Web-Based Screencasting Service Integrates High-Quality Screen Recording And Online Video Distribution: ScreenToaster Is Here
ScreenToaster is a new screencasting web-based service which provides high-quality screen video recordings ready for immediate web publication. ScreenToaster works on Macs, PCs and Linux computers and requires no software to downloaded or installed on your end. To me this looks like the best and most promising free / low-cost screencasting solution available out there. More than anything else it is by far the simplest and most immediate to use.
Photo credit: ScreenToaster
Though the guys at ScreenToaster.com have been working hard at this since last August (2008), and though MasterNewMedia had already announced the availability of their service some time ago, I have been waiting for the availability of what I consider the key features of this new, impressive screencasting tool. And now, they are all there. Tomorrow, January 15th 2009, ScreenToaster will officially launch publicly the new version I have been able to review and test ahead of the official release.
As you probably know, I don't give anymore that much space to in-depth reviews of new tools, as there are many well equipped bloggers who already are doing this, but when it comes to technologies that are really disruptive to existing status quo and which do offer enormous potential for independent online publisher, I can't hold myself silent.
ScreenToaster is a dream come true. To do a powerful and effective screencast and have it published online on your site you now need nothing more than registering at ScreenToaster.com and start recording now. In no time at all you can have a quality video screen recording, with your voice over ready to be embedded inside your blog site.
It doesn't matter whether you are on a PC, Mac or Linux machine. ScreenToaster works everywhere.
Extremely Simple to Use
This is probably ScreenToaster key winning feature. Even my uncle, who doesn't know yet how to listen to music online or how to upload a video to YouTube, can use ScreenToaster in no time at all. And this is the right way to go for any software, web-based or not, which wants to make a significant impact. Make it stupid-proof when it comes to usability. No doubt that there are still a few rough corners, but overall this is a tool to imitate, not so much for its clever usability or interface design solutions, but for having restrained itself so far in adding too many features and commands. The essence is all there, and if it works, there is really no need to add any more frills unless they are very cleverly hidden from the default view.
Records All of Your Screen Activities in Real-time
ScreenToaster records all screen activity on your computer into a video clip, independently of the software, web site or utility you are displaying on your computer. ScreenToaster records everything that appears on your screen. If you can see it, ScreenToaster can record it.
Records Your Audio in Real-time
One key important and very useful feature is the ability to record your audio commentary while you are recording the screen. While screen capturing a software demonstration or explaining how to use a certain feature, ScreenToaster is capable of recording non-stop both your computer screen activity as well as the audio input from your microphone or other connected audio device. In addition, it is also possible to record the audio after the video has been captured, a feature that video professionals and voice professionals will likely prefer over the spontaneous and direct approach of live audio recording.
Records and Overlays Your Webcam
ScreenToaster is also capable of recording your own video in a small window that can be superimposed near one of the corners of the screen recording. This allows you to show also your face, or to provide a mute language video track alongside the main screen recording.
Full-screen Recording or via Resizable Viewport
One great and extremely useful feature offered by ScreenToaster, is the ability to choose between full screen recording and partial screen recording via a resizable viewport which can be sized and positioned anywhere you want on the screen.
Immediate Video Playback
As soon as you end a screen recording the video recording is immediately available for you to play back and check. ScreenToaster serves it to you right after you click to Stop Recording button and this by itself is a supercool and useful feature. It even beats classical software solutions, where you often need to wait for a long save before you can actually see your recording.
Download Video Recordings
ScreenToaster provides you with the option of also downloading your recorded screencasts in two standard video formats: AVI or Flash SWF. Both formats are widely used and well supported providing the ScreenToaster user with the ability to master these videos on different media such as CD or DVD as well as to edit them with standard video editing tools. Additional formats, more suited for online video distribution are not needed, as ScreenToaster integrates the capability to directly upload to YouTube and other video sharing sites.
Post Directly to YouTube
You can post in one-click any screen recording done with ScreenToaster to YouTube, and to the ScreenToaster.com own public video directory. This is a vital, strategic feature, and if the quality of the videos uploaded on standard video sharing sites holds up, one of those that will bring rapidly thousands of would-be screencasters to this tool. It is just too useful.
Add Text Notes and Captions
After you have recorded a screencast you can easily add multiple subtitles or captions right under the video. A dedicated tool, makes it extremely easy to add any text you want at any point in the video. Very useful.
Select Still Frame for Screencast
ScreenToaster.com provides a tool to easily select which frame of your screen recording should be utilized as the opening still for your video. Touch of class.
Unique in its category, SCreenToaster provides the ability to speed up the playback up to 10x. This is a very effective solution for demonstrations and tutorials where you need to compress the showcase of certain operations to a fraction of their original time.
Embeddable Player Widget
ScreenToaster provides a ready to embed snippet of code to embed instantly any screencast into your blog or web site. Just copy and paste the code and you are done.
Upcoming Additional Features
There are a number of additional cool features coming up inside ScreenToaster including slow-motion, personal profiles, advanced video and audio controls and a lot more. A set of API, a direct video upload facility and the ability to upload to other video sharing sites will be rolled out in the coming weeks and will complement an already solid basic toolset.
Amazingly, all of these features come to you at zero cost. You can start recording screencasts now at absolutely zero cost.
How Does It Work
Working with ScreenToaster is as simple as going to its site, signing up and the clicking on the Record screen button appearing on the home page. Once you do that, ScreenToaster will download a small applet and will request your permission to use it. Then, all you need to know is to press Alt-S to start a video recording. To stop or pause the key combination is the same, so one command is all you need to memorize.
Before starting a screen recording you can open any software you want to demonstrate or showcase or you can navigate to any web page you wish to illustrate. Once you are set and ready you can press the Alt-S shortcut, and after a brief, 5-second visual countdown your screen recording will automatically start.
