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A practical guide to media editing

Screencasting

Screencasting is recording your screen — a slide presentation for example — whilst talking. The recorded movie file can then be uploaded and shared.

We asked our Artist-in-Residence, Tom, to offer some advice.

Before you start screencasting

The tool you choose depends on what works best for you:

  • Do you want it to be very easy and quick?
  • Do you want to create high quality video?
  • Would you like your image included for a more personal connection?
  • Do you want to block out your background?

These questions will help you decide which is best for you.

Top screencasting tips

#1

Tidy your desktop. Often it is much easier, if jumping around between windows, to just share your whole Desktop rather than one window, but you don’t want certain file or folder names shared inadvertently.

#2

Turn off notifications. Nothing spoils a great video like a pop-up from a friend mid presentation.

#3

Get your audio as high quality as you can. An external mic, or USB headset with mic can really help with audio clarity, as can being a room with soft-furnishings, curtains etc so that the sound doesn’t become too boxy just because of the acoustics.

#4

You are not the BBC. It is better to record, and be yourself, leaving mistakes in simply because whilst editing videos, adding credits, creating effects etc is possible it is a very slow and arduous process.

#5

Do a test first. Bitter experience has taught me to always do a test first because there is nothing worse than giving a 10 minute presentation to discover it is video only.

Screensharing accessibility

Sharing your screen is inevitably a heavily visual way of communicating. But not everybody will be able to see your screen, and even people with perfect eyesight might still struggle to see all the detail in a heavily compressed low resolution streaming video. So what can you do to help paint the picture of what it is you're doing with your mouse pointer?

Make things bigger

In a world of huge monitors we've got used to lots of screen real-estate and tiny writing that we can only read when close up. This is fine for working purposes but not so ideal for a demonstration. Before you present, go into your display settings and choose a smaller display resolution. It might take a few tries to find a smaller resolution in the right ratio for your screen — most monitors on campus have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 which you could downscale to 1600 x 900 or even 1360 x 768.

Macs make this process a little easier by having a scale option to control the resolution. Windows also has a scale option, but it works slightly differently by letting you resize text and other items without changing the overall resolution. Try some different options and see what might work best for your needs.

Bear in mind that if you're using a much lower resolution than normal, icons might be in different places, menus might get cut off, and some tasks that require a lot of screen might be harder. But this might serve as a useful reminder that a piece of software might look different on different setups, and not everyone using it will see it in exactly the same way that you do.

Post-production

If you're recording a screen rather than sharing it live, there are other ways you can make things bigger in the edit, like occasionally zooming in to focus on a particular part of the screen. Try to keep this sort of thing as gentle as possible; you want to orientate, not disorientate. Another thing you can do at this stage is add captions, arrows, and other highlights to make what you're doing even more explicit.

Describe what you're doing

It's not a silent movie, so give a good commentary. If you've ever listened to sport on the radio, think about how it differs to the commentary you get on television and maybe use a few of the tricks: say what's happening; explain what you're clicking on; give as good a description as you can. That way you're giving twice the instruction: not only can people see what you're doing, they can hear what you're doing too.

Screencasting tools

Here's a selection of tools, and what Tom made of them:

PowerPoint

You can create narrations for PowerPoint slides and export the result as a video. You can also record your screen into PowerPoint (along with audio) and save that as a video too.

If you already have Powerpoint decks they are familiar to work with and the tool works well. If you have Google Slides and work on a PC, you can download your slides as Powerpoint and create your audio-annotated presentation video.

Google Slides – not recommended

Google Slides have the ability to insert audio files into each slide but is cumbersome to work with. To be effective, you would have to separately use a tool like Audacity to record voiceovers for each slide. Most mobiles have very good recording tools, but you are then faced with the issue of how those audio files are uploaded to Google Drive.

Zoom   (← My Recommendation)

The tool I am most impressed with for screencasting is Zoom because it is very easy to start, has green screen abilities (you can block out your background), and it automatically has picture-in-picture, which I like.

I have the ability to Save To Cloud or Save To Desktop. This means I can “record and share” quickly, or record and on my own computer edit it. The choice is mine. I like being able to make minor edits, but prefer not to.

Once you Leave The Meeting, the file is saved to your computer and I can then upload that video to YouTube, like I did here:

Equally, one would be able to create a presentation with a colleague, or even to have a number of people involved in a recorded presentation.

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