Your Opinion Matters - Screencast Techniques Survey
Hi Dear Reader, I'd like you to SOUND OFF.
As you may know, part of my job at Microsoft will be creating technical screencasts, like the IIS FastCGI one and the MVC Intro.
A lot of really smart people and co-workers have created a lot of screencasts and my probing is not meant to diminish anything that they've done. However, I see a lot of screencasts that are fairly static, recorded with fairly low-quality audio and I have a postulate that some post-production and a few dozen techniques with some preparation can turn a good screencast into a great one.
Next year I plan to do lots of these, so I've been practicing. I've watch lots of screencasts and decided that panning, zooming and PIP - when used appropriately - enhance the experience. Of course, it takes an order of magnitude more work to pull off.
That said, I'd like to collect some data about your opinion on the matter. Before I go singing the praises of pans and zooms and talking heads, I'd like to get some actual data.
Do me a favor and please answer this SHORT 8-question Survey on Technical Screencast Techniques. It'll take literally 1 minute of your time. Your answer is anonymous, and your IP address will NOT be collected. I'll share the results in a few weeks.
There are at least 22,000 of you subscribed, so I'd love to get at least 1000 responses. Please do forward this survey to your technical friends, family and neighbors.
Thanks folks, I appreciate your time.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
"This survey is currently closed. Please contact the author of this survey for further assistance."
Have you hit the ceiling for responses already or is this just a glitch?
So until it's back on, here are my comments:
1. audio quality: extremely important if the caster's English sounds weird (like mine). Yours is good so it's less of a matter.
2. portable devices: I guess it's important, though my portable is a laptop ... I think that people with portable players know how to transfer avi/wmv to the needed format.
3. too much PIP: when not coding - PIP is gr8. when coding - it's a distraction
4. PIP: but it's gr8. gives personality to the cast
5. only capture & audio: see 4
6. pan and zoom: only when needed. it's better to just have larger fonts as it can spin your head
7. mouse: see the mouse = know what's going on
8. minimal visual clutter: while coding - yes. while making a point - visuals are good
In my opinion your last screencast with the MVC is a first class example of how a screencast should be. Having a little PIP with you is brilliant - makes the presentation much more personal, and the zoom+pan is a great way to ensure focus on the essential.
Any chance that you'll do a post on how you do the screencasts + your audio setup? I know you're using Camtasia, but some insights on how you use the PIP and the Zoom/Panning would be really great (as I just bought Camtasia for doing some screencasts on our umbraco cms :o)).
Keep it up - and remember to enjoy your leave as well ;)
That said, I watched every minute of your MVC screencast. I like the pan/zoom a lot, in moderation.
What did you use to produce it?
Videos are a really great way to learn. Sometimes having the audio only is nice too, such as to be able to listen to the mp3.
The key for all of these techniques is that they are done in moderation and with a specific purpose, otherwise they will make the screencast worse rather than better. However, I think you're on the right track so far for developing screen casts that are much higher quality than the norm.
Some books can be a little dry, but with video the presenter's charisma can make the learning experience more engaging.
One feature that I find missing with screencasts currently is the idea of chapters or the ability to jump to sections. For example, if I wanted to go back and review a particular section of a screencast, I could go by chapters or something.
When I find really good screencasts, I tend to save them to my hard drive for future review or to show my coworkers. If I could jump to chapters or sections or maybe bookmark sections for later, that would be great.
I realize that my feature requests go far beyond standard video of course :-) This is a wish list I guess. And I'd like a pony, too.
The panning and scanning and zooming on the code is great.
The panning in the MVC screencast was great, if you are doing something onscreen related to the subject matter, it needs to always be visible. Zooming was good in it as well, but it seemed (my perception, not necessarily reality) like there were a few ocassions where the primary focus of the material had shifted away from the zoomed area. It was distracting to be stuck looking at just the zoomed area even though we had moved on. (Zooming in on the templates in the MVC screencast comes to mind)
I agree with everyone who has said PiP is good when talking about concepts and not coding. I agree with the comment about trying to read code behind subtitles.
Having chapters/bookmarks would be great - not being able to efficiently "skim" past info I do not need/want is the primary reason I do not consume much non-written media.
The MVC screencast was great! I look forward to more of them.
I was really looking forward to respond to this survey.
<a href"http://www.telerik.com/ClientsFiles/product.videos/35/" target="_blank">www.telerik.com/ClientsFiles/product.videos/35</a>
In IE6 I need to hard refresh the page to play video.
I will post other example when I find good ones :)
1. Panning and Zooming is a necessity to keep the video small enough at 640x480 or 800x600 (typical video sizes) while still allowing users to read the text. The key is to use it effectively. In the previous video it appeared that you relied too much on the "default" panning and zooming. My experience is that you should keep the panning/zooming to a minimum by editing the defaults. Often by zooming out just slightly, you eliminate the jerky appearance that occurs with the Camtasia defaults and can keep more content in frame thus reducing the need to pan. This results in smaller file sizes (panning and zooming increases the number of pixels changing from frame to frame).
2. PIP is best reserved for sections of video where there are no other actions occurring on screen. Don't split your user's attention. When you are using PIP, speak to the Camera and not your monitor - engage with your audience and not with Visual Studio. This is probably a hint. If you are forced to look at the monitor then it probably indicates that your users will also want to be look at that content as well.
3. The ASP.Net Intro is very professional... the title screen - not so much. A little time with a graphic artist from the marketing dept. should yield a good background which can be used on the title screen to give it the needed polish to go with the rest of the video.
Currently I use Camtasia 4, and I'll be upgrading to version 5 shortly.
Comments are closed.
One fellow wanted subtitles for deaf and non-English speakers. That's a really interesting suggestion.
One guy found all the zooming and panning to be totally distracting and basically useless. That surprised me.
One person hates the mouse click red circles. That's a statistical outlier. (sorry)
Folks want low-bandwidth and high-bandwidth options...preferrably by lowering the resolution.
One guy thought the questions were a little leading. Quite possibly they are. I tried to include positive and negative statements though. However, when I do that, folks misread and mark Strongly Agree when they mean the opposite.