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.

 

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