Tag Archives: screencasting

How I make screencasts: Chapter 0

Since I started to put serious amounts of time and effort into screencasting last summer, I’ve gotten a lot of requests to blog about how I go about making these things. Starting with this post, I’m going to do a multi-part series here about making screencasts — or at least how I make screencasts, which is a long way from perfect or canonical, but it’s what people asked for! I hope it’s useful for people who are interested in this kind of thing and need some pointers; and I hope too that those with more experience and better ideas than I have can share.

First, let’s start with a few FAQ’s.

Q: What is a screencast?

A: A screencast is a video of stuff that is happening on your computer screen. There is often, but not always, some kind of voiceover happening in the background as well. So a screencast can be a lot of different things: A recorded Prezi or PowerPoint slide presentation; a demo of computer software; a “whiteboard” lecture with audio capture; a video of you playing Angry Birds; or any linear combination of these.

Q: What’s the point of a screencast?

A: I suppose you could do just about anything with a screencast, but mainly the point is to instruct. Some people make short screencasts to show a remote collaborator or student how to do some little task on their computer, like this one I made on the fly in Linear Algebra class last Thursday morning to show students how to get MATLAB to produce \LaTeX code. Or you can record partial or entire lectures (like many of the ones I did for my department’s YouTube channel) for students to watch outside of class. Or you can record lengthy demos of software usage like I have done in my ongoing series of MATLAB screencasts. Or you can record every level of Angry Birds you play. Suit yourself.

The screencast is just a means of conveying some process or stream of information that can be represented on the screen and therefore captured using software and disseminated on the web. It’s a pretty much wide-open medium.

Q: So what kinds of software and hardware and other stuff do you use?

This is a good question, but at this point I have to stop the FAQ’s and explain why there are going to be multiple posts in this series. I have a toolbox of software and hardware items that I use, but the exact combination that I use depends on the kind of screencast that I am trying to make. Basically, there are three different kinds of screencasts that I make:

  • Lecture capture screencasts, where I am going through a Prezi or slide deck and giving audio narration;
  • Whiteboard screencasts, where I am using an input device to hand-write things on the screen so that it looks like a typical whiteboard presentation; and
  • Demo screencasts, where I am doing a straight-up screen capture of something happening on my computer (as opposed to a presentation or “whiteboard” work) in real time.

Each of these kinds of screencasts requires a different set of software and hardware tools, as well as a different set of approaches for actually making them. So I’m going to spend at least one post on each. Actually, most of my screencasts are really combinations of these; for example a lot of the MATLAB screencasts start and end with a lecture capture and have MATLAB demos in the middle.

In the next post, I’ll start things off by focusing on lecture capture screencasts and how I work with those. They’re probably the simplest of the three kinds I make.

Do you have any specific question or topic you’d like me to address as part of this series?

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Filed under Inverted classroom, Profhacks, Screencasts, Teaching, Technology

This week in screencasting: Making 3D plots in MATLAB

I’ve just started on a binge of screencast-making that will probably continue throughout the fall. Some of these screencasts will support one of my colleagues who is teaching Calculus III this semester; this is our first attempt at making the course MATLAB-centric, and most of the students are alums of the MATLAB course from the spring. So those screencasts will be on topics where MATLAB can be used in multivariable calculus. Other screencasts will be for my two sections of calculus and will focus both on technology training and on additional calculus examples that we don’t have time for in class. Still others will be just random topics that I would like to contribute for the greater good.

Here are the first two. It’s a two-part series on plotting two-variable functions in MATLAB. Each is about 10 minutes long.

Part of the reason I’m doing all this, too, is to force myself to master Camtasia:Mac, which is a program I enjoy but don’t fully understand. Hopefully the production value will improve with use. You’ll probably notice that I discovered the Dynamics Processor effect between the first and second screencasts, as the sound quality of Part 2 is way better than that of Part 1. I’d appreciate any constructive feedback from podcasting/screencasting or Camtasia experts out there.

I’m going to be housing all these screencasts at my newly-created YouTube channel if you’d like to subscribe. And if I manage to do more than one or two a week, I’ll put the “greatest hits” up here on the blog.

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Filed under Calculus, Camtasia, Screencasts, Teaching, Technology, Textbook-free

Camtasia, etc.

I just returned from the Camtasia workshop. The originally-scheduled speaker, it turns out, got stranded in Dallas after that city got six inches of snow last night. (This is Texas, right?) So the conference organizers were scrambling to find somebody with Camtasia experience. I suggested that they go pull somebody from the TechSmith booth in the exhibitor area, and a few minutes later they returned with Dave McCollom and Mike [sorry, can’t remember the last name]. Those two proceeded to put on a fun, engaging, and hugely informative workshop on the fly with zero preparation time. They even ended right on time.  I think that says a lot about the company and the product it makes.

Very, very impressed with Camtasia. It has a simple user interface (very similar to iMovie) and lots of options. My partner and I in the workshop put together a 3-minute Flash video on xFunctions, complete with callouts and transitions and the whole nine yards, and honestly we never really felt like we were working that hard. (For the Flash-haters out there, you can also save in something like eight other video formats, including Quicktime.) I didn’t realize that TechSmith also operates Screencast.com, and you can upload Camtasia-produced movies directly to that hosting service. They also have a connection with Jing somehow, although I’m not completely sure what exactly that connection is. (I don’t see it listed as a TechSmith product, but they had Jing stuff all over the TechSmith booth in the exhibition hall.) (Update: On the Jing website, there’s a blurb that says “A project by TechSmith”.)

Anyhow, Camtasia blows Snapz Pro X (which I currently use) out of the water when it comes to screencasting. The only problem is that there’s no OS X version right now. I can run Camtasia under Windows XP on Parallels; I asked David if I could capture stuff outside the Windows XP window if I were running Camtasia under Parallels, and he wasn’t sure. That’s an experiment for later. But he did say that they hope to release a native OS X version, rebuilt from the ground up, some time this year, and he got my contact info to be on the beta-testing “team”.

Now it’s time to get ready for my contributed paper session talk, which is in about 20 minutes. I’ll report on that later in the afternoon since I have a full slate of stuff until dinnertime.


Filed under Educational technology, ictcm, Screencasts, Software, Technology