In a previous article, we covered three video-storytelling techniques that can be used to augment and supplement screencasts in the classroom. Now, I want to dive into some practical tips and tricks for planning, recording, and publishing quality screencasting sessions.
Target a Specific Problem
Two steps. Understand your audience and be specific.
Like most forms of video communication, classroom screencasts are an opportunity to help your audience solve a particular problem or develop a specific skill. And this is why they’re tuning in!
Students will only become regular viewers if you successfully deliver the value that they expect. Student feedback, for example, should be brief and offer tangible suggestions for improvement. Don’t overwhelm the viewer unnecessary information or announcements that could be communicated through another medium.
Make everything in your screencast earn its spot.
Prepare an Outline
Specificity and tight communication are often the results of strategic forethought. Be sure to sketch out an outline to help drive your video toward its objective.
Taking that little bit of time will pay off in the creation of a much more helpful learning asset.
Scripts are not a necessity, but they can be helpful if you need to record for longer than 5 minutes in a single take.
Keep in mind that this is especially useful in scenarios where you will create multiple videos of a similar type. Creating a template for student feedback screencasts allows you to plug the personalized feedback for each student into an outline that keeps you on target in terms of time and topic.
Record Each Step Individually
Do you spend a lot of time recording retakes? As an encouragement, small errors can add a human element that keeps viewers engaged with your content. But for the perfectionists, there’s a fairly simple way to cut out the volume of time you commit to retakes.
Recording individual steps can minimize the amount of time you spend tweaking and correcting clips, especially for a longer recording. From the perspective of the presenter, this allows you to give a very focused and targeted “burst” on a given topic or objective.
However, these benefits will be overshadowed by poor or disjointed cuts in the middle of your screencast. To prevent these, use a video editing software that can insert transitions to smooth the cuts. If producing many similar videos, these transitions are another point at which a template-based approach is imminently useful.
Close Out of Unrelated Applications
As simple as it is, closing extraneous applications will improve your screencast in two indispensable ways.
First, it’ll clean your interface and improve any navigation you need to do while presenting. Finding the right tab or sorting between several minimized windows adds significant pressure to the presenter that has no reason to be there. A cluttered screen can give a presenter the feeling of a cluttered mind. So, go ahead and close those programs and browsers that won’t be a part of your screencast.
The second benefit is that your laptop or desktop will have more processing capacity to record a high-quality video. Many screencasts suffer from lagging or a grainy image due to the processor being overtasked with running unnecessary programs.
Make Sure the Audio is Clear
If every other element of your screencast is excellent, poor audio quality will still kill the attention span of your audience. While most computers come with a built-in microphone, the recording quality is often unreliable.
If you have a webcam hooked up, recording with that mic will typically give your audio a good, clear sound.
Another option is to record your voice with a smartphone and overlay the track in video editing software. This option will require additional work but results in the best audio quality.
Be Slow and Smooth
This applies to everything you do while presenting. While noting that smooth is not synonymous with monotone, methodical pace and diction help your voice to project confidence and make it easier for the audience to follow along.
Slow, smooth cursor movements offer similar benefits to your viewers. Whether guiding students through a web interface or essay, you want them to easily track the points you intend to highlight. So, set the tone by speaking and moving at a methodical pace.