19: screen capture tools

December 15, 2015 – 8:45 am

photo of computer screens and a workplace

Making your own podcast or video can be fairly straightforward, and there are lots of free tools to make it easier and add bells and whistles. For now, we’ll deal separately with screen capture tools, which offer a video recording of action on a computer screen (with or without an audio track). In the next thing, we’ll look at making and sharing podcasts and videos (thing 20).

Screen capture tools
Screen capture tools allow you to make a video, often narrated, showing how to do something on a computer. They record your mouse as well as everything you click on and show on your screen. Screen capture is a great way for showing students, colleagues or a wider audience how to use an online tool.

There are a number of screencasting tools available, both free and for purchase. Many areas of the university use Adobe Captivate, which has some great features (it does cost, but the University has a licence for Captivate). But there are other options, and we’ll cover a couple free tools (and a couple of tools that cost) that you could also use.

Some general tips:

  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Write a script and run through what you’ll be demonstrating in advance

Screencast-o-matic is fairly intuitive, so you can get started right away. You may want to create an account (so that you can store and keep track of your videos), and you can also watch a short demo that walks you through the recording steps (demo video is less than 2 minutes).

  • To begin, press ‘Start recording’. A frame will appear (make sure Java is enabled – if this is an issue then you can download an app); you can drag and resize this frame to suit your needs, and you’ll also see some options for size, etc. Once you’re ready, simply press the red button and go. If you don’t want to record anything, make sure you mute your computer’s microphone (otherwise you’ll get a lot of white noise).
  • When you’ve finished, press the ‘done’ button and choose where to upload your video

You can download a free version of Jing. Jing Tutorials take you through how to use Jing. You will get a ‘Sun Launcher’ button on your screen. Hover over the sun and choose ‘Capture’. Click and drag to select a portion of your screen, and then release the mouse when you are happy with the image you have selected.

  • From here, you can do two things: 1) take a still screenshot or 2) make a video. You can annotate your screenshots with text or arrows. When you’re happy with what you’ve done, click the ‘save’ button.

Other free screen capture tools:

Some screen capture tools that cost:

Remember many free tools offer a more advanced option at a cost. This is just a few of the screen capture tools available that do cost money, so you are not expected to pay for but you may want to just visit their webpages and read about them. You can often download a free trial if you are really interested!

  • Screenflow– Screencasting and video editing software for Mac – record, edit and share!
  • Camtasia–  “Easily record your screen movements and actions, or import HD video from a camera or other source. Customize and edit content both on Mac and Windows platforms, and share your videos with viewers on nearly any device”.

Publishing your screen capture
You can put your video up on a video hosting site such as YouTube or Vimeo, and these are often the best place to start. Once you’ve uploaded a video there, it’s easy to grab a code snippet that allows you to embed your file in a blog, or on another website.


Question for Thing 19:

Most have you have used Captivate. You may want to explore one of the other free tools. Please share your top 5 tips for using a screen capture tool.


Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/computer-calculator-workplace-414059/#

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  1. 14 Responses to “19: screen capture tools”

  2. My top 5 tips for using screen capture tools is from the perspective of a viewer and not the maker of videos. I haven’t made enough videos to speak from an informed perspective. I quite like instructional videos so I have seen a wide variety covering a range of topics. I watch the usual work-related videos (most recently about Alma) and I’ve also needed to watch video’s of a more domestic nature (changing halogen bulbs, cleaning air con filters, and customising tech stuff).
    My soapbox tips:
    1. I wish video-makers(VMs) would carry out the demonstration at the actual pace that it takes to complete the activity. That way I have a sense of how long it might take me to replicate the steps.
    2. I wish VMs would stop assuming that I am going to watch their video as I am doing the task. I find it odd when the VM says something like “I will give you time to click and login etc”. Firstly it’s not TV, I have a pause button. Secondly, when I skip fwd, I inevitable skip too far, it becomes tedious and I abandon the video.
    3. I wish VMs would watch more cooking shows – most are very good at the art of a demonstration. The structure is very refined and familiar to the viewer – there is a sense of trust and security conveyed. Also the role of sound that doesn’t overpower the video. E.g. for tech videos I don’t need to hear typing especially when it makes it hard to hear what is being spoken. Accurate descriptions and substitutions, some videos are great at listing the tech specs in the description (i.e. Req. Phillips screwdriver, or close all programs before installation etc)
    4. It’s a subjective point, but if a VM is going to narrate a video, their voice, tone, pitch, rhythm etc needs certain qualities that will probably vary depending on the listener. This is the number one reason I don’t watch/listen to the end of a vodcast/podcast – even when I know their content is probably great. The good thing about youtube is there is probably 100 videos on any particular topic so I can find one that I find agreeable.
    5. Last soapbox tip, the VM should always decide whether they are making a “This is how YOU do XYZ” or “This is how ‘I’ do XYZ” video. Both styles of videos are useful, but viewers tend to know what style they prefer and learn from. The worst is when a VM switches genre in the middle of a video – it can seem as though the VM is trying to avoid responsibility and lacks credibility/trust.

