How to Make a Screencast: Tips and Tricks

20 minutes
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Are you an eLearning professional who wants to make screencasts for training courses? Or are you going to start your vlog on YouTube and show how to use specific software? In this article, we’ll explain how to screencast, which tools to choose, and what to consider before recording. 

Those who are interested in viewing the video on how to make a screencast can do so here: 

What Is a Screencat?

What is a Screencast?

A screencast is a video recording that captures the actions that take place on a screen. You can also often hear people calling it a screen capture video or a screen recording. A screencast can contain various objects like text, images, audio, and even mouse movements.

How Are Screencasts Used?

As you can see, a screencast is a type of video tutorial that is most often created to demonstrate a process that’s showing on the screen. But although such videos are all instructional, they can be used for different purposes by different people. Here’s who can benefit from screencasting:

  • L&D professionals. With screencasts, learning pros can demonstrate to their employees how to use the software they need to carry out their job duties; for example, create a video guide to Microsoft Excel or record an LMS walkthrough.
  • Teachers. Screencasting helps teachers save more time on introducing the topic in the classroom and invest more time in practice and discussions. This approach is referred to as a flipped classroom. For instance, a teacher can record their screen while explaining how to solve math equations and share the video with students so they can watch it before coming to class.
  • Software development companies. Organizations that produce software or offer a web service can benefit greatly from making video tutorials on how to use their tool. This is where screencasts can come into play again.
  • YouTube instructors. Skillful photoshoppers, advanced users of Microsoft Excel, and other software experts use screencasts to share their knowledge with the world. 
  • Gamers. For gamers, a screencast is a way to share their gameplay with the world, as well as get feedback on their skills and teach their peers how to improve their performance.

Creating a Screencast: A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you’re making a screencast for a classroom, an online course, or a YouTube video, here’s how you to do it, step by step. 

Step 1. Make a plan and write a script

You have only 10 seconds to capture and engage an audience. From the very beginning of the video, they should understand that this screencast is what they need now. To captivate your viewers right away, plan your video. This is, in fact, a structure for a future tutorial: where to start, what to show in the middle, and how to end. Then prepare a script.

Creating a script for a video

Don’t skip this step, as the script will help you:

  • Make your screencast more concise. Individuals who record a video with only bullet points usually add unnecessary information. With a script, you’ll stay on message.
  • Think about some talking points and tips that will make the lesson more useful. One approach is action mapping. Think about it from the perspective of what knowledge needs to be transferred, or perhaps even what issue needs to be solved (why they’re learning), then define the actions that need to be taken to do that.
  • Figure out what you should show. You have to decide if you want to describe everything that is happening on the screen or if you’re okay with the visuals supporting the script. Using a voiceover (VO) makes it significantly more engaging and effective, with text or graphics to highlight key points.
  • Avoid unnecessary pauses while recording. Remember that script? If you’re “umm”ing and “ahh”ing, you should go back and write it!
  • Reduce the time for video editing. You don’t need to cut out unnecessary phrases and merge different parts of the audio track.

Writing a script is actually quite easy. In an instructional video, the first few moments should draw the viewer in and give them reasons to watch what you have to present.

Don’t use the first five seconds of your video to tell people your company name; use them to share why they should keep watching. This can be done with a dialog or graphics.

Matthew Pierce

Learning & Video Ambassador from TechSmith Corporation

You can start with a statement about the goal and provide a plan of your tutorial so a viewer can see what to expect right away. For example:

Screenshot from a video tutorial

In the middle of the screencast, you need to describe the topic in as much detail as needed to transfer the knowledge required to solve the issue. Keep it lean (lean is interesting). At the end, you can give a summary and go through the key points once again if your video is long. If it is short and focused on one topic, repetition may not add value. You may also want to give the viewer an action they can perform. This also helps to further anchor the learning.

