There’s no denying that.
Videos show up prominently in search results and YouTube is the second largest search after Google itself. It has been proven that video advertising online is more effective than other ad media. I don’t believe that it’s a stretch to extend that dominance to content marketing and blogging. There are YouTube channels that have subscriber counts competitive with some of the biggest blogs out there.
You may have considered creating videos, but you also may have reservations:
- Is the equipment and software expensive?
- Why would anyone want to see your mug in a video?
- Is it technically challenging?
- Does it take a long time?
- Is it worth it?
In this (highly opinionated) multi-part series, I’m going to address everything you need to know to create screencast videos (this is only one type of video, as I explain below).
What is Screencasting?
Screencasting is when you make a video recording what’s taking place on your monitor. It’s distinct from what we often call “talking head” videos, where you point a camera at yourself and simply speak to it as if it were a person or videos where you are recording people in a setting such as a speech.
Screencasting usually involves one of two things:
- Demonstrating how to use software.
- A slide show which you speak over.
Talking head videos are by far the easiest and cheapest to create, but often they’re also redundant to text and the audience would be better served with text content. Screencasts can be highly effective content because showing how to do something often works better than describing how to do something via the written word.
Is the Equipment and Software for Screencasting Expensive?
Yes and no. This is highly subjective—what’s expensive to one person is trivial to another, so bear that in mind. In order to screencast you need a computer powerful enough to handle it because recording and processing video eats up a lot of processor power, memory and hard drive space. These requirements will be directly related to the software you use to create screencasts, however, so there’s no best answer I can give you.
Two popular screencasting programs are TechSmith Camtasia Studio Version 7 (affiliate link) for the PC and Screenflow for the Mac. As a PC guy I’ve been using Camtasia for years. If you’re a Mac user you’ll definitely want to use Screenflow. All my Mac buddies say it’s awesome. Considering the amount of screencasting I do for Headway Themes and for my own products, the investment in Camtasia was a no-brainer.
What about free software for screencasting? Is there anything? There is. However, I’ve used a few of them in an early attempt to be cheap and I have to say that none of the free ones were worth a damn–not even Jing, which is from the same company that created Camtasia. Some of the free programs will record your screen but most of them do not give you capability to edit or annotate your video, forcing you to use a different program for that.
For recording audio as a separate file from the video portion of your final video, I recommend Audacity for the PC (get the beta version) and if you’re on a Mac you have Garage Band.
The only real pieces of hardware you need are a good microphone and headphones. The audio quality has a huge effect on the overall perception of quality in your videos, so it’s worth it to get a decent mic. There are a few good mics out there now that will plug into your system via USB port. I use a Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone (White) (affiliate link) and the sound quality is really good compared to, say, a typical (or even good) headset microphone.
Having said that, if you’re squeamish about spending $60 – $100 for a microphone, consider getting a really good headset. You’ll want a pair of ear-covering headphones in order to listen to playback so you can hear all the little sounds that get washed out when played over loudspeakers (and for privacy and family sanity preservation).
Although definitely not as good as my Snowball, the mic in my Logitech G35 7.1-Channel Surround Sound Headset (affiliate link) is excellent for a headset mic. Best headset I’ve ever owned. And no… it’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than a good mic and a good pair of headphones bought separately.
If there’s anywhere you can skimp, here, it would be the headphones as long as you have a good microphone.
Why would anyone want to see your mug in a video?
Well, that’s the beauty of screencasting! Your face does not have make an appearance. You don’t have to worry about your fidgety hands or constantly getting your bangs out of your eyes ruining the video. One element you will need to control is your voice: no “um…” or “y’know” or other verbal bad habits belong in a good quality video. But we’ll talk later about to how handle that like a boss.
Is Screencasting Technically Challenging?
Not gonna sugar-coat it: at first, screencasting may be technically challenging.
But you see, once you do it even just a couple times, you start to internalize the workflow and it all becomes second nature quickly. There is a process to these things, and all you have to do is follow the process (and these posts will help with that).
Most of the technical stuff has to do with settings. You will have settings for recording the action on the screen and settings for producing the final product. Outside of that, actually using, say, Camtasia, is no big deal. Creating a YouTube channel and uploading your videos is simple. Putting your videos in a blog post is also easy.
Does Screencasting Take a Long Time?
The higher the quality of the finished video, the longer it will take to create. There are basically two ways to go about producing screencast videos:
- You can have some idea of what you want to do, hit “record” and wing it. You can use little or no editing and just throw it out there fast and dirty. This will usually create poor-quality screencasts. However, it isn’t always a bad idea: the more accomplished you are at both the software your’re using and at presenting, the better you’ll be at creating screencasts this way. Also, this kind of video will feel more lively because it’s not scripted.
- You can plan it out in advance and record all your media components separately. Then you bring it all together in your video production program (Camtasia, Screenflow or whatever) to edit and produce your video. This takes the most time but gives you the most polished product. The danger for this kind of video it’s easy for it to feel stiff and unnatural, but there are ways to prevent that.
Anybody can hit “record” and blather away as they go through the steps of something on the screen. it’s what most people do, so if you take the second approach, your videos will stand out and shine compared to others in your niche.
Is Screencasting Worth It?
If you have a subject that’s computer or software-related which you can demonstrate or teach people, screencasting is definitely worth it: you’ll be able to create killer content for your blog or for training products which you can sell online. If you like to speak and want something other than a “talking head” video, screencasting a slide show (a non-boring slide show, I should say) is a great path to take.
The Rest of This Series
This is a big subject, so I’ve decided to break it up into a series. Here are the rest of the topics we’ll be covering:
- Planning a Screencast will help you ensure your screencast people will really want to watch. You’ll learn how to create learning objectives and break down the teaching steps.
- Scripting and Recording Screencast Audio will teach you steps the pros take that the amateurs don’t, like writing a script and recording audio separately from the video. Sound confident and cause the viewer to have confidence in you as you lead them along, rather than sound like a hesitant, blathering idiot (which, sadly, a lot of people do in their screencasts).
- Recording and Assembling Your Media Collection for a Screencast will cover how to create the visual portion of your screencast and get it ready for editing.
- Editing, Pacing and Effects in Your Screencast will help you put it all together to create a compelling screencast that captures the viewer’s attention and holds it until the end.
- Producing Your Screencast will go over the technical nitty-gritty so when you create your final video, it will look clear and polished.
- Uploading and Sharing Your Screencast will show you what steps to take when you want to share and promote your screencast with the world. I’ll focus mainly on YouTube but will also cover how to put videos behind a membership wall on your WordPress site.
I’m excited about this series. I’ve wanted to do it for a while, and finally the itch just had to be scratched. I hope you enjoy it and will benefit from it.