More companies are looking into using video to show people how to use their software and digital applications.
The issue is that getting started can feel intimidating. What about cameras? Lighting? Microphones? Actors? Where do you even start?
Screencasts provide a way to produce engaging and useful videos for customers, employees, or anyone else–without having to worry about all the gear and other technical issues that can make a video so daunting.
All you really need is a computer with some basic software.
In this article, we will show you:
- The most common types of screencasts
- How to get started creating your next screencast
- What to include in your screencast to not only inform users but engage them to drive brand awareness, social sharing, and actual sales
What is a Screencast?
At the most basic level, a screencast is just a video recording of an app's user interface and features.
Screencasts are among the most popular on the web. Research shows that 90% of the top software organizations choose professional screencast videos for their businesses to educate their customers.
It's almost certain that you have seen one before. If you have ever watched a video tutorial where viewers can see what's happening on the screen of the instructor, that's the type of video we call a screencast.
A screencast typically includes some sort of audio voiceover and can contain various objects like text, images, audio, and even mouse movements.
The most common types of screencasts
There are four main types of screencasts you can create.
The format that will be best for your particular use case depends on a number of factors:
- The video's main goals. Is it purely informational? Or do you want to accomplish other marketing and sales goals with it too?
- Your production budget. Video production costs can grow faster than you might expect, so you'll have to consider where you're willing to sacrifice production quality.
- Your experience with screen casting and video editing software. There are easy-to-use tools to make simple screencasts, but creating marked-up and interactive screencasts requires practice and experience with more advanced tools.
Narrated Screencast Videos
In this type of screencast, the instructor takes a "show them" approach by giving the audience a view of the expert's desktop as they demonstrate a task or process.
They can range from being simple and basic all the way to being heavily produced and edited.
At the basic end of the spectrum, it's usually just a narrator showing and explaining how to use the app's features in real time.
As the production value increases, there are usually more edits, cuts, and on-screen markups. These all help the viewer focus on the most important parts of the screencast.
This involves a presentation or slideshow that is typically created with presentation software such as PowerPoint.
These might seem very simple, but they can be used to provide clearer information to the viewer.
Instead of simply showing how the app's user interface works, it gives the presenter the chance to present more information.
This could be background or theoretical information that helps users better understand how to use the software, extra information to give the viewer more context on when to use a particular feature, or it could even slide from a sales deck to encourage viewers to buy.
A well-narrated slide cast will usually include text, images, graphics, and video clips throughout the presentation. If it's well done, it can provide more value and information to the viewer than a basic screencast.
This is a 'let me try' approach where learners can control screen elements to actually interact with a rendering of the software to be learned. Again, these can be quite simple.
Adding quizzes and questions throughout a basic screencast can help keep viewers more engaged and improve their retention of the information that was shared.
The possibilities only get bigger from here. Viewers can interact with images, icons, and text on the screen to perform actions. You can add prompts that bring viewers to different parts of the video or different videos entirely.
These can be the most effective type for training and retention, but they are also resource-intensive to make.
Animated Screencast Videos
These screencasts have added animations and a soundtrack to make the screencast more exciting and engaging.
This type is best for shorter screencasts.
Having constant animations and soundtracks throughout an hour-long walkthrough can become distracting and impact the viewers' understanding of what's being shared.
Instead, animated screencasts are best when a single function is being shown. It helps make the video more engaging and unique, especially if you have a large library of videos.
Animated screencasts also make for great explainer videos. You can go through your app's key features while showing the problem you're solving and the outcomes you create.
The 7 Step process to creating an engaging screencast
Whether you're making a SAAS screencast for your product, an online course, or an onboarding video, here's how you do it, step by step.
Step 1: Make a plan and write a script
When screencasting, we highly recommend preparing a script for your video. You need to create an outline, describe the key points that will be covered during the recording, and note down where the content will have narration and other effects.
Think about what the viewer wants to learn, then identify the knowledge you need to transfer and define actions that need to be taken to do that.
After you have identified the actions you want to record, figure out what you should show to depict those actions. You also need to decide if you want to describe everything that is happening on the screen or if you're okay with the visuals doing most of the work.
Once you have a general idea of what you want your screencast to cover, it's time to prepare your script.
Your script needs to be conversational without complex phrases or a lot of acronyms. It should also be written in an active voice.
You can structure your script into an opening part, a middle part, and the closing part. The opening part of your script is crucial since you have only 10 seconds to capture and engage your viewers.
Don't use those precious seconds to tell viewers your company's name. Instead, use them to share why they should keep watching. You can start with a statement about the goal of your video and provide a list of topics to be covered so a viewer can see what to expect right away.
The middle of the screencast is where you explain the topic in detail using images that show how to carry out each action in the process you are describing.
Make sure this part of your script is concise, and if a word isn't helping the viewer to move towards the purpose of the video, remove it.
At the ending part of the screencast, you can go through the key points once again if your video is long and round up by giving the viewer an action they can perform - this is called a CTA (Call-To-Action).
You can also provide additional resources for viewers to check out in the description or on your website.
To make sure your script is coherent and engaging, read it aloud. You can check the text for complex sentences and phrases in the Hemingway online editing tool.
Step 2: Install screen recording software
Your screen recording software should preferably include a video editor that you can use to give your production the necessary finishing touches.