For example, if your video is about creating a new PowerPoint template, rather than recapping the steps, invite viewers to actually do it. If you’re worried about the viewer remembering the steps, it’s probably better to provide a job aid or handout that’s easy to open in another window, download, or print. At the very end, give a preview of the next lesson.

Write the script in a conversational tone, without complex phrases or a lot of acronyms and jargon.

It’s okay to use contractions, even slang. Keep your audience in mind — using more informal language will make your video easier to understand and, hopefully, put your viewers at ease with the presenter.

Matthew Pierce

Learning & Video Ambassador from TechSmith Corporation

To make sure the text works, read it aloud. This will help you notice complex phrases or awkward transitions. Are there places in the script that don’t sound natural? If so, make the necessary touch-ups.

The same passage written in a descriptive and conversational tone
iSpring Learn is a simple but effective Learning Management System designed for teaching and assessing employees or students online that, aside from providing learners quick and simple access to their courses, allows you to create your own learning materials and gives you complete control over the learning process.iSpring Learn is a simple and effective Learning Management System. It’s designed for teaching and assessing employees or students online. The LMS provides learners with quick and easy access to courses. The system also allows content producers to create learning materials and manage the learning experience.

You can also check the text for readability in Hemingway. This online editing tool will help you find complex sentences and phrases, excessive adverbs, and passive voice constructions that you can turn into active voice.

check the text for readability

When writing your script, make sure that you choose words that have a purpose. Make each word fight for its place in the script. If the word isn’t helping the viewer to understand or move towards the purpose of the video, consider cutting it. A concise script is more understandable. Be direct.

Tip: To get started, watch this video course about script writing and download a free script template.

Step 2. Choose a microphone

A headset or a built-in laptop microphone are bad tools for voice acting. Ambient background noises such as hissing, crackling, or echoing may appear in the recording. Use a separate microphone for making screencasts.

First, define the type of device you need:

  • Dynamic mics block out room echo and background noises well. Most often they are used by musicians at concerts, where there is no time for sound processing.
  • Condenser mics, to the contrary, catch even the ticking of a clock. But if you record your voice in complete silence, you can achieve a decent sound using this type of device. Condenser mics are most often used at radio stations.

Another important consideration is how it will be connected to your computer:

  • ХLR mics are of high sound quality, but they are connected to a computer via an external sound card or a special adapter. You need to buy it separately.
  • USB mics can be plugged into an available USB port on the computer. It’s much easier. However, the sound quality is sometimes worse than that of ХLR devices.

Here you can see six microphones that are good values for voice-over actors to get started with:

                           Samson Q2U                                                     ~ $ 69.99                  Blue Snowball Ice                                             ~ $49.99                 SE ELECTRONICS X1                                             ~ $99.00
                            Dynamic mic                                          Watch a review and listen                      Condenser mic                                    Watch a review and listen                         Condenser mic                                            Watch a review and listen
                   Audio-Technica AT2020                                             ~ $83.95                         Blue Yeti USB                                                    ~ $129.36                           Rode Podcaster                                                         ~ $229.00
                           Condenser mic                                          Watch a review and listen                        Condenser mic                                      Watch a review and listen                            Dynamic mic                                                Watch a review and listen

Useful microphone accessories

These accessories can help to achieve a pure sound, even if you are recording a voice on the street or in an apartment next to a construction site.

A microphone isolation shield partially mutes extra sounds in the room and filters out the echo. As a rule, it is placed behind the microphone.

The video shows how a voice sounds with and without an isolation shield

A pop filter suppresses breathing noises, softens sibilant “s” and “sh” sounds, and blocks plosives like “p” “b”, and “t”, which can max out the decibels and sometimes cause signal clipping.

An example of how a pop filter works

Step 3. Install screen recording and video editing software

In addition to a microphone, you’ll need a recording tool. For the search term “screencast software download,” Google returns about 1,050,000 results. Among them are some reviews and developer sites where you can download the software. To make it simple for you, we’ve selected three tools for different types of tasks. You’ll find the list of apps with brief reviews right after this guide, or you can click here to go there now. 

