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Oct 18, 2021

How To Create a Screencast (Plus Tips for Creating Great Experiences!)

James Francis

If you’ve never made a screencast, you might assume that only tech-savvy people with expensive software and equipment can do it. But the truth is that a great, professional-looking screencast is easier to make than you might think. Anyone can create them — yes, even you!

Here’s everything you need to get started, plus 24 tips for creating a high-quality viewing and listening experience.

What is a screencast and why are people using them?

A screencast is a type of video content that captures what a person sees on their own screen. Screencasts often include audio narration and may also include an embedded webcam video so that viewers can see the person who’s creating the screencast.

So, why are people using screencasting? Here are just a few reasons.

👨‍🏫 They’re all-around great for teaching — and learning

Screencasting has many benefits for teachers and students, especially in flipped classrooms, hybrid learning environments, and other forms of virtual instruction. It’s a natural way to teach and explain topics while demonstrating those concepts in real time.

Any instructor, from K-12 through graduate studies, can use screencasting to get more content and instruction to more students. (In fact, teachers in 70% of U.S. school districts use Screencastify to improve student learning.)

Educators can even use screencasts to communicate with fellow teachers, parents, administrators, and more. 

💻 They provide a full visual and audio experience

No matter where they’re learning (traditional classrooms or at home), people learn via different mediums.

A screencast is an all-in-one teaching tool, letting you cater to everyone’s unique learning style. There’s a wide variety of visual, audio, and annotation tools, from on-screen notes and drawings to audio recordings and closed captioning. 

🔁 They allow students to watch lessons on their time as many times as they need

In-person teaching has its benefits, but it can’t be rewound or replayed. When students have a screencast at their disposal, they can pause, rewind, watch multiple times, or even ask a friend for clarification on a specific timestamp. 

Screencasts give students the ability to truly absorb the information, take notes, and complete assignments without fear of missing anything. They can be especially helpful for English language learners and students on an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).

🙅‍♀️ They don’t require complicated equipment or tech skills

Screencasts are easy to make and edit. They require very little equipment to be effective — nothing more than a computer and an optional webcam. There are plenty of convenient options for uploading and sharing them too. And listen to Kasey Bell on EdTech Heroes to learn how simple the most important edtech skill really is.

5 simple steps to create a screencast

So, how do you make your own screencast? Just follow these five steps: 

1. Choose the screen recording tool that’s right for you

First, you’ll want to choose a screencasting tool that has everything you need (recording, editing, etc). If you’re a teacher, look for options that are classroom technology friendly and integrate well with your learning management system (LMS) and any other software you’re using.

Not to toot our own horn 🎺 , but Screencastify includes all of this and integrates with some of most common EdTech tools. It functions as a browser extension, so it will work in any environment where you can use Google Chrome. Check out Screencastify’s integrations here. 

2. Prepare yourself and your screen for recording

With most software, you can choose between recording your entire desktop, a browser tab, or your webcam. Remove any unwanted tabs, wallpapers, distracting materials, or sensitive information from view. You’ll also want to have any notes or materials you need nearby. 

By the way, Screencastify includes editing features that allow you to cut or blur anything unshareable. But you’ll have a better, faster time if you don’t have to worry about that in the first place.

3. Record your screen and audio (don’t forget the test recording)

Next, it’s time to record: 

  • Select the part of the screen you want to record (individual tab or window, full desktop, your webcam, etc). 🖥
  • Pull up any additional settings you may want to use (e.g., audio, drawing tools, annotations, etc).
  • Do a test run of your video and audio before you start your actual recording. 🎬
  • If your test recording is a success, reset so that everything is ready to go again.
  • Take a sip of water and a deep breath, then click the record button.
  • When you’ve completed your screencast, click the stop button. 🛑

For a step-by-step explanation with visuals, check out our guide to how to record a screencast. 

4. Edit your screencast recording

Once you’ve saved your screencast recording, it’s time to edit (if necessary). You can cut and trim content as needed, add blurring, add closed captioning, and anything else you need to make the recording helpful and easy to digest. 

5. Share your screencast with your audience 

Most teachers rely on the cloud service or LMS they’re already using to share their screencast. Simply save or upload to the service you’re using and push the content out to students, parents, other teachers, administrators, or anyone else who needs to see it.

Still have questions or prefer a guided explanation? Join our free, one-hour Master the Screencast course to get comfortable with screencasting.

24 Tips for Creating Amazing Experiences

At Screencastify, we create and view hundreds of screencasts every single day. Over the years, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks that separate average screencasts from great ones.

It doesn’t matter if you’re creating a product demo, recording a lecture for your students, or anything in between. A high-quality screencast will hold your audience’s attention for longer and enable them to retain more information. Period.

Making a great screencast isn’t rocket science, and a little extra effort can go a long way towards improving your final product.

We asked our team to share their favorite best practices for creating higher quality screencasts. Without further ado, here are our 24 top tips.

1. Create an outline before recording

You may be tempted to just wing it, but even making just a rough outline forces you to organize your thoughts and design a “roadmap” for your screencast. There’s no faster way to lose your audience than rambling or jumping back and forth between thoughts. Making a script will also reduce your “ums” and “ahs”.

2. Record in a quiet environment

A dog barking or child crying in the background can be distracting for viewers.

3. Practice once or twice before recording 🚦

Nobody can make a perfect screencast on the first try. While you certainly don’t want to over-rehearse, going through your talking points once or twice will help you speak more smoothly (e.g. you won’t have to struggle to find the best word or phrase during your recording).

