A Masterclass in Screencasting on a Mac
Screencasting is a powerful way to share ideas, train others, or make sure everyone is on the same page. But creating a polished screencast is more difficult than it may seem. In this article, I’ll show you the techniques I use to make my screencasts top notch:
- Setup the recording environment to minimize interruptions
- Edit out the mistakes
- Use the Add Freeze Frame function to maximize audio impact
A successful screencast begins with a proper setup and distraction free recording rig. Make sure your cell phone is turned off and you are in a quiet location. You will also need to:
- Setup an external microphone and test its levels
- Set the display and recording resolution
- Clean the desktop to minimize distractions
- Remove the date and time from the menu bar
Once you have connected the microphone, go to System Preferences. Then click Sound. Go to the Input tab and ensure the microphone is chosen. Say a few test words into the mic to make sure sound is being picked up. The audio waves should move as you speak and hit the middle of the Input level bar. Adjust as needed.
Setting the Display Resolution
It is important to record at a reasonable resolution. If you record at too low of a resolution, the image quality will be poor. If you record at too high of a resolution, everything will look very small on most common monitors. To set the display resolution, go to System Preferences. Then click on Display. Set your resolution as close to 1280 x 800 as the options allow.
Cleaning Your Desktop
You want to make sure your audience is focused on your content, not your lack of organization. A cluttered desktop can be a huge distraction. A quick and easy way to clean up the desktop is to use a Control-Click to create a new folder on the desktop.
Label it something simple, like workspace. Move everything that is on the desktop to that folder. When you have finished recording, feel free to move things back to their original locations.
Removing Date and Time
You will undoubtedly have to do some editing as you record. One thing that will give away those edits (and make your cast look jumpy) is seeing your clock go from 7:51 to 8:02 in the blink of an eye.
You need to remove the time from the menu bar. Go to System Preferences, then choose Date & Time. Click on the Clock tab. Make sure the option for Show date and time in menu bar is disabled.
Editing Out Mistakes
Removing any mistakes, misspeaks, or other non-words like 'um' or 'uh' is crucial to producing a quality product. Understand that the audio and video of a recording are two totally different things. In many situations, you only need to edit one or the other, but not both.
In Screenflow, highlight the audio and/or the video timeline that you wish to edit. Move the red scrubber line to the starting point of the area you wish to remove. Press Command-Shift-t to create the first split. Move the scrubber to the end of the area you wish to remove. Press Command-Shift-t to create the second split. Press Delete to remove the area.
Highlight the trailing timelines and drag them up against the preceding timelines. This will create a seamless transition while removing the mistake. As an example, this is what one of my previous screencasts looked like once I was done editing it:
Freeze Frame is Your Friend
While editing your screencast, you will undoubtedly run into situations where you need to fix the audio, but don't really need the video to change at all. Adding a freeze frame is a perfect way to keep a visual on the screen while incorporating the new audio.
To insert a freeze frame, move your scrubber to the end of a visual timeline. Control-Click the timeline. Choose Add Freeze Frame. Screenflow will add a perfectly sized screenshot of the last frame to the timeline.
Adjust the duration of the freeze frame to match the length of time needed for the audio. Then move the proceeding timelines against the new fill to match.
The difference between a good screencast and a great screencast is in the details. Be sure to remove any dead air, mistakes, or missed words. If you need to add extra audio, bridge the gap in video with freeze frames. And, most importantly, make sure you are working with a properly established rig.
Implementing these techniques into your workflow, will ensure your recordings will go from being just okay to positively amazing. Your videos will get more views and your audience will thank you!