To pause or stop all you need is to press Alt-S again and a dialog box will pop-up (this may appear on your ScreenToaster page) prompting you to choose whether you want to continue recording or complete and end the recording.
If you decide to stop the recording, ScreenToaster will immediately display the video you have just recorded giving you the opportunity to review it.
Next to the player showcasing your newly recorded video you will also find a few controls allowing you to start a new recording, edit captions, remove audio or video of the newly recorded one, and the options to save / download and to directly upload to YouTube and to ScreenToaster.com.
Short Video Interview with Marco Fucci CEO of ScreenToaster.com
Here is short video conversation with Marco Fucci, CEO and founder of ScreenToaster.com. Marco is based in Paris, France and has been very kind to spend a few minutes explaining why he chose to invest in developing a screencasting tool of this kind, who he thinks are his direct competitors and how ScreeToaster is going to win over them and which business model he is planning to use to make his service sustainable.
- Extreme simplicity and ease of use
This is a winning key strength. Few commands and controls. Next to nothing to configure or set. Everything falling into place without needing to be a geek. This is the way all digital tools will need to become.
- Cross-platform Compatibility
As a Web-based solution, ScreenToaster has all of the advantages of not being tied to anyone specific operating system. Users on Macs, PCs and Linux computers can all use without any difference in the functionalities available the ScreenToaster screen recording platform.
- High-quality Video Recording
The quality of ScreenToaster screen video recordings is impressive and when played back in full screen mode often indistinguishable from a live original. This is vital for screencasters as most of the solutions that have been available until now were not generally suitable for video distribution and almost never provided the ability to watch the screencast in full screen in such high definition.
- No Software to Download or Install
ScreenToaster requires no installation or configuration of dedicated software making it extremely easy for non-technical users to approach this tool and try out its impressive abilities.
- Extra Features
Useful extra features, like webcam integration, recording pause and text captioning are all great additions to an already good screen recording setup like this one. Hats to the product design and engineering team.
- Direct Upload to YouTube
This by itself is a great and extremely useful feature as most any video publisher wants to make his content available on YouTube.
N.B.: Some of the features I have listed above are not yet available to the public at large but will become accessible in the coming days.
Areas for Improvement
While there is little to say to such a useful tool, there is definitely space for improvement in the usability and accessibility of this screencasting service. Most of all, easier control of the start, stop, pause commands, possibly via an always visible mini panel would be useful for those who prefer to hit just one button or a key. One key issue right now for non technical people is understanding what is happening and what to do when they hit Alt-S during a recording. While the cool mini display appearing next to the cursor shows a P, standing for Pause, the non tech-savvy user will not know what to do right there and then. As a matter of fact sHe will likely keep pressing Alt-S a few times, without realizing that to bring to a complete end the recording sHe will need to bring up to the front the ScreenToaster page where a dedicated dialog box provides the option to do so.
- Elapsed Time Counter
A digital display of the elapsed time while recording would be a welcome addition.
- Viewport Control
The resizable and movable frame that allows to capture specific parts of the screen could be made easier to grab, move, resize, going beyond the present standard abilities. Larger frame borders, larger handle / resize buttons could significantly enhance usability for the non tech audience wanting to use this tool effectively. Also welcome would be a small interactive display of the width and height of the area framed in pixels.
- Integration with Heyspread or Tubemogul
Screencasting is definitely a hot and fast growing market, and the surge in personal educational resources will keep boosting this front for a long time to come. Why not partnering then with one of the two powerhouses of online video distribution, Tubemogul and HeySpread to strike a partnership providing screencasting publishers with the option to deliver their screen recording to multiple video sharing sites instead of just one?
- Integrated Annotation Tools
Screencasting is a promising sector mostly because the demand for customized and specialty video learning opportunities is increasing very fast. With a screencast software can be explained, demos can be imparted to distant listeners and training becomes more personal and enjoyable. For all these reasons integrating a small set of really smart mark-up and annotation tools (nothing like what you see around today) could make a further significant positive difference to those considering to use such a tool.
Integrating options to license ScreenToaster-produced screencasts under Creative Commons and Public Domain licenses would be a necessary addition too.
- Support for HD
ScreenToaster can theoretically record HD video quality from your computer screen. Will it offer this option as an official feature that is well integrated with the increasing number of video sharing sites supporting HD video?
ScreenToaster is a winner. It has a fast growing market, a technology that works across platforms and operating systems, the right attitude when it comes to product development, a desire to build a service that is first of all EASY, and a bunch of features that make it very difficult for non-advanced users to resist adopting it.
ScreenToaster is what Jing should have been a long time ago and never was. It is not a free version of Camtasia, nor it pretends to be so. ScreenToaster is the tool, that more than any other one I have seen until now allows you to produce a very good quality screencast with the minimum effort and time.
ScreenToaster surely beats what had recently become my first choice for screencasting work on the Mac: ScreenFlow. ScreenToaster, which is free, offers key advanced features like partial screen recording, pausing, uploading to YouTube or adding text captions, which are not even available in what until yesterday was among the best paid screencasting solutions on the Mac.
On the PC side I have Camtasia, a wonderful, pro-level solution. But will I be wanting to go for all the extra features and precision control that Camtasia offers me (at a price), when in many cases I really only need a quality recording that looks good and maximum simplicity of use? Techsmith may have to look into answering this one before its Camtasia sales start to drop rapidly.
And again, more than anything else ScreenToaster is by far the simplest and most immediate screncasting tool to use out there.
If you want to know what I think, here it is: ScreenToaster is going to toast them all. Seriously.
Originally written by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on January 14th, 2009 as "Web-Based Screencasting Service Integrates High-Quality Screen Recording And Online Video Distribution: ScreenToaster Is Here".
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