Making and editing a screencast

On Monday night (a week and a half ago) I recorded a screencast tutorial (or tutecast as Gio called it). It was the first time I’d tried something like that. It took several attempts and a week of trying to compress the video to get it right. It might take a bit more practice to get really good, succinct, interesting tutes, but I was happy with how it turned out.

So I mentioned several attempts… this included trying several different pieces of software for recording, as well as editing and compressing.

The free software

Capture Me

I started with Capture Me because it was something I had bookmarked for when I might want it, and it’s free. Capture Me can only record 60 second chunks and doesn’t record sound. The sound thing didn’t bother me because I thought it would be easier to do sound and video separately (mainly so I wouldn’t ramble or mutter). I thought I could throw together the 60 second videos in iMovie.

It turned out that Capture Me was too taxing for my little computer. So, 60 seconds was more like 30 seconds because everything took twice as long to load; then I wasn’t sure when the video actually stopped recording and started exporting.

I would still recommend this software for people wanting to do short videos, but it wasn’t for me.

Copernicus

I downloaded Copernicus as well, but I don’t think I spent much time with it. It seems fairly similar to Capture Me in terms of features, and otherwise fairly friendly.

Jing

I downloaded Jing, but didn’t get to the recording part. When you first open it you need to create an account with Screencast.com (to which the videos are exported and uploaded to). This actually seems like a really nifty piece of free software, but I wanted more control over my videos.

Recommended software

After trying those ones out I thought I should look for actual recommendations, and seemed to remember one on Mostly Lisa.

iShowU

I downloaded iShowU and gave it a try. I was blown away! It’s so easy to use, and produces great videos! It has a bunch of video output settings; I don’t really know what most of them mean. I recommend investigating the best codec for your purpose before making your video!

iShowU is about $20. You know how I love my free software. In fact, I’ve only paid for one other program on my MacBook, the rest is F/OSS (cheers @andotyjazz for the acronym!). Despite all that, I bought iShowU; I just loved it.

It’d be cool if iShowU had keystroke visualisation (showing the keys you hit on screen) and it would be nice to be able to move the recording field in the middle of recording (when it’s paused). Other than that it’s schweeet!

The Unofficial Apple Weblog had a really great review of screencasting software, which I saw after I bought iShowU. I didn’t regret my decision to buy iShowU after I’d read it though!

Editing: the pain in my backside

It literally took me all week to edit and compress. All I had to do was clip off a few seconds from the end and compress the video for the web.

iMovie

I tried to edit it in iMovie HD, which was easy enough. I clipped the end off and added a couple of subtitles with addresses of web pages that I showed or spoke about. However, the quality that iMovie exports is very ordinary. I wasn’t impressed at all.

FFmpeg

I attempted to use FFmpeg to compress the movie instead, but it can’t read the Apple Intermediate Codec (unfortunately the default for the option I chose in iShowU). After much searching, I couldn’t find any solutions for the codec problem. So, just to see if I could get FFmpeg to work at all, I exported a “high quality” iMovie file using the h.264 codec, which I knew FFmpeg could read, and tried to compress that one further.

For a while, FFmpeg pretended to compress the video and spat out one second long movies…

Aside about Stomp

I found myself wishing I’d bought Stomp with iShowU. You can get both as a package. I tried the trial of Stomp in amongst all this compressing pain. It was really easy to use and generally great (I didn’t use it because it puts a picture over the video in trial mode).

Back to FFmpeg

I just checked the last file I got from FFmpeg, it’s actually full length. Disgusting quality, but for 9:36 minutes, 720×480 and 18MB from an average starting quality, I supposed that’s to be expected.

I think if you had a decent starting point, with the right codec and the right settings, FFmpeg would work well. It’s actually very powerful, just difficult to figure out due to a lack of lay-person’s documentation.

SimpleMovieX

After another search for video editing software I found SimpleMovieX. It’s simple, fairly lightweight, with the ability to trim, cut and paste, add chapters, export to a whole bunch of formats and qualities.

The trial version is fully functional, but saving and exporting is slower. SimpleMovieX typically applies a 30 [second] penalty for operations of less than 1 minute, or an increase of around 100% for longer operations.
Only 5 chapter markers can be created in Trial version.

The trial version is fully functional! I used it for my tutecast; the compression quality prances all over iMovie – like reindeer in the snow on Christmas eve. I was really impressed.

I found a tip saying to lower the bitrate. It turns out that lowering the bitrate on your video reduces the filesize enormously, without sacrificing too much quality. With the quality set to low and the bitrate automatic, I managed to make a dirty video of about 110MB (down from about 700), but with the bitrate at 300–400 kbps I got a high quality video of about 60MB.

SimpleMovieX is excellent. The export time isn’t too painful, as long as you hide the program until it’s done (a watched progress bar doesn’t progress!). It makes a beep, like the oven when cookies are ready, so you know when it’s finished. I’m happy to keep using the “trial” version, but I’m tempted to buy the unrestricted version, just because the authors have done a really good job.

Talk to me!

Let me know if you’ve made any videos, what you tried, what you liked and didn’t.
I’ve been enjoying the screencasts at CSS Tricks lately. Perhaps you can recommend some videos you like?

Comments

  1. Justin says

    the compression quality prances all over iMovie – like reindeer in the snow on Christmas eve.

    I’d have to say, that’s a new one! :coffee:

  2. says

    Thank you for the kind mention, Kris. :up: I don’t know why, but there’s just something cool about seeing your name on another person’s blog, haha.

    I’ll definitely check out iShowU and SimpleMovieX, though I’m still ways away from making tutcasts of my own. You did a great job last time though, I’ll be watching out for more.

    Also, I think it’s great you’re bringing more publicity to F/OSS. You’ve certainly shown that it’s capable of the same things as Adobe’s software.

    Sorry if this comment is a bit late, today (well, yesterday) was Independence Day here in the States.

  3. says

    I need to do a couple of screencasts of software setups that we do at work, have been planning on playing with iShowU and Capture Me but after reading this I think I will ditch Capture Me as I some operations will take longer than 60 seconds and I dont want extra editing to put it all together..

    Thanks for the wrapup!!

  4. says

    You’re welcome Gio! I know what you mean about getting mentioned elsewhere :P

    If you do start recording have a look at the iShowU/Stomp package too, but it’s pretty cool that SimpleMovieX is free. I really didn’t think I would ever do video anything, but after watching a lot of them recently I had the urge. :P You might be doing it sooner than you think!

    Matt, iShowU definitely makes it a lot easier if you’re happy to pay for software. If you’re playing with the trial of iShowU, also check out Screenflick (reviewed on TUAW). It’s the same price bracket and main functions, so it would mainly be UI that makes one preferable to the other.