“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a very narrow field.” ~ Niels Bohr
I have read lots of articles and tips on screencasting. Almost without exception one of the recommendations is “Just start doing it!” In other words, you can read all the tips and advice you can get your eyes on, but you learn faster by jumping in and creating a few videos on your own – and invariably you’ll make a few mistakes along the way. By getting your feet wet, you realize that screencasting is not rocket science, but more importantly, it forces you to break through the fear that you can’t start until you know everything — or you risk looking stupid.
So, really, the advice should be: Don’t be afraid to look stupid. You will make mistakes, but the more you do it the more you will learn and the more you will improve your techniques.
I read a great article recently by Andreas Zeitler in Smashing Magazine entitled, “Most Common Mistakes in Screencasting”
In his article Mr. Zeitler gives tips on what NOT to do in your screencasts. “Don’t annoy people” is a particularly sensible tip. I also like, “leave the mouse pointer wherever it is on the screen and don’t use it as an extension of your hand.” (I think he may have been speaking directly to me on that one.) He also talks about how to prepare for doing a screencast, and what recording equipment to use, as well as a host of other practical advice.
This article is really a good read, I recommend it for anyone doing screencasting. And it got me thinking about what mistakes I have made (or learned from) in my history of screencasting.
My biggest mistakes
Talk about fear of looking stupid! Can you imagine the pressure I felt (and still feel) to make “perfect screencasts,” working for a company that makes screencasting software?
The silent screencast
I don’t know if I’d call it a “mistake”, but it’s certainly something I’d like to change. You may notice that most of my screencasts on this blog have no voice track. It started out this way for a variety of reasons:
Firstly, like many people, I hate the sound of my own voice. (You’ve heard the expression, “He has a face made for radio”… well in my opinion, I have a voice made for silent films.) But even more significant than that was the fact that, because Telestream has been growing so fast, we had to dismantle our production studio to make room for more employees, so we didn’t have a suitable location to record. We’ve recently set up a temporary space, so I’m hoping to make a voice debut for some screencasts soon. (As soon as I break through that barrier of my fear of sounding stupid).
I will need to prepare this new space for recording, so I’m sure I will be making some less-than-ideal recordings as I try new things, learn from those mistakes and improve. (Any tips and ideas on soundproofing and setting up a studio are most welcome!)
The barely visible screencast
Another mistake that I have made, and am still learning from, is making screencasts that are too hard to see. When I’ve made screencasts for this blog, for example, I exported the .mov file at 640×480 to fit into my player (this was the width of my blog). At this small size, viewers don’t get to see much detail and because the exported file was only 640×480 the video would not be clear enough to enlarge to full screen.
The moral of this mistake is: think about where and at what size your screencast will be viewed BEFORE you start recording, then record at a sufficient resolution (using zooms when possible) so that screen detail can be viewed. I have since changed my workflow, and embed my videos into the blog using a plug in that allows me to export at a nice high resolution, and display it at at a smaller size. In this way, if the viewer wants to see it full screen, the movie will display with high resolution at full screen size with stunning clarity.
What mistakes have you made?
I have no doubt I continue to make lots of annoying “mistakes” in my ScreenFlows. But I’d like to hear from you:
What mistakes have you learned from as you’ve progressed along your screencasting journey?
Of course, we’ve all had the misfortune of ‘recording’ the perfect demo, only to find we’ve forgotten to hit ‘record’. But I’m looking more for techniques that, when you started, you thought were as slick as that fanny pack you wore for years. (Please don’t tell me you still have the fanny pack… or worse, wear it….) But now, after much practice, you realize was inappropriate, annoying or just plain wrong.
Please comment below and share the biggest mistakes that you have made that have brought you closer to being an ‘expert’ screencaster.
The biggest mistake I’ve made is somehow changing the encoding settings to not encode the audio in my finished movie. So I’d hear the audio in ScreenFlow, but then when it popped out the movie it had no sound. The problem is that stupid me didn’t check the finished product and I uploaded it to the client.
I looked like a fool. 🙂
I’m glad to see that even the screencasting experts feel under pressure when the recording light is on 🙂
One thing I’m struggling with at the moment is what resolution to record, and then publish in. I’ve recorded a lot of stuff in 1280×720 and I think I’ll publish in 960×540 as that keeps a nice balance of screen size*, readability, quality and Full-Screenability and finally download size (but I’m not certain on this last). Most of my files are 4-8 mins long. Any advice from the pros here?
* don’t you just love watching a screencast where they’ve record at 300×200 and squish the browser or app window down to that? 🙂
I’ve done this twice now and I’ll never do it again its soooo painful. But if your recording your screen at a higher resolution than you are outputting and need to crop the canvas to say (1280 x 720) and you are in a rush. Stop! Never start editing a Screenflow recording, cutting out(Ripple Deleting sections) before setting cropping your canvas, it’s sole destroying work, having to resize each section and line them up at each cut point. – or am I making it hard for myself??? lol
Good one Adam. I’ve done that same thing myself… and it is very painful!