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Recording a Screen Video

Recording a Screen Video

By Sean D'Souza

One of the biggest marketing tools at your disposal is the power of video. If you don't have video on your site, you're missing out on a big opportunity to showcase your credibility.

But what if you don't have fancy lights and video equipment?

You don't need fancy schmancy stuff. You can do very well with a simple screen video.

You know what a screen video is, don't you? A screen video, or screencast as it is sometimes called, is you sitting at your computer recording what's happening on your screen. You could be recording a presentation. Or demonstrating or teaching software features, seminars and other instructional information.

Yet the moment you sit down to do this screen video, you run into a logistical nightmare.

You have to have your slides/screen ready. You have to record your voice. You have to make sure the slides move ahead correctly. You have to hit the "record" button at the right time. And inevitably all this juggling leads to crappy screen videos.

So what's the best way to record screen video/slides?

* Record the video first.
* Record the audio next.
* Import the audio and place it at the correct spot.

Most of us may baulk at having to record the video first. This is because we're not sure how much time we'll need to describe what's happening on screen.

And so I use a simple rule of thumb. When you're recording the screen video, allow for about three seconds.

The brain takes about a second to recognise what's on the screen. Then it has to pay attention to the audio, and what you're teaching. When you watch the video example (see the link, above right), notice how that three-second rule has been broken. So the slides seem to pop up so fast that your brain struggles to cope.

If on the other hand each animation/slide movement had about three seconds, you'd see the picture, listen to the audio and still have a second to absorb the information.

This is why it's important to have only ONE message per slide.

In the video example, you'll see that rule two has been broken. Some slides have two and three messages. And it leaves your brain scrambling, because you're struggling to keep up at all times.

This can be easily done with a USB microphone. The advantage of recording audio later is two-fold: You don't have to focus on several things at a time; and if you make a mistake with the audio, you don't have to stop the video.

So let's get down to how to record the audio to sync with the video. Just play the video. And then comment on what's happening on screen. Think of this as if you were showing photos of your recent vacation, and commenting on what's on the screen. This commentary, as it were, will keep your voice nice and relaxed instead of the rush-rush voice that you hear on most screen videos.

But what if the video moves ahead and you're still commenting?

It's not a problem at all. In movies and TV shows, the audio often continues, even as the scene changes.

Again, think of it as commentary on your recent vacation. If you were showing the photos to someone, you could easily move to the next photo, even as you were commenting on the previous photo. It's something we do every day, and as long as you have that three-second buffer, you should have a decent amount of time to say what you need and then move the slide ahead.

To record this video, you're going to have to use software like Camtasia (available for Mac and PC) or Screenflow (Mac only). And you'll find you can record the audio and video in separate layers (it's very easy, believe me). And then you can move the layers accordingly. It's not rocket science and if you play with the software for just a little while, you'll get the hang of it.

Now you've got a video that doesn't require enormous editing. Because you separated the layers, you don't have to keep re-shooting the screen video. If you make a mistake with the video section, you can clean it up before you get to the audio. And if you make a mistake with the audio, then you don't have to touch the video.

But should each slide be just three seconds long?

Not necessarily. Three seconds is approximately what you need to get a simple message across, but a slide could be as long as seven or eight seconds long, depending on what you have to cover. As you play with your first video in this new first-video-then-audio format, you'll get the hang of what works for you.

You may not think this is a huge time saver until you get down to making a screen video. But don't take my word for it. Try it out for yourself.

The advantages are simple: Less editing time; nice, conversational commentary; no longer having to do 10 things at once.

Sean D'Souza is chief executive of Psychotactics and an international author and trainer. He is the author of The Brain Audit - Why Customers Buy (And Why They Don't).