Screencast Tutorial

Creating a tutorial screencast like the one above is fairly easy, and doesn’t have to cost lots of money. In this post, I’ll describe how I made my video, and give you a few suggestions about making your own.

Many thanks to the Berkeley Heights Public Library for graciously allowing me to use their website and catalog for this video.

Have a plan

The first step was to determine what I wanted to accomplish with my screencast. Did I want it to be a tutorial, a virtual tour of a website, or something else entirely? The video above was done partly as an exercise, but I also wanted it to be useful for the library. Thus, I chose to do something basic that a lot of patrons might have questions about.

Write a rough outline/script

Once I figured out the purpose of my video, I wrote down a basic idea of how it should go. t’s a good idea to break down your videos into chunks of five minutes or less, so as not to overwhelm people. But don’t let that stop you from brainstorming all of the topics that you want to cover. For the most part, my draft script stayed the same through the end, though I did unintentionally let slip in a few bits of off-the-cuff speech.

Record a draft

The audio editing software I used was Audacity, which is a free download. I had some trouble getting Audacity to record my microphone’s level properly, so I actually recorded the audio with Total Recorder, but you should be able to do it in Audacity. Rather than use my computer’s built-in microphone, I opted to purchase a USB microphone (the AudioTechnica AT-2020). This had the advantage of increasing the sound quality somewhat and eliminating background noise, but it’s not an essential element.

I found it easiest to record the audio first, then review and make any necessary changes, and record the audio again. When I was finally satisfied that I had a decent audio recording, I used CamStudio to record the video portion of the screencast. CamStudio’s default settings didn’t work, so I searched on YouTube for other people’s recommendations (and samples of their screencasts), and found something that worked for me. In order to record the video after the audio I listened through headphones and followed along on the screen.

Create final product

With both the audio and video recorded, it was time to merge them together and export a finished video. I used Windows Movie Maker which has a simple interface (and came free with Windows Vista). Editing everything to match up properly was straightforward–if something wasn’t perfect, I could cut out the excess video or add extra time to the audio with Audacity easily enough.

Rendering a video with Windows Movie Maker was a bit problematic. Since the software is designed to create home movies, it will only output the two most common aspect ratios for video–4:3 and 16:9. My monitor is 16:10, however, which when forced into the 16:9 format will come with the bars on the left and right sides of the screen (“pillarboxing”). Since the text in the video is legible, I didn’t try to figure out a better solution this time. If I were making more screencasts, it’s definitely something I’d want to address.

Upload and share

Once your video has rendered, share it with the world! Be sure to add a descriptive title and lots of relevant tags/metadata. Let your work be found! Good luck!

Other resources

Five Best Screencasting Tools
Best Practices for Patron Tutorials (San Francisco Public Library)

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