December 27, 2010

5 steps to making a great screencast

Chris Savage

Founder, CEO

Making a great demo video can be tough, so we decided to share our secrets.

The Setup

Every video on wistia.com has been made using the same simple setup. We use an external mic and a Mac running ScreenFlow. If you’re on a PC we suggest checking out Camtasia.

1. Picking the Subject

Figuring out what video to make can be a challenge. We look for subjects that can be covered in under three minutes and strive to make videos that are under 90 seconds. We look for areas of the product that are particularly confusing and for which a step-by-step video would provide a useful walkthrough.

There are two ways to find these “trouble” areas: Paying attention to support requests and looking for topics that require long written explanations.

2. The Script

Writing the script for a demo video is the most important part of the process. A boring script is the easiest path to failure and a great script will make the production of your video easy. The script shoud flow naturally, as if it’s off-the-cuff.

Instead of starting by writing, I like to start by talking. I’ll ask myself a question and record my answer. I like to record the first version of the script as if I’m walking someone through the product over the phone.Then I’ll transcribe the recording and simplify my answers. The result is a script that sounds like a conversation.

3. The Audio

Record the audio before the video. This will give you an idea of how long the video is going to be and it will give you a chance to make sure that the story has a beginning, middle, and end.

When recording, make sure to keep your pacing consistent and to pause between each sentence. This makes it much easier to edit the audio clips from different takes together. Your goal should be to create a natural flow.

4. The Video

Now that you have some nicely recorded audio, recording the video is much easier. I playback the audio as I record the video. This allows the visual moves to be perfectly timed to the audio, which makes for easier editing. If you’re lucky, you can get away with one video track for the whole video.

5. Editing & Overlays

The final piece of editing is synchronizing the audio and video recordings.

After the audio and video are synchronized you should imagine what it would be like to watch the video without audio. You want people to still be able to understand what the video is about if they don’t have their volume on. I go through and add titles to highlight the different actions being displayed. Once the video makes sense without audio, then we’re ready to rock.

Examples of videos made with this process:

 

About the Author: Chris Savage is the CEO and co-founder of Wistia. You can find him @csavage and savagethoughts.com

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