Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

What Is A Screencast?

Sponsored Links

If you want to teach someone else how to use your new software or web service there is little that comes close to the effectiveness of a good screencast. A screencast is nothing else that a screen recording accompanied by an audio commentary done by the screencaster explaining what is happening on the screen as it happens.

Photo credit: Udell - O'Reilly Media

A screencast has several advantages over traditional software demos and complex recorded simulations. The fact that a person can sit down, press the record button and start recording the actions he needs to take to configure a certain application or web service, while self-narrating his actions does open up tremendous didactical opportunities for the rapid development of very low-cost and highly effective training, promotional and marketing materials.

To create a screencast one needs screen-recording software, capable of capturing in real-time your mouse movements, clicks and screen activities. The ability to record audio WHILE doing it, and not in a second-pass session, can be for many (especially the non-professionals) a godsend.

As a matter of fact, screencasts containing little hesitations or mistakes are often as or more effective than highly polished and edited one as they convey a spirit of credibility and trust that highly packaged presentations have long lost.

A screencast is therefore a digital movie of where the stage is your computer screen. Nonetheless the name screencast are not "aired" live on the web. They are recorded, eventually edited and then published inside a standard web page or blog post.

If you are interested in learning more about screencasting, here are some useful information about the history, use, application and technology required to create effective screencasts.

Photo credit: White Light Media

The word "screencast" was invented by by the columnist Jon Udell in 2004, who chose it among a list of definitions suggested by the web community. Udell first used the word in an article published on InfoWorld, describing the benefits of using this technique to show how computer applications worked to his readers.

Screencasting has a wide range of uses, which span from educational to entertainment purposes: by recording this kind of "screen movies", people are enabled to create software tutorials and demos and explain the features of a certain product in the most intuitive and effective way.

Moreover, screencasting is an effective mean to humanize the content used in e-learning and to enhance the educational experience of students, by leading video, text and audio onto the same path. Presenting materials in this fashion makes lessons more accessible to a variety of learning styles and engaging, especially for online students.

Photo credit: White Light Media

As Jon Udell himself says in one of his articles:

The screencaster's tools - for video capture, editing, and production of compressed files - have long been used to market software products, and to train people in the use of those products.

What's new is the emergence of a genre of documentary filmmaking that tells stories about software-based cultures like Wikipedia,, and content remixing.

Thus, the idea of screencasting as a sort of emerging movie genre (we might call them "software movies") gives us the evidence that the true revolution does not consist in the recording technique itself but in the social relevance that it is rapidly acquiring.


Photo credit: Digital Inspiration

Wikipedia provides an exhaustive list of tools that can be used to produce a screencast; I am now going to highlight some of the most important ones:

Windows users can take advantage of Windows Media Encoder, the best platform for spontaneous user-initiated recording of screen videos. It is freeware and it is useful if you need to produce screencasts only for other Windows users.

For more professional solutions, Windows users can check out Camtasia Studio, Macromedia Captivate and Demo Builder, which are also available in free trial. A completely free alternative is CamStudio.

For native video capture on the Mac platform, users can utilize SnapZ Pro X, Screenography, Screen Movie Recorder and Display Eater.

Linux users can rely on Demo Recorder, Istanbul and XvidCap.

There is also a consistent amount of cross-platform tools, such as the free Wink, TurboDemo and ScreenRecord.

Recently, it has become possible to create simple screencasts via a web-based tool that requires no download: the free service is called Tapefailure, and it allows you to record a browsing session, then save it, and share it with others. Each recorded session can be played back virtually perfectly through a playback tool. At the moment, nothing from microphone and the keyboard is recorded.


Photo credit: Intrepid

Once you have created a screencast, you can broadcast it in the Flash video format and host it on your own web space. You can use Turbine Video Encoder 2 to publish your video to the Web; this product allows you not only to convert your video to the universal Flash format, and display it through a Flash video players, useful captioning and audio mixing capabilities.

Screencasters can also refer to Project Streamer, an online presentation sharing application whose aim is to simplify online sharing of presentations created by Camtasia Studio software. Project Streamer users can upload, access, and communicate their presentations quickly and easily.

A good solution is also to save your screencasts in video formats (.mp4, .avi, .wmv, .mov) and upload them on a free service such as YouTube or Google Video; this way, you can embed them into your web pages simply by pasting a code. This solution might appeal bloggers who use free blogging services like Wordpress or Blogger and therefore don't have much web space to host them.


Photo credit: De OVL

The Web is filled with useful resources on how to make your own screencast. The most valuable is certainly Jon Udell's blog, along with his "Prime-Time Hypermedia" column on the O'Reilly Network.

In particular, don't miss the following articles by Jon Udell:

Also of interest, my own interview with Jon Udell about Screencasting.

Bill Myers also spreads useful tips on how to create and use screencasts to pull traffic to your web site and provides practical "Top Ten Tips for Creating Effective ScreenCasts".

Take a look at this must-see screencast for educators seeking new ways to reach students.

Pay a visit to this interesting forum where you can learn more about screencasting , find and share screencasts.

Robin Good and Livia Iacolare -
Readers' Comments    
2008-11-04 21:29:30


I took DemoCreator to have a try and fond that it is not bad. I love its editing function. Some thing different between DemoCreator and Camtasia is that: DemoCreator is based on the recording slides, but Camtasia is based on the time line.

2007-11-14 03:01:49


Hi there

Great post ... I thought you might be interested in another free Screencasting program to add to your list ...


Records your desktop and can export it into SWF, CD ...

More details of the samples:


2007-03-02 19:09:11



I created a screencast... showing what a screencast is !



2006-10-31 21:37:23

Pascal Van Hecke


things have changed and a flurry of video hosting services is around now.

Youtube and Google are definitely not the best services for screencasts: see my comparison at:


pascal van hecke

2006-05-07 00:57:09


You can check out over 40 screencasts over at the ScreenCastsOnline website. Many are free to download and there is a new screencast available each week via iTunes

posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, May 2 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Search this site for more with 








    Curated by

    New media explorer
    Communication designer


    POP Newsletter

    Robin Good's Newsletter for Professional Online Publishers  



    Real Time Web Analytics