Recording a Screencast: Do’s and Don’ts


I’m always interested in learning more about new tools that are available for e-learning developers, so last weekend I decided to try my hand using the free screencasting tool Screenr!

Before I made my first recording, I did a bit of homework into what goes into a great screen recording and I’ve compiled some of the top tips and techniques. Follow these Do’s and Don’ts of screen recording to help you create your own screencast!

Select a topic

  • Do have a clear purpose for the screencast
  • Do keep it short and simple

If the process is too long, chunk it down and make several short videos. This is something I learned myself as I was trying to cram a somewhat complicated 10 step process into a 5 minute video. I realized I was trying to show too much at once, and broke it down into two five-step processes instead.

Write a script or storyboard

  • Do script out your process step-by-step. (This is a critical step. Without the script you might forget a step, ramble about useless information, do something backwards, etc.).
  • Do create a storyboard of the different shots, or screens, you need to capture and in which order.
  • Do include any “set-up” instructions that are required to do your screencast in your storyboard. For example, you might need the application to be logged in and displaying a specific window, or you might need certain data or information to already be input in the system. Think along the lines of cooking shows – some things take too long to demonstrate in the time available, so different versions of the dish are made ahead of time and are ready in varying degrees, so they can just pull it out of the oven and Voila!

Select your recording software

If you’re unsure about which software you’d like to purchase, you can download a free trial of any of the paid software options to get a feel for the features and interface

Set up your screen/applications

  • Do close all other applications and windows.
  • Do hide your start menu and any visible taskbars, menus.
  • Do turn off all pop-ups, alerts, and notifications.
  • Do have all the data you need in front of you (if you need to input data as part of your process).
  • Do hide your favorites, quick links, and any other personal information that might show up on the screen if using an Internet browser (no one wants to see your personal links).
  • Do use an “administrator” or “general user” account (if possible) so your recording doesn’t reveal any names or personal information.
  • Do ensure applications are open, running, and ready to go before you start recording. Set it up to the exact screen you’d like to start from – don’t waste time navigating to a screen unless it’s an important part of the process that learners need to see.

Select an appropriate screen size/resolution

  • Do take screen size into consideration. The recording size will depend on things like: your audiences’ monitor display resolution, the size of the slides in your e-learning course, etc. At this point in time, it’s probably still safe to optimize for 1024 x 768.
  • Do keep the recording area as small as possible – without making it so small that you can’t see features or easily navigate in the application (this will help minimize file size).

Practice, practice, practice.

  • I don’t think I need to elaborate!

Use the right equipment

  • Do have a good microphone.

This is another thing I learned myself when I did my first few recordings using my laptop’s mouse trackpad and the built-in microphone. Result: really crappy audio quality. Since then I went to Best Buy and bought microphone for under 30$ and the audio quality is now far superior. Apparently learners will tolerate bad visuals over bad audio, so this is key!

Control your voice

  • Do speak clearly and enunciate words.
  • Do stick to the script.
  • Do add some personality.
  • Do use emphasis at key moments.
  • Don’t use jargon or overcomplicated words.
  • Don’t breathe too loudly, smack your lips, etc.
  • Don’t talk too close to the microphone.
  • Don’t say “so, like, eh, um,”. Personally – I am really bad at this, but working on it. Very helpful to have a clear script to follow.
  • Don’t be monotone and boring.

Control ambient sounds

  • Do choose a nice, quiet location to do your recording.
  • Do make sure your heater or air conditioner won’t come on.
  • Do put your cell phone on silent and unplug the landline (or turn off the ringer).
  • Do put your cat or dog outside.

This is yet one more thing I discovered firsthand (experience is the best teacher, they say!) as I was recording last weekend. I had the PERFECT screencast going — everything was going exactly according to script, I wasn’t saying “so” too much… so of course, my dog chose that moment to break out into a horrible, hacking cough in the background. Thanks, Charlie. Now I go into another room when I need to record.

Edit your recording

Share your recording

  • Do share it on video sharing sites (YouTube, Screenr, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Do share it on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

So far following these tips have really helped me improve my recordings – however, it’s like everything else in life, practice makes perfect! The more screencasts you record, the more comfortable you will be with it, and your recordings will improve over time. If you have any other tips or best practices that I did not include, please leave a comment…. and since you made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

22 thoughts on “Recording a Screencast: Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Rhonda Jacobson says:

    All great tips, Nicole. So true about the audio – it’s a must to have a good external microphone. And watch out for those background sounds. LOL about your dog. I go into my home office and put a sign on the door, “recording – stay out!”, otherwise my husband or kids just ramble in and start talking to me. When following a script that goes over more than one page, lay out the pages in front of you, otherwise your recording will pick up the sound of the page turning and paper rustling.

