Screencasts are a tool that I’ve been trying use more on the site because they explain things in actions rather than just words. I’ve gone over free software that will let you create screencasts, but many of them are more advanced than what you’d need. I was on the search for something simple and found just that.
The answer is Screencast-O-Matic which requires no software installation for you to create a decent screencast. Within minutes you can have a screencast posted that will convey a point better than just a few screenshots. Believe me…it really is that easy.
First I’ll cover how to do the screencast and then at the end I’ll talk about the positive and negatives of the service.
Screencast-O-Matic doesn’t really need any instructions, but I want to show you how easy it is to use.
- Go to Create section on Screencast-O-Matic.com
- Go ahead and start a screencast (requires Java). You’ll see a Java popup asking to temporarily install some files on your PC:
- Choose the resolution of the rrecording (up to 1024×768):
- A window should appear that you can now position on your screen, and you can press the record button whenever you’re ready:
- When you’re done recording just hit the “X” in the bottom-right corner, and you’ll then be given the option to upload your screencast or export it to a MOV video format. To upload it you’ll need to create an account with them, but that takes all of 10 seconds to do.
- You can always go back and manage the video, such as removing it or exporting it to the MOV format later on.
–The Good and the Bad–
- An easy-to-follow red dot can optionally replace the mouse in the screencast.
- You can record audio with the screencast.
- Easy to pick the area of your screen that you want to record
- Export the video as a MOV file, and you can even have it scale the screencast.
- Privacy options that prevent your screencast from being searchable or from other users leaving comments.
- Embed full-sized or scaled versions of the screencast into your site.
- You can move the timeline back while recording to erase part of a video.
- Add notes to certain parts of the screencast so that people can jump to a certain section of the screencast.
- I didn’t test it, but this should make it easy to do a screencast in Linux as well.
Kind of bad:
- Limit of 1024×768 recording resolution (which is scaled down to 800 pixels wide when uploaded)
- 15-minute recording limit
- 2-frames per second recording, so it might be a little choppy if you don’t go slow.
- Java based, which is good because a lot of people have it installed, but I’ve never been a big fan of it. You could always export the movie as a MOV and upload it to another video service though.
- Embedding it into your site will require that your users have Java enabled…I wish it used Flash but the service is free so I can’t complain.
So what does a video look like? Here is the link to a brief and generic screencast that I made (without any audio). I played a YouTube movie in it so that you can really see what 2-frames per second looks like when recording. It’s a little choppy, but it can still be useful. Or here is a scaled down version that is embedded (remember, it requires Java to watch it):
I don’t think this service is good for people looking to make fantastic looking screencasts, but it would sure help if you’re trying to explain something to a family member. I’ll definitely be using it when someone asks how to do something…I’ll be able to whip up a screencast faster than I could explain it to them!