Screencasting, for those not in the know, is the process of capturing exactly what you’re doing on your computer screen, and it’s often combined with an audio feed. It’s a brilliant and (sometimes) inexpensive way to demonstrate detailed instructions that don’t always translate well using only the written word.
I was fortunate that some of my more experienced colleagues, John Espirian, Nick Jones and Adrienne Montgomerie in particular, had lots of useful advice to share, and while I ended up going down a slightly different route in terms of software (by necessity), their guidance set me on the right road and clarified the process for me.
For my first screencasting project, I decided to experiment with the instructions that I'd prepared for automatic installation into PDF-XChange.
The written instructions have tripped up some new users and I was convinced that a video demo of me installing the stamps might solve the problem. After all, over the past two years I've taken several calls from struggling colleagues and when I've talked them through the installation on the phone, they've succeeded where they’d previously failed. If my voice guiding them could solve the problem, a combined video feed should be even more effective.
Since the kit was being used for an activity that wouldn't actually generate any income for me, I needed to be careful about what I spent. I wanted quality but felt it would be foolhardy to invest in expensive commercial equipment and software at this stage.
After some investigation I settled for a Logitech headset that cost me £25. It includes a set of comfortable earphones and a mic attached to the headband that clips down into recording position. They are widely available – I picked up mine from a local supermarket.
I then downloaded Microsoft’s Expression Encoder 4. This probably isn’t the most sophisticated screencasting software on the market, but I found it user-friendly and excellent for the purposes of making a simple video tutorial. And it’s completely free, though you are limited to making videos of no longer than 15 minutes. But honestly – who wants to listen to me rambling on for any longer than that?!
Creating the screencast
After about ten passes, I came up with something that I was happy to post online. It's here if you want to take a look (or if you're struggling to install my proofreading stamps), and I think the video demonstration is a good complement to the written instructions.
It's not perfect, but Adrienne Montgomerie assures me that in this kind of situation, where we're communicating with colleagues and want that personal touch, perfection isn't always necessary.
As always, we need to consider who our audience is, what their expectations are, and the impact our message will have on our business. If I was creating a promotional video to advertise my business or a testimonial video to complement the written endorsements on my website, perfection would be at the top of my list.
Encoding and uploading my screencast to YouTube proved easier than expected. Not surprisingly, I found a video created by TheBenVidz on YouTube that showed me exactly how to do this with Expression Encoder 4. Then I used Weebly's embed-code plug-in to publish the video on my website.
I'm off now to plan my Oscar-acceptance speech ...
I'd like to thank my partner [sniffs], by daughter [sobs], my best mate [hysterical howls] and all my colleagues in the editorial freelancing industry [completely breaks downs]. It's been emotional ...
'Louise uses her expertise to hone a story until it's razor sharp, while still allowing the author’s voice to remain dominant.'
'I wholeheartedly recommend her services ... Just don’t hire her when I need her.'
J B Turner
'Sincere thanks for a beautiful and elegant piece of work. First class.'
'What makes her stand out and shine is her ability to immerse herself in your story.'
'A million thanks – your mark-up is perfect, as always.'
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