Step 4. Prepare the room for recording

No matter how good a microphone is, it can’t completely block ambient background noise. That’s why you need to prepare before recording:

  • Choose a small room for recording. In a large room, your voice will echo off the walls more loudly.
  • Close the windows tightly, turn off phones, computers, fans, and any other appliances. Make sure your chair doesn’t squeak.
  • The room shouldn’t be empty; otherwise, the sound will be hollow, as if you are sitting in the bathroom.

If you plan to keep doing your own voiceovers and screencasts, slowly build up the acoustic treatment in your recording area; invest in something like a Whisper Room. If you don’t have a dedicated recording space, put up heavy blankets, heavy curtains, anything you can to put mass between your recording space and the outside world.

Bryan Olson

voiceover artist

Tip: Hang an “On Air” sign on the door so that colleagues or kids (or both) don’t stumble into your session. 

Step 5. Prepare your voice for recording

When recording a voiceover, you need to read the text in a light and convincing manner. It’s difficult to do this if you’re distracted, as you need to pronounce words correctly and decide which syllables to emphasize. So, before recording, do some rehearsing – read the script aloud several times. To ensure that your voice sounds good, have some tea with lemon10-15 minutes before the recording session. This will soothe your vocal cords and make your voice deeper and ‘cleaner.’

While recording, it’s incredibly important to use the microphone properly. It shouldn’t be too far from your mouth, because it will pick up more ambient noise, nor should it be too close, because it can pick up unwanted mouth sounds and max out the decibels. Also, make sure the volume is adjusted properly, so the final effect is a nice fat waveform with no signal clipping

Breathing naturally is essential as well. No one wants to listen to a robot, even if that robot has a beautiful voice. You want to sound like you’re talking with someone or teaching someone. You aren’t just reading words from a page. You’re trying to make them come alive, even with training material.

Bryan Olson

voiceover artist

Tip: Posture also affects the quality of the recording, so keep your back straight. At the same time, the belly should be distended and the chest pulled forward. Correct posture will help your voice sound stronger and more expressive.

Step 6. Record the screencast

Here are some tips that will help you make a high-quality screencast:

  • Before recording, remove unwanted objects from the shot. Nobody wants to see the toolbar with the Start button if it’s not going to be used.
  • Turn off pop-ups and messenger notifications, so you don’t have to re-record the video after a message from your mom pops up in the corner.
  • Record screencasts at a resolution of 1280×720 px (720i). If you make the resolution any smaller, the viewer won’t be able to see what is happening on the screen clearly and there will be black margins around the video after uploading it to YouTube.
Screen recording at 640x480 resolution

Screen recording at 640×480 resolution

Screen recording at 1280×720 resolution

Screen recording at 1280×720 resolution

  • Take breaks. If you need to collect your thoughts or drink some water, take a break. Only first-class professionals can record a screencast on the first take. The key is high-quality content.
  • Record voice and screen separately. This helps to avoid extra takes. For example, if you narrate a line incorrectly, you won’t have to re-record what is happening on the screen. It’s sufficient to read the complex paragraph one more time and sync it with the video.
  • Remove unwanted video scenes. The screencast should begin as soon as the viewer clicks on the Start button. “Dead air” at the beginning and at the end of the lesson is a waste of time. Cut unwanted clips (pieces of video or sound) mercilessly.

3 Screen Recording Tools You Might Like

Check out these three tools to find an ideal fit for your specific needs:

1. iSpring Cam Pro 

iSpring Cam Pro for recording screencasts

iSpring Cam Pro is a complete video studio that allows you to record screencasts with voiceovers, picture-in-picture screencasts, software tutorials with annotations, and professional training videos. It includes a wide range of editing features that can help you make your screencasts look professional. iSpring Cam Pro makes it easy to share your videos. You can save them to your computer in MP4 format, upload to your LMS, or publish to your YouTube channel right from the software interface. 

