Tag Archives: screencast

Any Tips for Creating Video Tutorials?

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I know that screencasts are all the rage, and I enjoy watching them. I don’t enjoy making them myself, though. There’s something that seems so impersonal to me. Community member Firebucket sent in his list of top five tips on creating a video tutorial to pass along to all of you.

  1. If you’re going to be demonstrating how to setup and install a program that you can download from the web… NEVER show yourself downloading the program. You can give links if need be, and show yourself being on the web page. Never download while recording, though. Have them already downloaded and ready to go. Even better, install the software first. Installation wizards will bore your audience to death.
  2. Make it simple. Don’t use words that your audience won’t understand. If you have to, define it in an easy way that they can understand. For example, don’t say something like ‘Scaling your images down changes the pixel size’, say something like ‘Scaling the image down, makes the picture smaller’. You will catch more people that way and it will sound like you really know what you’re talking about.
  3. Get a microphone and explain using your voice, not Notepad or Microsoft Word. I have seen tutorial after tutorial explaining something that I really want to know. However, once the video starts, the tutorialer loses me by playing distracting music in the background and SLOWLY typing the instructions in a word processing program. This is painful for your audience. They want to be able to hear you, not constantly go back and forth between the program/feature you are demonstrating and Notepad, slowly typing up the instructions.
  4. Get proper screen capturing software. If you are willing to pay for good software, you can buy something like TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio. There are also free, open-source alternatives out there that will do a similar job. One is CamStudio. I have used this before and with their Lossless Codec, my videos were looking fantastic. CamStudio records in AVI or SWF. You can use the AVI video format to burn to a DVD to distribute to your classmates, friends, co-workers or family. Or, use the compressed SWF file type for uploading to video sharing sites or your own website. This will save you bandwidth and hard drive space. For a Mac, you can use iShowU.
  5. Make sure you put the tutorial online somewhere where it will pull in an audience. Places like YouTube and Blip are great places that people go to. They’re usually looking for something to watch because they are bored, or they need to find how to do something. You will at least get 50-100 views minimum… and maybe even a few subscribers, which can inspire you to become a regular video tutorialer.

These are some of the reasons I don’t do screencasts. In order to make good ones, you have to do it well. There are too many people not doing it well, in my opinion. Not only do the videos I record get uploaded to YouTube, they also get placed into my blog, thanks to Kat. This way, you can read the show notes. Kat will add additional information, notes and links to whatever we’re talking about in the video. I believe it gives things a more in-depth perspective to go along with what I’ve recorded live.


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Camtasia Studio is not CamStudio

Chad Wandler (from Split Rock Communications) was listening to the stream from BloggerCon this weekend, overhearing me answering a question about screencasts. For clarification purposes, he informed me that Camtasia Studio and CamStudio have nothing to do with each other and never have. Per the CamStudio’s History site:

CamStudio was originally released by a company called RenderSoft who were subsequently bought by a company called eHelp who used some of the technology in their program, RoboDemo. Some time later, eHelp was bought by Macromedia who wanted RoboDemo (which was to become Captivate).

Knowing that CamStudio did some of the stuff RoboDemo did for free (mainly export to streaming Flash), it looks like they released a newer version of CamStudio (2.1) which fixed some bugs but most importantly, removed certain features, mainly the ability to create SWFs and you were required to register to use it… lovely – and over time, links to the various webpages that had CamStudio and it’s source code were became broken. However, I’ve managed to find the earlier version 2.0 complete with the related CamStudio video codec (comparable to Techsmith’s excellent TSCC), the source code for both and just put the website up so people can download them…

No wonder I was confused – that’s a confusing story! The long and short of it is that CamStudio is on on SourceForge for all you would-be screencasters. And through NickTheGeek’s CamStudio page, I discovered Open Source Alternatives. Awesome!