Screencast Recording Tips: Preparing A Script
December 6, 2012 Leave a comment
Screencasts are very helpful for communicating ideas, features, and information about your product. We’ve recorded a number over the years, and I have experimented with a variety of methods to produce the best results in the shortest amount of time. I’ve found there are some processes that make preparing, recording, editing, and sharing screencasts easier. (I’ve included an example at the end of the post which uses the tips contained here — let me know what you think.)
In this post, we’ll focus on preparing a script — although I have found there are situations where extemporaneous recording works well too.
Here’s what we’ve found helpful in preparing a script:
- Create a document with two columns: the column on the left contains the words you intend to use for your video, and the column on the right contains short descriptions of what you intend to show on the screen, like “Show Login Page” or “Show the user searching for a widget”. If you create this document using Google Docs, it makes it super easy to share with people you want to get feedback from.
- Create a rough outline of the major thoughts you want to communicate. Don’t worry about the specific words; just create an ordered flow of ideas you want to communicate. Try to put them in a logical order.
- Sit in a quiet place; using your outline, start speaking as if you’re talking to someone sitting next to you. I’ll often record what comes to mind, and then create my first draft by transcribing the recording. At this stage, don’t worry about making it perfect – you just want to capture the spirit of what you want to say.
- Read your draft out loud, and refine it so that there are no major errors. Check to see if your ideas still seem to be in logical order.
After creating a first draft, I’ve found it helpful to review it with a group of 2-3 people who have subject matter insight or are clear thinkers. Inserting this step into my process has dramatically improved the end result.
Here’s how I use this feedback and review session:
- I ask everyone to read the script in advance. If they don’t, I’ve found that their input seems more limited and less helpful, so try to give everyone enough time to prepare.
- Do a read through. I’ll usually read the script out loud from top to bottom, and ask for general feedback about the flow. Does it make sense? Are the thoughts in a logical order? How’s my inflection?
- If necessary, we’ll make changes to the flow, and then begin to work on each sentence, one at a time. I’ll ask if each word is the best choice to communicate the idea. I’ll also try to cut out as many words as possible. This is an iterative process and can be a lot of fun if you have a good group!
- After you’ve revised your draft, let it sit for a bit. Maybe wait a day, and then go back and re-read it (out loud — not in your head) and see if it still makes sense. With a clear mind, you can make additional changes you think are appropriate.
At this point, you should have a relatively good draft to record from. Get your vocal cords ready! In another post, I’ll cover some of the things we’ve found helpful in recording a screencast.
What about you? Have you found any tips that are helpful in recording screencasts? If you’ve recorded them in the past, which part of the process is most difficult for you?
Here’s a 3 minute example that used the methods described in this post. Enjoy!