Best suited for: video tutorials for YouTube

2. iSpring Suite Max

iSpring Suite Max for recording screencasts

iSpring Suite Max is an authoring toolkit for creating online courses. It has a built-in professional video editing studio where you can record video from your screen and/or webcam. This tool also allows you to add hints to screencasts, mix different tracks, glue video fragments together, and add smooth transitions between scenes. 

You can insert the screen capture into a training course, download it to your computer in MP4 format, or upload it to YouTube.

Besides recording and editing videos, iSpring Suite Max enables you to create PowerPoint-based online courses with quizzes, dialogue simulations, and interactive activities. It also has an online space where you can collaborate on your courses and video tutorials with your colleagues and SMEs. 

Best suited for: training courses

3. OBS Studio

OBS Studio for recording screencasts

OBS Studio is open source software for video recording and live streaming. Apart from basic screen recording options, it has quite a lot of additional side features  that are perfect for making video tutorials, including picture-in-picture mode, custom watermarks, and push-to-talk mode. OBS allows you to set up an unlimited number of scenes that you can switch between seamlessly via custom transitions. The tool lets you record videos in MP4 and FLV formats, and uses your PC’s GPU for high-quality streaming. However, it has quite a steep learning curve. 

Best suited for: broadcasting games 

How to Record a Screencast in iSpring Suite 

If you opt for iSpring Suite Max, here’s what you need to do to record a screencast. First, decide on the format of your video. iSpring allows you to create a screencast with narration or a screencast with a webcam video, here’s how:

A screencast plus narration

After installing iSpring Suite on your computer, you’ll see an additional tab in PowerPoint. Click on Screen Recording.

Screen Recording in iSpring Suite

Then, in the Recording Settings window, choose the Screen tab.

Screen tab in iSpring Suite

Make sure your microphone is on. Then, specify the size of the recording area: this can be a portion of the screen, the entire screen, or the window of a specific application.

As you record, there are a few things to keep in mind to create a clean looking video.

  • Hide your mouse cursor so it’s not distracting to your viewer, or make sure the cursor is clear and visible if it’s part of the tutorial.
  • Pause if you make a mistake, so when you edit, it’ll be easier for you to find the places where you’ve made mistakes and cut them out.
  • Speak clearly and with the tone and pace you have chosen for the video.

A screencast plus a presenter video

If you’re going to record a screencast and a webcam video at the same time, choose the Screen and Camera option in the Recording Settings window. You can show both streams together, or easily switch between them.

Screen and Camera tab in iSpring Suite

After your recording is complete, you can edit it. Remove noise and unwanted video, glue video fragments together, and add video effects. 

To learn how, check out this guide and watch this tutorial:

Tips for Creating Captivating Screencasts

Here are some tips and tricks that can help you make your screencasts even better looking and more engaging:

  • To add more clarity to your screencast, complement it with other media. For example, you can add pictures, infographics, and different video footage.
  • Another way to make things easier for viewers to understand and, at the same time, attract their attention to certain points, is to create annotations, graphs, and captions. For instance, outline the steps of the process that you demonstrate on the screen. 
  • To direct your viewer’s eyes where you want them to go, spotlight mouse actions. With tools like iSpring Suite, you can highlight a cursor and add click sounds. However, keep in mind that excessive mouse movements are distracting, so hide your mouse when it’s not being moved.
  • In order for your video to look professional, connect the segments with transitions. The scenes should naturally flow from one to the next, with no abrupt cuts. 
  • If you demonstrate an onscreen process without any voiceover instructions, add some music to set the mood of your video tutorial. 

To Sum Up

Screencasting is a great solution that helps bridge the gaps for globally connected workforces, teachers, students, software developers, and customers. Making a screencast allows the person on the other end to hear your voice and provides important context to your words. However, it’s not only an effective but also a simple instructional tool that you can jump into and use today. To get started with screen recording, download a free iSpring Suite trial right away. 

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