4. Close out all other apps and tabs

This will do two things: 1) free up your computer’s processing power so that your screen recording software can run more smoothly and 2) eliminate the possibility of distracting notifications.

5. Grab a glass of water

If you're recording a long screencast or do multiple takes, your mouth will quickly get dry. And trust us...your viewers will notice.

6. Test your recording software

If you record a 5-minute screencast only to realize the audio wasn't picked up, you were speaking too loudly/softly, or your settings weren't right, you will pull your hair out. We don't want you to pull your hair out.

7. Only record what you need

If the content of your screencast is contained in one tab or application, there’s no need to record your entire desktop. Only recording what you need will get rid of unnecessary "visual noise" and reduce your video’s file size.

If you’re using Screencastify, you can choose to record only your current tab or crop your video after you’re finished recording.

8. Record with standard dimensions 📏

In most cases, you'll want to record with standard dimensions (e.g. 480p, 720p) to make sure it displays correctly on video hosting sites like YouTube and doesn't have black bars around the edges. Screencastify allows you to automatically resize your browser tab to preset dimensions. You can also use a Chrome extension like Window Resizer.

9. Tell your viewers what you'll cover

Before you get into the meat of your presentation, give your audience an idea what they’ll learn. This will help them get oriented and know what to be listening for. If you don’t do this, they’ll be unsure where you’re going and won’t know what’s important and what isn’t.

10. Keep it short

It's no secret that video length is negatively correlated with engagement. These days, our attention spans drop off a cliff after 2-3 minutes. If you must record longer screencasts, consider breaking it up into separate, more focused segments.

11. Embed your webcam wisely

While embedding your webcam is a nice way of making your screen recording more personal, it can be overdone. Remember, your viewer will most likely be watching your face whenever they see it.

This is great during introductions, conclusions, and other moments when there isn't much on-screen action, but could be distracting during the meat of your screencast. If you record your browser tab in Screencastify, you can toggle your webcam on and off during your screencast.

12. Speak slowly

Rehearse once while consciously speaking more slowly than you regularly do. Then when you record, slow it down even more. Seriously. We're all naturally inclined to speak more quickly when we're giving a presentation. Plus, a viewer can always speed up playback on YouTube if they prefer.

13. Don't worry if you make a mistake 😬

Depending on the context of the video, it’s totally fine to slip up once or twice. It makes you seem more like a real human! If you make a large mistake that you don’t want in your final video, don’t end the recording.

Pause for a few seconds and start that segment over. Then cut the mistake out after you’re finished recording. Try using our browser-based video editor.

14. Use a good microphone

Screencasts with poor audio quality are hard to listen to. The good news is that you don’t need an expensive, fancy microphone. Simply using basic headphones with a built-in mic is much, much better than simply using your computer’s internal microphone.

15. Zoom in 🔍

Don’t assume that your audience will watch your video in full screen (in fact they probably won’t). This is especially true if you’re recording a web page with small text. You can zoom in on your Chrome browser tab by pressing Control (or Command) +. Your audience will thank you.

16. Use annotation tools

Screencastify includes annotation tools for tab recordings that allow you to focus a spotlight on your mouse, draw with a pen tool, and more. These tools can be tremendously helpful for directing your viewer’s eyes where you want them to go.

Your browser does not support this video. Direct your viewer's attention with Screencastify's annotation tools.

17. Limit mouse movements 🐭

Excessive mouse movements are distracting. Screencastify allows you to hide your mouse when it’s not being moved. You can enable this feature in the annotation toolbar. We definitely recommend it.

18. Use keyboard shortcuts

Similarly, the more you use keyboard shortcuts to do things like enable and disable annotation tools, switch tabs/applications, etc, the less often you’ll have to move your mouse. It’s worth taking a few minutes to learn Screencastify’s keyboard shortcuts.

19. Scroll smoothly 📜

Watching someone scroll up and down websites quickly and haphazardly is disorienting. We recommending installing the SmoothScroll extension, which does exactly what its name suggests. This will allow your viewers to follow your movements more easily and adds some polish to your recording.

20. Cut out dead moments ✂️

There’s no reason for your audience to watch you filling out a form, typing something, or waiting for a website to load. Simply cut it out of your video after you’re finished recording. You can easily do this in Screencastify using our editor.

21. Don't be afraid to pause

If you need a second to gather your thoughts, think about how you’ll present your next point, sneeze, or go to the restroom, just pause! If you’re using Screencastify, press Alt + Shift + P to pause or resume your recording.

22. End with a summary

Recap your recording and tell your viewers what they should have learned. This will help them remember all of your key points - not just the last 1 or 2 that they heard - and make your presentation more effective.

23. Trim your video

Your screencast should start promptly when your viewer clicks play and end as soon as you sign off. Trimming your video takes just a few seconds and has a major impact on the quality of your recording.

24. Give your viewers more resources 📚

Because a screen recording is just that - a recording - you obviously won't be able to answer any questions your viewers have.

That's OK, though! Simply provide additional resources for them to check out after viewing your video (e.g. in the video's YouTube description, on your website, in an email), and encourage them to do so at the end of your recording. That way, they'll know exactly where to go next.

Have a tip that we didn’t mention? Let us know on Twitter @Screencastify!

Read more: 10 benefits of screencasting for teachers and students

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published in October 2017.)

James Francis

As CEO, James leads Screencastify towards its mission of giving every teacher superpowers.