What problem does having a screencast solve?

First of all the question is - What is a screencast and why should I want to make one? There are many things that we want to do, or would like to do be able to do with our computers. Sometimes it can be difficult to work out exactly how to complete that task we have in hand. Either the computer program is complicated, because it does so many technical things, or the programmer forgot to consider the end user when he or she was designing the application, and it is not too intuitive for users.

On occasion the program is great at what it does but the task that it is completing is intricate and needs some extra explaining. Then you have to note that even if the manual is great, there are some people that learn better by being shown how to do something rather than having to read a boring manual.

So now what exactly is a screencast?

Put simply it is a video recording of what you are doing on screen with your computer. You record your activity as you do it and viewers may play it back later. To see with their own eyes how to do whatever they might otherwise have struggled with. It is a great way of learning how to do a task because of the fact that you can watch it over and over and use the pause button when you want to copy what is being shown to you in the screencast video. A screencast is a teaching or a learning tool.

Tools needed for the job

On the Mac since Snow Leopard OSX there has been a screen recording facility in Quick time. It allows you to make simple recording of the whole screen. The quality is pretty good and the size of the video file of the recorded actions is reasonable. You could easily use this to do all you need, to make a screencast. Most likely though is that you will need to edit out some parts of the recording. You may only want part of the screen and then you would have to move it into iMovie to complete the task. There you will be able to chop out sections of video, where there is not much happening, or where you said something you don't want in the final movie.


QuickTime Logo (37466)QuickTime screen recording will record the audio from the computer, for example from a video playing onscreen, or from a Skype conversation, or the various sounds that a computer makes as it does things for you. Of course it will record the sound from a microphone if you have one attached, and you will probably want to do that to make a narration to explain what you are clicking on or changing, or moving.

Other Third Party Screencasting Software Available

If there is tool that does what you want right out of the box, then why would we consider buying a extra tool that will essentially do the same task. There are a number of third party tools such as iShowU, Snapz Pro, ScreenFlow, Camtasia (which used to be Windows only) and others. Each of these applications have pros and cons. The best course of action, for you will be to see if there is a trial version, so you can see if any of them fit your purpose. I have tried and paid for three screen capture tools and my preferred is ScreenFlow.

Get The Video The Right Size

ScreenFlow for Screen capture (37468)With ScreenFlow I can crop down to a specific area of the screen, or to a size that I prefer like 1280 by 720. I will use an application called Mercury Mover to size up applications to the right size and to be in the right place. I record and narrate as I go with the full knowledge that I will cut out sections in the editing process, so that it flows better for the viewer.

Editing in ScreenFlow

Once the video dimensions are sized correctly you can play through the video, when you get to sections you want to change you can add in video, audio and callout actions. Add text for lower third titles, or titles to go either at the start or the end of the video. With the video action you can have a zoom in, to an area of the video to show better what you are doing. The callout actions will put highlights on the mouse pointer or the foremost window of the application, to call attention to specifics in your recordings.

Picture In Picture

You can also split the audio from a video clip and put in a new audio over the top. As well as changing opacity of a clip you can do things like picture in picture. In fact the application will record the iSight video at the same time as the desktop is being recorded. Then it is possible to layer one over the top of another.

Transitions Between Clips

You can put in more than one clip into a time line and ScreenFlow has transitions you can use to move the viewer from one clip to another. You can do fade in and out between clips and also some fancy things that should only be used sparingly, such as the page curl, ripple or the 3D Box transition. Seeing as I am often chopping sections out I like that I can hit letter I to put in an in point and then letter O to set up an out point. Then it is easy to delete everything in between those two points.

From Start to Finish Screencasting job done.

To create very professional looking screencasts you can easily do everything you need to do, in the one application such as I do in ScreenFlow, from the recording of the screen, to the publishing of the finished article to YouTube. You have those third party tools but you can use what is built in with your computer, if you are on a budget, and still have a finished result that looks great. Screencasting is a super tool for educators, whether in schools or colleges or for training purposes in business.