You Ask, I Answer: Making Instructional Screencasts?

Thomas asks, “What tool do you like to use to record your computer screen? Looking to make an instructional video and I want to show the steps on the screen as I go.”

Without a doubt, Techsmith Camtasia. It’s the best tool for the job, especially if you want to do more interactive stuff like hotspots in videos, show keystrokes, etc. Watch the video for full details.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode Thomas asks, What tool Do you like to use to record your computer screen looking to make an instructional video and I want to show the steps on the screen as I go.

The tool that I prefer, I recommend strongest TechSmith Camtasia is available for Windows and Mac computers, I use the Mac version.

And what I like about it is that it has a lot of instructional elements that it’s well designed for teaching with it.

There are a lot of tools can just record your screen right, you can do that with like video conferencing software, but you don’t get any of the interactivity.

So let me show you a very quick example here.

Let’s go ahead and move this up.

Within Camtasia, what you can do is I did a brief recording here, do things like cursor highlights or spotlights to show only a specific part of the screen you can see there’s a version of it there where I’m highlighting, essentially just where my cursor is, which is awfully handy if you want to be able to teach people what it is you’re doing.

There are other effects that I think are super helpful.

One of which is the ability to show keystrokes.

So as you’re typing, you can’t really see it here.

I bring them to the bottom.

You can see at the bottom, there’s a little keystroke, there we go.

That’s better.

And it will show you this is what I’m typing on the keyboard.

As I’m doing work, these little things.

There’s a lot of them.

There’s no masks, there’s green screen effects, interactive hotspots.

These are the kinds of things you’re going to want in an instructional video.

One of the tricks to doing this is if you look at the way the system is structured, and you look at all the features that are available in it, you’ll want to spend some time you know, getting them Hang of what all the different buttons do.

And then treat them like actors on a stage or actors in a movie script.

Think about what you want each one to do it, plot out your lecture your instructional video as though it were a movie.

And so instead of having just straight cuts or directions for actors, which of these effects where they make sense Do you want to use because they said, there’s a lot in here and there’s some that are kind of fun, but like this reflection, one, it’s not super useful for instruction.

The ones for instruction that you’re going to use a ton are going to be things like these cursor effects to able to highlight where something is happening on screen, and be able to animate and, and and fit things on screen.

Picture and picture is going to be one of your best friends.

So in this example here, I can take this video, I was scale it down to 25%.

And so in the final Video for today’s episode, which is where this is going to go, I’ll be able to bring this up and be able to have the picture in pictures like we have it right here.

And again, that’s just a way for you to be able to have your lecture show up on screen or reverse it, put your your face and your, your talking head in that little corner and have those big slides and things take up most of the room.

Recording instructional videos is filmmaking.

It’s a very specific kind of filmmaking, right, you’re not going to win an Oscar for it.

But it requires the same amount of planning and thought that you would put into making a motion picture.

It’s not as easy as just turning on hitting record and, and just hoping it goes well and you’re winging it, which I have done and it turns out badly every single time.

So the software is important, having the different features having the different buttons, the ability to have a library of you know, music and intros and things the ability to store all favorites, be able to use them easily.

These are great tools and Camtasia is one of the best tools for this for instructional videos.

But as with everything, the tool is less important than how you use it.

Right? If you can’t cook, there’s no difference between a $5 frying pan and a $50 frying pan, you’re still going to make garbage.

So take the time to learn this take the time to learn some basic filmmaking to go with the software.

If you don’t, you’re not going to create very useful instructional videos and the thing about instructional videos in particular is that they are very different from regular films.

And instructional video has to have a very strong structure in it that helps people get information into their heads.

So if you just open up Camtasia and start recording and start talking, it just comes as you know, word vomit It’s not going to be very helpful to the end user, they’re going to be lost very easily.

If you have a very clear structure to your instructional videos, you’ll do much better.

So one of the ones that I use is very simple as what why how, what is the thing is a first quarter video? Why is the thing important second quarter, and then how the last 50% is using the software to demonstrate how to do the thing and if you do it in, that’s just one example of a storytelling structure for instructional videos.

If you do that, you will get much better results.

The tool will help you with the how, but you’ll be able to think about how you want things structured.

One of the things Camtasia does really well as it has dropped in templates.

So you could actually create placeholders in say a 10 minute timeline here and label them what why house so that you know you have to fill those things with that particular content in order to be able to create a reliable compelling and helpful.

instructional video.

So that’s my recommendation.

The one exception I will make is if you are doing something as a live stream, if you’re going to do something as a live stream, I would recommend OBS the open broadcast studio.

It’s open source software, it does not contain any of the instructional tools.

But it is free software for streaming that does a really good job of capturing different scenes and stuff.

And you can do some of the you can do like subtitles and lower thirds and and that’s really about the extent of what you can can do, at least with a product out of the box.

But that is a great tool for streaming.

One of the things I like about it is that it also records a local copy of what you’re streaming on screen, which you can then take render and put into Camtasia and then you can add some features some of the features like highlight and stuff don’t work with with prebuilt videos you have to record using the Camtasia software itself, but other things like subtitles and stuff work just fine.

That’s how I would that’s the exception to the rule.

So use OBS for live streaming use Camtasia for recording, and you’ll be able to create great, compelling useful videos.

So good question.

If you have follow up questions, leave in the comments box below.

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I’ll talk to you soon.

Take care.

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