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My Screencasting Workflow

laurieontech profile image Laurie Originally published at laurieontech.com ・4 min read

This post was originally published on laurieontech.dev

I was scrolling through twitter the other day and happened upon my friend, Jake Dohm, pretty upset that he'd recorded a whole bunch of stuff without audio.

To be honest, my first instinct was confusion. Didn't he do that on purpose?

As it turns out, no, he didn't. But I do! So I figured I'd write about my screencasting process. Who knows, perhaps it'll work for others as well.

Practice my code

The first thing I do when making an instructional video is to test out what code I'm going to write. There are normally a few pieces to this:

  • Figure out the variable names and syntax
  • Determine what editor I'm using
  • Make sure it works!

The second point is probably the most important. Sometimes I'll use the Node.js REPL directly in my terminal. Sometimes I'll use a VS Code window and the browser. Other times Codesandbox or Codepen make sense. It's often dependent on how new the syntax is and the best way to highlight the behavior without too much setup.

Make the video

Once I know what I'm going to type out I'll prepare my windows. In an ideal situation I can increase the font for whatever editor experience I'm using. I also make sure to turn off notifications, remove extraneous visuals (like the bookmark bar in the browser), etc.

As a tip, make your relevant windows cover most of your screen, this will come in handy later.

Then I can fire up Screenflow and set it to record my screen only (no audio). I run through my code sample and make sure to leave some buffer at the end before my cursor moves to close a window or whatnot.

This normally takes me one or two takes to get right. Way more if I skipped the practice step, so I highly recommend not doing that.

Edit video content

The first thing I do is edit the look of the video. The amount of manipulation that is necessary varies.

I almost always need to resize the screen and focus on only the important information. Recording with larger windows makes this easier since it can only resize to specific dimensions. You can access this functionality with the resize button.

Screenflow's resize button.

As it turns out, in writing this post I discovered that there is also cropping functionality that is separate. I haven't used it, but if you do let me know what you think.

In some cases, I need to alter the font size in post. This is typically true when recording the inspector window in a browser. You can do this by selecting your video track and using the "Scale" functionality. I've added a screenshot here to help you locate it.

Screenflow's video scaling functionality

Note that in the case where you need to scale you'll likely want to do that prior to resizing.

The last feature I use is annotations. Under Insert you can add an annotations clip. This can be a colored box, an arrow, even text. The main use cases for this are to cover up something you couldn't crop out or add a trivial character like a slash.

If anyone wants to be a detective you can go through my Vue router course and find where I added a character to my code.

Add narration

This is the piece of my process that I'm told is somewhat unique. Once I have confidence in the video, then I add my voiceover. I use the Insert > Narration functionality.

First, I make sure my Shure microphone is selected as the input. Then I talk through the code that appears on the screen.

In most cases, this is one or two takes and far easier to time when I'm not focused on typing! It helps me keep my egghead videos super concise.

Freeze frame

In some circumstances, I discover that I can't talk as fast as I'd typed! I used to think that required me to re-record, but then I discovered freeze frame.

Essentially, you can add length to a specific section of your recording. I'll usually select a frame that represents the end of a specific line of code and hold there so I can add the necessary narration.

Results

I've found this method of recording incredibly successful! I was able to finish the video only piece of my course (after lots of practice) in about a day. Then I came back, added narration, and was mostly good to go.

Making egghead content requires far more than just developing the recordings so having a streamlined process helps a lot.

Discussion

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johnmunsch profile image
John Munsch

I also make sure to turn off notifications, remove extraneous visuals (like the bookmark bar in the browser), etc.

I can't speak to Windows, but on a Mac, create an additional user specifically for screencasting. Set the wallpaper to something simple that looks nice, the resolution and aspect ratio, remove the clock from the corner (if it changes in the editing, it's distracting), and since it's not "you" it will keep you away from most notifications, unwanted bookmarks or autocompletions in the browser, etc.

You can also do away with most of the unneeded toolbar tchotchkes and dock apps too.

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tedmasterweb profile image
Ted Stresen-Reuter

I also set up some kind of sharing (Google Drive) with my screencasting user and my main user and before I start recording, I put all the resources I might need into the shared folder. It makes it easy to copy files back and forth if needed.

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laurieontech profile image
Laurie Author

Yup, I know lots of people who do that! I find it's more of a pain if I'm recording something quick, but it's a solid option.

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thomlom profile image
Thomas Lombart

I did some screencasts in the past and I found myself constantly re-recording. I spent too much time doing that... Why didn't I think of recording first and then adding the sound?

Anyway, thanks for this great (and enlightening) post! 😄

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shaijut profile image
Shaiju T

Good one, 😄, I have heard OBS is good for recording. Is there any open source solutions for Editing Video, like Cropping, Adding Narration, Adding Transition Effects etc. ? Also instead of Video Transition Effects I think we can use Animated PPT with Transition Effects.

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elfalem profile image
elfalem

Not sure about Mac, but Kdenlive is a popular option for Linux.

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laurieontech profile image
Laurie Author

Since I use Screenflow I’m not super familiar with the alternatives 😕

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thegreengreek profile image
Sia Karamalegos

I never thought of zooming in on the recording. I usually use my smaller screen to record and up the font size on everything before starting (VS Code, browser, browser dev tools). I should try the voice over method. I've been doing both at once. Thanks for the tips!

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nas5w profile image
Nick Scialli (he/him)

Woah, narration after recording! That does seem pretty unique. I wish I could pull that off but imagine it'd be hard to get the timing right. Is that ever an issue?

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laurieontech profile image
Laurie Author

That’s what the freeze frame is for! But more often than not it isn’t necessary. When you’re not worried about typing it’s easier to keep pace with what’s on the screen.

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ahmedam55 profile image
Ahmed Mahmoud

That was really helpful. I will apply it and make my first video!

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lauragift21 profile image
Gift Egwuenu

This is an amazing post! I spent hours the other day trying to record a video and more hours editing it.

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bdougieyo profile image
Brian Douglas

Thanks for sharing. I had not thought of the freeze-frame tip.