    By Tatum on Dec 19, 2015

  3. what great tips! My pet peeve is watching an instructional video on how to do something, and the 5 minute video takes 4 1/2 minutes to get to the part/point I need!!

    By ACULibrary on Dec 23, 2015

  4. I’ve never used Captivate, or any other screen capture tool. I tried Screencast-o-matic (no administrator password required to install, hooray!) and Jing (had to call the help desk).
    Both were fairly easy to use, but I liked Screencast-o-matic better. Not sure why, possibly because it was so intuitive.
    Only 3 tips from me:
    1) Practise what you are going to demonstrate before recording. It’s annoying to watch a video where the cursor moves around aimlessly.
    2) Provide an accurately but brief description of what is in the video to help the user decide whether to watch or not (it’s even more annoying to watch the whole 5 minute video only to discover it’s not what was needed!)
    3) Speak slowly and clearly.
    I usually prefer written instructions to a video because it is easier to find the relevant section.

    By Gertrud on Jan 4, 2016

  5. thanks for the feedback on Screencast-o-matic and Jing.
    Three tips is good…number 2 is a really important one. I have been caught before!!

    By ACULibrary on Jan 5, 2016

  6. My experience has mainly been with Camtasia and Jing.
    1) set your resolution/screen size correctly (sometimes we had underpowered machines that couldn’t capture a full-screen)
    2) Use a good microphone
    3) Write a script and rehearse – as per Gertrud’s tip
    4) be succinct
    5) move your cursor slowly/ highlight it using features / describe where you are clicking

    I tend to only watch videos as a last resort – Like Gertrud, I prefer written instructions, maybe with screenshots, but I understand that many people like videos.

    The problem with making instructional videos is that interfaces and software changes, so that you need to constantly update them.

    By Tracy Bruce on Jan 6, 2016

  7. Good tips. There seems to be a fine balance when making instructional videos – clear, concise, follow a path, transcript. Interfaces do change it’s true.

    By ACULibrary on Jan 7, 2016

  8. Never having used any of these tools, but having seen a few this is what I would offer:
    1. go slow, you are an expert (we hope) but people are trying to learn
    2. know what you want to say ie. have a script
    3. don’t make jokes…waste of time
    4. don’t over-complicate
    5. use simple language (didn’t want to add another ‘don’t’) ie. avoid jargon
    I think we could use a lot of the principles we learned in that writing for the web course last year.

    By Nica on Jan 7, 2016

  9. Great tips Nica! Thanks.

    By ACULibrary on Jan 8, 2016

  10. I have made some capitivate videos, I learnt from Vicki, she is awesome, one of the best ways i learnt was updating an old video of hers for a LiL. I like Tatums tips! My top 5 tips would be screenshot more, and manipulate the mouse rather than long stretches of video. Talk like you are the Steve Irwin of the library world (nah just kidding – leave that to me!). Make capitivate videos that are easy to update – Make the date range a seperate screenshot and dont speak the date, that way the following year the only updating will be the screen where the date is selected and the original voice will not have to be changed. Following that in your voice over be descriptive but not specific to dates and titles.

    By sally kudrna on Jan 15, 2016

  11. Some great tips here, and yes, we must acknowledge the awesome work of Vicki and all of her Captivate prowess.

    By ACULibrary on Feb 5, 2016

  12. Some great tips here, and yes, we must acknowledge the awesome work of Vicki and all of her Captivate prowess.

    By ACULibrary on Feb 5, 2016

  13. Like others I have no experience with making videos at all – only viewing them in YouTube. It is clearly not my comfort zone but I would like to see many more videos created for the Library such as Library tours. I have seen very good examples of these on other University Library websites such as UoW.

    By Helena on Mar 9, 2016

  14. thanks….will check out UoW

    By ACULibrary on Mar 9, 2016

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