There are dozens of screen recording software applications you can choose from, both free and paid. To make it simple for you, we've selected three video editing applications that are robust enough to meet any of your needs.
OBS Studio (Open Broadcaster Software)
OBS is open-source screen casting and streaming application with a built-in video recorder that lets users record and live stream videos for free.
It is easy to install and use, which is an advantage if you don't have advanced video production skills. It supports Linux, Windows, and macOS.
One of the best screencast recording software tools on the market, with features like screen annotations, speech-to-text translations, PowerPoint integration, advanced editing options, and readymade video templates.
Its trial version is free, and it costs USD 200.00 to migrate to the full version.
It is a beginner, and budget-friendly option with all the recording features you will need. It has a very small learning curve compared to Camtasia, but it lacks some advanced video editing features.
Paid plans cost just $5/month, and it gives you access to the premium recording features as well as the video editor.
Step 3: Choose a microphone
Don't use your laptop's built-in microphone; it is bad for voice acting. It doesn't block out ambient background noises that can taint your recording, such as hissing, crackling, or echoing. Use a separate microphone for making your screencasts.
There are two categories of microphones depending on how it will be connected to your computer:
ХLR Mics: they can only be connected to your computer via a special adapter you need to buy separately. However, they have very good sound quality.
USB Mics: these types of microphones can be plugged into any available USB port on the computer. They are cheaper and easier to use, but the sound quality is sometimes worse than that of ХLR devices.
You can also use an accessory like a microphone isolation shield to unwanted mute noise in the room and filter out the echo. It is usually placed behind the microphone to isolate it from the surrounding environment.
Step 4: Prepare a room for recording
Audio is one of the most important aspects of a video. If there's a lot of interference in your recording room, or if the audio is too low, your audience might lose interest and give up on your screencast.
You can invest in a dedicated recording space. Choose a small room, close the windows tightly, and turn off any appliances.
A small room is ideal because your voice will echo off the walls more loudly in a large room. If you don't have a dedicated room, put up heavy curtains to put mass between your recording space and the rest of the room.
Step 5: Record the screencast
Before you start recording, organize your programs and files in a way that facilitates their easy access during the recording.
For example, if you're going to teach your audience how to convert Microsoft Word files into PDFs, leave the documents in an easily accessible separate folder. You shouldn't run the risk of forgetting where the files are when you need them.
You should also do some rehearsing to ensure that your voice sounds good. No one wants to listen to a robot; you need to read the script in light and convincing manner.
Read the text aloud a few times, be sure you are pronouncing the words correctly and decide which syllables to emphasize.
Next, it's time to record your screencast:
- Turn off notifications, so they won't pop up while you are recording your video and force you to re-record your screencast.
- Customize your settings to set up any features you may want to use. For instance, you might want to make use of features that allow you to add screen annotations to your video.
- Select the part of your computer screen you want to record (individual tab or window, full desktop, etc.).
- Do a test run of your video and audio.
- If your test recording is a success, take a deep breath, then click the record button.
- When you've completed your video, click the stop button.
- If you recorded the perfect take, you could just save the screencast. However, more often than not, you need to do some editing. More on that in the next step.
Tips to create high quality video
Here are some tips to help you create a higher quality video-
Record your screencasts at a standard resolution or higher
In most cases, you'll want to record with minimum standard dimensions of 1280×720 px (720i) to make sure it displays correctly on video hosting sites or your website. If you make the resolution any smaller, there will be black bars around the edges of your video, and the viewer won't be able to see what is happening on the screen clearly.
Record voice and screen separately
This helps to avoid a situation where you will have to re-record the video because you made a mistake, like narrating a line incorrectly. Do the voiceover separately, check and fix mistakes, then sync it with the video.
Watching someone scroll up and down quickly can make viewers feel disoriented. You can install a smooth scrolling extension like SmoothScroll to make it easier for viewers to follow your movements.
There is no law that says you must record your screencast on the first take. If you need a second to gather your thoughts or go to the restroom, take a break. What matters is high-quality content.
Keep an eye on your video's runtime
Your video shouldn't be too long or tiresome for your audience. Instructional videos can suffer from this problem, especially when the loading of programs is too slow. You can fix this by speeding up parts where the programs took too long to load in the editing stage.
Step 6: Edit your screencast recording
Before making any changes to your screencast recording, take the time to watch your whole video, take note of all the changes you want to make, and the time code for each edit.
You should ideally make a duplicate copy of your file before editing in case you clip out a few important parts by mistake.
Editing may start with trimming unwanted video scenes and cutting out dead moments. Dead moments are actions that do not contribute to the message of your video. There is no reason for viewers to watch you filling out a form or waiting for a website to load.
You can add more clarity to your screencast with "callouts" such as arrows or circles to draw attention to a specific area of the screen. You should also zoom in on your video, especially when you're recording a web page with small text.
Finally, you can add some background music to help set the mood. However, your background music should never be louder than your narration.
Step 7: Save and share your screencast
Once you've finished your screencast, we recommend saving it as a video file (such as .mp4 or .mov).
You can then embed the video in your website or share it on video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Many screen casting software tools like CamStudio and Screencast-O-Matic let you directly upload your video to any of the popular video hosting sites.
This article has shown you how SAAS screen casting can serve as an affordable and easy-to-use medium to bridge the gap between your company and customers that are eager to learn.
A DIY approach is very feasible with screen casting, but a professional video agency can help you create a more engaging screencast video.