Screencasting goes commercial?
I’m a huge fan of screencasting — short “movies”, most often of what you’re doing on your PC as a easier way of explaining how to use a piece of software — and I think it has huge potential. (Here’s a loose wire directory of screencasting stuff.) So it’s not much of a surprise that folk are going to try to make money from it. One of the first out of the traps is Tubetorial, which offers a bunch of “how to” screencasts supported by ads.
Initial reactions are mixed. Lee Odden of Web Pro News interviews the guy behind Tubetorial, Brian Clark of Copyblogger, who says he’s hoping viewers will submit their own screencasts. Darren Rowse of problogger wonders whether it’s going to be possible to maintain quality and whether video lends itself to the kind of audience they’re after. Martin Neumann of ePublishingDaily.com wonders at the mismatch between the (wet floor Web 2.0) glitz of the site, and the rather less polished videos themselves.
My tupennies’ worth? These kinds of things, like podcasts, can vary in quality wildly. It’s easy enough to do a screencast, just as it’s easier enough to do a podcast. But to raise the quality to a professional, or semi-professional level, requires a lot of post-production work. I would expect to see more of the latter in something like this, if the user is expected to view it as a ‘commercial product’, with what we Brits call commercials tagged on the end.
Secondly, delivery is important. A huge amount of blog inches is dedicated to making blog posts zing, and yet a lot of people making podcasts and videocasts and screencasts don’t seem to apply the same rules. The script should be tight, entertaining and informative. The delivery should also be, and, if video is involved, so too should that. If you’re talking to camera, as presenters on tubetorials do, look good, rehearsed and at the camera.
That said, I think screencasts as a way of conveying information are the way to go, and these guys are definitely worth watching.
Updated Nov 13 2006: added a piece on screencasting in Linux which looks helpful, albeit complicated.
This week’s WSJ.com column, out Friday, is about screencasting (you can find all my columns here; subscription only, I’m afraid):
Screencasts are really simple to grasp. And in some ways they’re not new. But I, and a few thousand other people, think they represent a great way to leverage the computer to train, educate, entertain, preach and otherwise engage other people in a very simple way. Something the Internet and computers have so far largely failed to do.
Screencasts are basically little movies you create on your computer. In most cases, they are movies of your computer. You use special software to capture what keystrokes and mouse clicks you make on your screen – demonstrating how to use Google, say (the screen bit of screencasting — and then, once you’ve edited and added a voiceover, upload it to your Web site and let everyone else watch it (the casting bit.) It’s as simple as that.
Here are some links that may help. Not everyone calls what they do screencasting, but most do. There’s tons more stuff out there, but most of these sites will take you there too.
Uses of screencasts
I’m always on the lookout for good transcription software — a program that will take a WAV, MP3 or other sound file and let me stop, start, rewind and speed up the recording using shortcuts as I transcribe it. Olympus do a good one for their digital recorders, but it will only handle its own DSS format, and doesn’t offer any way to convert other files into the DSS format. Today I did another search and found this little gem: f4 from audiotranskription.de. (There’s a sister program for Macs called Listen which costs $15.)
F4 is very straightforward, but does everything you need to transcribe, without any fuss. There’s even a text window you can transcribe into and, at the press of a function key, insert the time from the recording. It imports .wma, .wav, .mp3 and .ogg files and will work with a USB footswitch. It’s put together by two guys called Thorsten, doctoral students at the Philipps University in Marburg. Well done, Thorsten and Thorsten.
A few months back I posted something on recording Skype conversations: Here is the solution to the problem, in case you’re still looking. It’s HotRecorder and it’s excellent.
It not only does a great job of that, but Premium users ($15) get a free tool to convert recordings in .ELP files to .wav or .ogg. The free version is ad-supported.
I have long been looking for a way to record interviews and whatnot to my computer. Here’s a program that might help: LectureRecorder, from Cyprus-based XemiComputers.
LectureRecorder “allows you to record lectures and write summaries for them. To make a lecture summary the program provides several rich-text fields: course, subject, date, lecturer, digest and notes. There is also an option to print the summary. “
The built-in audio recorder uses real-time OGG audio compression, includes an editor and records in 8-bit, mono, with sampling rates of 44KHz down to 11KHz. The files can be converted to standard sound files.
The program costs $20. They also do some interesting other, but roughly similar software, such as Minutes of Meeting Recorder. What’s not quite clear in either is whether you can alter playback speed — a must for transcribing — and assign function keys for easily pausing the recording (a great feature of the software that comes with Olympus voice recorders.)