Today we’re offering up the next installment of our series on creating your own screencasts. We’ll look at the important planning and scripting stage. While we were going to skip right to editing techniques, this topic was recommended by a commenter. And while good planning is something you can learn through trial and error, we are here to save you the time and frustration.
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Underprepared vs. Overprepared
The predicament described by the commenter was that when creating a screencast video, it’s easy to start strong, with a clear focus and a set of talking points, then go off track by remembering a different point and trying to find your place again. Unfortunately, is just one of the ways you can slip up when recording.
The central issue is balancing the urge to have everything prepared carefully in advance, with the desire to have your presentation come off as natural and engaging. Scripting an entire screencast, for example, will almost always leave a stilted and awkward presentation, even if you can manage to make it sound like you aren’t reading aloud.
On the other hand, not having any words written down in advance can leave you umming and awwing for something to say. A smart combination of scripting and outlining will usually help you get the best results.
Scripting, or writing out the exact words you’ll use in a lesson, should be used sparingly. But it does have a place.
Typically, it’s best to script out the introduction to your video, just to help you get started. While it’s easier to ‘wing it’ as you’re actually performing actions onscreen, it’s harder to summarize what you will be doing on the spot, so having it written down first gives you a way to begin your video confidently, which will also ease your nerves throughout recording.
For the same reason, it’s not a bad idea to also have the last one or two sentences of your video scripted, as well. Just make sure your lines are something you would actually say, and that you can read them in a natural tone of voice.
An outline of major and minor points should accompany your intro and outro scripts. The outline format should be similar to one you’d use for a speech (for example), though topic numbering and hierarchy are not important. You won’t be graded on the neatness of your outline; it’s only important that you can read and follow it.
You can simply use keywords that will remind you of what you need to focus on next, or short sentences that you can actually read aloud and use as transitions throughout the video. It’s perfectly okay to pause between steps if you feel you’re losing focus, as pauses can quickly be cut out entirely in the editing process, especially if you keep your mouse pointer still.
While it might seem like it adds too much unnecessary time to the recording process, doing a dry run-through of your presentation can save you time. Use your script and outline, and go through all of the motions onscreen. You can record if you want to, but it’s not necessary (especially since going over the dry run recording will become a drain on time).
Use the dry run as an opportunity to make sure your ideas flow together as you expected, that you’re not leaving any important points out (as our commenter struggled with), and that your lesson is a reasonable length. Anything longer than 10 or 15 minutes should probably be split into a two videos.
After you’ve planned and prepared, recording should be easy. Take a good breath before you begin, go at a pace that you think is about 20 to 40 percent slower than it needs to be (remember, people are trying to follow along), and don’t get derailed when you make small mistakes. Simply start again where you were, and leave the mistakes for the editing stage.