Screencasting – Three recommendations for software

A screencast is a video recording of your computer screen with audio from a microphone connected to your computer. Screencasts may also include a webcam or other USB video source such as a visualiser. Screencasts are used for: narrated slideshows, software demos, visual explanations of ideas, feedback on work and explaining system processes. They are frequently used to over-come limitations of text-based delivery, such as instructional guides, which may be more time consuming or less able to convey visual processes compared to a video. You can learn more about screencasts in our TEL handbook.

Three recommendations

In this post we look at three pieces of software that you can create screencasts with: Screencast-O-Matic, Replay Panopto ‘At-Desk’ Recorder and TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8.0. We start with a quick comparison, before looking at each in turn. A detailed breakdown of key features and functionality is available:

Quick comparison

Good for Main limitations
Screencast-O-Matic Quick ‘just-in-time’ screencasts, fast dissemination, easy to use Top/tail editing only, third-party software
Replay Panopto ‘At-Desk’ Recorder Integrated with Yorkshare VLE/modules, basic editing, narrated presentations Full-screen capture only
Camtasia High quality production, full editing capability, highlighting/annotation One-off cost, requires video hosting (York Streaming) or publishing to YouTube

Screencast-o-matic

Example use: a quick help video to support students in a module use a website/piece of software to achieve a task in reaction to student queries

Screenshot of Screencast-O-Matic recorder

Screencast-O-Matic Recorder overlaid on a website with webcam inset

Screencast-O-Matic.com offers a free, web browser-based tool that can record any section of the screen and/or USB webcam. You can choose what audio source to record too, including system sounds. Recordings can only be edited by chopping off the start and/or end, however for quick ‘just-in-time’ recordings that don’t require a polished performance or require integration of other media, Screencast-O-Matic does the job. Recordings are limited to 15 minutes, but that should be more than enough for a good screencast. Longer duration and additional functionality is available through an annual subscription (see the comparison chart on the Screencast-O-Matic website). Recordings are saved within your Screencast-O-Matic account, made available by sharing a link and can be password protected. You can also download an .mp4 if you want to re-upload the recording elsewhere, for example YouTube. Screencast-O-Matic is not, however, a University supported platform and should not be used for any data protection covered content. See the Guidance for Staff on Third Party Tools before you use Screencast-O-Matic.

Replay Panopto ‘At-Desk’ Recorder

Example use: supplementary resource that explains a concept for a module in a visual way to complement textbooks or lectures

Replay Panopto Recorder is provided as part of the University’s Replay lecture capture service, replacing Echo360 in 2016. The Panopto recorder provides at-desk recording or recording with your own laptop in rooms on campus that are not equipped with Replay. It’s primary use is for lectures, supplementary learning content, video-based content such as handwritten worked problems (e.g. via webcam or USB visualiser) and can be used for feedback. Content can also be published seamlessly within the Yorkshare VLE, without any technical knowledge, making it an ideal way to add visual explanations to your module. The online editor is ‘non-destructive’ (i.e. edits can be brought back)and allows you to take the start/end off a recording, and remove as many parts within the recording as required.

There is a short delay after uploading whilst the Replay system processes your recording (usually no more than 10-15 minutes). As the Panopto recorder records full-screen, it does not suit detailed software demonstrations where you may need to focus on part of the screen. Any member of staff may use the Panopto recorder and you can request your own Folder for uploading content. There is no direct charge to Departments for these licenses as they come as part of the Replay system.

Camtasia

Example use case: detailed, technical walk-through of a software program

Screenshot of Camtasia in Record Mode on a VLE Site

Camtasia Recorder with a selected part of the screen to be captured

TechSmith Camtasia is not free program, but it is not expensive and is our software of choice when it comes to creating high quality screencasts. Along with full control of what you record, its editing capabilities allow you to bring in extra multimedia such as images, overlays, titles, music, replace and edit the audio separate from the video, and edit the video non-destructively and non-linearly. Camtasia is great for creating polished resources, which use zoom and pan, highlighting and annotation to guide users through technical software demonstrations. It can also be used as a video editing tool, combining resources such as video files, Replay downloads and images to create externally-facing, high production value resources.

Screenshot of Camtasia Editor

Camtasia in edit mode showing timeline, resource bin and preview

Camtasia can be published seamlessly to YouTube, or as an .mp4 file for uploading to Replay Panopto Folder for your module. If you are creating stand-alone, downloadable file video resources, not utilising YouTube’s caption tool, York Streaming Service or Replay caption file uploading, Camtasia also has a captioning tool inbuilt in the program for accessible content production, an essential requirement for core learning material. Camtasia requires a little more attention to detail when producing the content for publishing, as it is not a ‘one click’ operation as for Screencast-O-Matic or Replay ‘At-Desk’.

Other software

We have tested a few other free programs, but have found limitations in each which may prevent your use:

  • Wink – Complex to use, not video (static screenshots with audio), Flash-based output (not mobile friendly).
  • Jing – Output via screencast.com is not mobile-friendly, no caption option (not accessible).
  • BBFlashBack Express – Exports to YouTube, but the file formats are .flv (not mobile friendly) and .avi (large file size). It’s not possible to edit the recording with the free version, but you can resize to a crop area that focuses on the mouse. The paid for version has similar editing capabilities to Camtasia, however we haven’t tested this yet.
  • ScreenR – This had problems loading the Java version on campus PCs, but may work fine on your own computer. It’s an alternative to Screencast-O-Matic.

Further advice

Screencasts are powerful learning resources. If you would like to talk to us about your ideas or want advice on which tool to use, please feel free to contact us at vle-support@york.ac.uk. We also have a wealth of knowledge on how to make a good screencast which we’d be happy to share with you. If you have used screencasting yourself, leave a comment below to say why you used them, tips you would share and what benefits they brought to your students.

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