I started to do more and more screencasts (mostly for Open Color Tools) and today I finally had the feeling that I didn’t screw up completely.

Here’s what I think I have learned so far:

  1. Use a good editing tool. I use Screenflow, which is both a good recording tool and a great editor, so I got that covered. But you’re going to edit a lot, so it better be a rather smooth flow. Also: Know the shortcuts so that you’re quick at editing. Editing video is always a tedious process (but at least we don’t have to use sticky tape anymore), so the more you can optimize that for yourself, the better.
  2. Write a script. I’ve got the best results by writing down exactly what I want to say during the screencast and then try out (without recording) to carry out the actions within the timing of the sentences.
  3. Don’t try to do talking and acting at once. Unless you are really well trained in this, you will never be happy with the results. At least my voice does funny things when my brain tries to do both the talking and the walking. Words get slurred, pauses get weirdly long and so on. Today I have used some sort of interleaved mode which worked very well: I’ve described my next actions by reading the sentence from my manuscript and the paused and carried out the actions. Yes, this means a lot of editing, but the quality is just so much better. And regardless of how talented you are: If you want to reach a certain quality in your screencast, the editing will be necessary anyway.
  4. Unless you have a bullet proof recording setup, don’t overdub with later recordings. Record the voice in one go. If you make a mistake, pause for a second, then start from the last good point. I was really frustrated with the variations in my voice when using several takes. My recording setup is super simple (I use an okayish headset with Apple’s built in noise reduction, which, for some reasons gave better results than a proper microphone I’ve also tried) and while the results are good enough, very subtle changes (like a slightly different seating position) are enough to audibly change the character of the recording. If you eff up a recording completely, bite the bullet and do a complete re-recording. I’ve done this today for an older screencast and it was so worth it.
  5. Basically a followup from the last point: Try to move as little as possible. Even if you use a really good headset, the position in the room and the reflections of the space around you will audibly change the sound. And even subtle, constant change during a recording can turn into a problem when you’re editing a lot.
  6. Don’t care too much about probable continuity errors in your video material. What I mean by that is: Edit to maximum tightness of the end result and use the audio material as the driving factor, even if that means that the mouse cursor sometimes jumps in implausible ways. Or if you have to insert 5 seconds of a still even though the text cursor should be flashing. Nobody cares. If you need to make a 5 second pause in your narration because you’ve been to slow on the mouse: Rather rerecord the screen action. It’s much more irritating to have long awkward pauses in the narration than to have a jumping mouse cursor.

Do you have any tips to share for screencast recording? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.