a line with shading will appear. To adjust the volume, you can click on the line and drag it up or down to the desired level. The waveform in the track grows and shrinks as you adjust the volume up and down, letting you know that the volume has been adjusted.

In the Audio Effects menu, there are a additional options for adjusting audio. For example, adding a Fade Out at the end of your video can help avoid a potentially jarring abrupt ending.

Now that you know how to add music to a video, try playing around with it the next time you create a video. These were just a few basic steps to get you started, but there are a lot of other ways to edit audio to fit your needs.

Look for more on audio in future blog posts, or check out these great blog posts for more information!

Editing Videos — How to Sync Audio and Video Sources

How to Edit Video — Normalize Audio Clips & Volume

It’s Not Too Late! How to Reduce Audio Noise in Your Recordings (For Free)

Audio Best Practices

P.S. The techniques above work for adding any type of audio to a video, not just music. Whether you’re adding narration, sound effects, interviews, or other types of audio. Camtasia makes it easy to add audio to a video.

P.P.S. Remember that not everyone who consumes your video content can hear it. People who are deaf or hard of hearing — or who may choose to watch your video without sound — also need a way to consume the content without relying on audio. So, be sure to include captions with all your videos. And, if you include music, the captions should note that, as well.

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