At first glance one might wonder how a non hands-on session about screencasting could be worthwhile. The key is to already know the software. My goal at this session was to get tips, tricks and pitfalls that the presenter, Greg Notess, and my fellow attendees had to offer. My next big project is to create library orientation screencasts and I’d rather be reminded what practices have (and have not) proven useful before I reinvent the stumble. Here are some basics from the 3 hour session:

To Script Or Not To Script? This seems to be a personal question. If you read a full script you may sound awkward as you drone on word for word. However, if you get nervous with the extemporaneous or are just bad at the oratorial riff that may be the technique you should stick with. We found that many in the room were partial to writing an outline and getting into their teaching groove as they did a live screen capture of their mouse movements. Why even use an outline? This is to keep you on track. The tutorial needs to be no more than 5 minutes long and many of us, when given the opportunity, will get into more detail than might be necessary. During that 5 minutes only 2-3 topics should be covered. If you want to go over more make more tutorials and link them with a table of contents so the viewer can choose what they want to watch.

ADA compliance– This was generally thought to be difficult. Screencasting programs like Camtasia and Captivate are giving the viewer the opportunity to choose if the closed captioning is seen or not but to see it one needs to write it out and put it in the screencast. For some this is the longest part of post production due to the after-scripting and setting the captioning into place. However, it can be done and will allow you to be ADA compliant. There was also some question regarding screen readers which are used for those who are visually impaired. No one in the room truly knew the answer due to screencasting being a visual media we did not know if it was possible to be compliant in that regard.

Browsers– It is important to test the screencast in various browsers to make sure that it will work smoothly. Chances are your largest audience are using  IE so he suggested that you actually create the screencast in IE so the browser used in your screencast will be familiar to most people. Additionally, you want to watch the size of your screen capture area, 640X480 is a good rule of thumb to start with. The easier it is for all of your audiences to see your screencasts the more likely they will be watched.

Keep it Clean– You should clean up your desk top and close as many tabs as possible. You want to get your teaching space uncluttered and clean. This includes your wallpaper image, it is preferable to take off that adorable picture of your puppy and change it to a standard background…like blue.

The Eyes Have It– Studies have shown that the right hand side of the screen is the least watched, keep that in mind when deciding how to crop your screen or zoom in on items. You want your audience to be looking at what is most important their possible eye flow on the screen should be kept in mind. Also, if you want to enlarge text on your screen before you begin screencasting use the Control + keys to enlarge them and bring them back to normal with control 0.

Call-Outs– There are various ways to highlight points you are trying to make with “call-outs”. They can be anywhere from highlighted clicks of your mouse to little banners with text that blatantly point out the action that is being carried out. The key is to be sparing with your call-outs and then ask someone to look at your screencast later to see if you went overboard. This also goes for any transitions between shots that you might add in post production. Think of your old PowerPoint rules, be consistent and not distracting.

Out With the Old– Don’t forget about those screencasts once you have finished and set them free. Interfaces change, search results that you may have used as examples may change, little things become obsolete. You want to make sure you check back in to your screencasts now and then and update the sections that make them dated.