    • Nicole Legault says:

      Good to know…. I just looked into it quick, I will need to download it later when I have some time and give it a go. I’m amazed how much free video recording/editing software is available out there …. So awesome … Thanks Dave!

  2. Jimbo says:


    A great tool that is free (or costs a mere $9 annually for the pro version) is Fantastic tool for capturing screencasts.—James Armstrong

    • Nicole Legault says:

      Hmmm… you are the second person to mention, I think this means I need to investigate it further and perhaps add a link in my post. Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment James!

  3. Mark L. Sheppard says:

    Excellent points, all. When doing my Jing-based screencasts, I found a script to be invaluable. I also read out my script “dry” while practicing the task very helpful in terms of cleaning up the text and smoothing things out.

    The last thing I would add is that if you are doing repeated recordings, have some quick boilerplate intro/summary text to add a level of consistency for the viewer. Also ensure that you address the “What Why Where” in the intro.

    Well done!

    • Nicole Legault says:

      Thank you for the nice feedback Mark! I just Googled Jing to check it out because I had never heard of it and looks pretty cool… I mentioned this in another comment but again I just can’t get over how much free video recording/editing software is available online.

      Also– really good points about the intro/summary and addressing the what/why/where. I was actually thinking about that as I was doing a screen recording yesterday… should I have a standard intro? What’s the very first thing you should say? Is “Hey there!” too informal… how do you start your recordings? Maybe I need to post this on Twitter …Hmmm you’ve got me thinking Mark!!

      • Mark L. Sheppard says:

        So far, no dice.😦 But as I recall, I made it fairly personal because this was a certification program tied to a platform community of practice. My opening schtick went something like, “Hi this is Mark and in this demo I am going to show you…… This is an important feature because [tie-in to other platform/ID tasks], etc. The end always told people how and where to find more support as well as instructions on replay. I also put together an introductory screencast on what to expect through the series of video demos. Module Zero, if you will.

        The 5 minute duration really does force you to be concise and focused on whatever you’re showing. Sometimes its not even necessary to occupy the whole 5 mins. Blend those demos with Quick Reference Guides, discussion forums, and an active twitter feed and you have a good self-paced framework.

      • Nicole Legault says:

        Thank you trying to locate it, and thanks for sharing how you start your screencasts.. I was wondering if I should start with an introduction, or say hi, or just jump right in, I guess so far I’ve tried all of these methods lol and I haven’t narrowed down my favorite way yet I suppose. So true the 5 minute maximum made me really try to stick to just the process… thanks again for the great comments Mark …

  4. Gilles Legault says:


    In terms of quality for audio what kind of tool would you suggest? A headset vs a simple desktop microphone? I guess the quality of the audio is really important to have a really successful presentation?

    G. Legault

    • Nicole Legault says:

      Yes the microphone you use makes a really big difference. Most laptops come with a built in microphone but when I recorded using this the audio quality was horrible and there was a lot of extra noises, which is distracting. I’ve heard good things about the Samson GoMic. I think a headset microphone has pros/cons but is generally a lot better than a built in laptop mic …🙂

  5. M. Hunsberger (@mhunsberger) says:

    I noticed that TechSmith SnagIt 11 also has the ability to record video. You can then import it into Camtasia for further editing, if needed. Possible scenario – in an organization have multiple “authors” with SnagIt (which is cheaper and easier), and one “editor” with Camtasia. Does anyone work in an organization that has a workflow similar to this?

  6. Jon says:

    Great post Nicole! One thing I’d like to add is that when recoding voiceover, make sure to pause for at least 2 seconds of silence before and after each audio recording. It is always nice to have “handles” to work with.

    • Jon says:

      Oh..forgot – the reason for doing this is so that you do not cut off the beginning of your sentence/end of your last sentence during each take. Another thing I forgot to mention is that if I am recording a room with a lot of “white noise” (ie. HVAC system, home airconditioning, etc.) record “room tone” or just nothing but the sound of the room. You can use the room tone to lay under other audio elements, or voiceovers recorded by other people. The idea is to create a consistent sound across all audio tracks…this will give you the professional sound that you are looking for.

      • Nicole Legault says:

        That is a really great tip about leaving a few seconds at the start/end of sentences, Jon! Thank you for sharing🙂

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