After making quite a few videos, I have figured out a pretty fast process for making screencast-style video tutorials. I wanted to share my process in case anyone else is interested in making video tutorials and wants some tips on how to get started.
I use a Mac to record and edit my videos so most of the information in the post is specific to using a Mac.
I use the built in Screen Recorder on macOS to record all of my videos. Starting with macOs Mojave, macOs added built in screen recording support. On Mojave, you can start the recording with Command-Shift-5.
I use iMovie to edit videos. iMovie is free and pretty simple to use. At this point, I do very basic editing and iMovie has all the features I need.
I upload my videos to YouTube so I need to have a thumbnail for each video. I use Sketch to make my thumbnails. Sketch is a design platform that makes it straightforward to create design assets. I already had a license for Sketch so that is why I chose this software. If you already have another image generation tool you like, definitely stick with that.
Note: YouTube will try to generate a thumbnail from a section of your video automatically. Depending on the type of video you are making, the auto-generated image might be great and you will be able to skip creating your own thumbnails.
For my first few videos I used the built in microphone on my laptop to record the audio for my videos. I think it worked pretty well. If you are just getting started this is a totally viable option.
If you are planning on continuing to make videos, it might be worth it for you to purchase a standalone microphone. I ended up buying a Blue Yeti mic and a pop filter to record with. Overall, this mic has worked fine for my purposes and I haven’t really noticed too many problems. It does pick up a lot of noise around my house though, so I now record videos at night when my house is quiet in order to get around that issue.
A few weeks after I purchased this mic, Matt Stauffer wrote an awesome blog post with recommendations on audio setup for recording videos (plus information on webcams and lighting). Matt recommends NOT buying a Blue Yeti mic and his reasoning is very compelling. If I were to do this over again, I would definitely choose one of the options Matt lists in his post instead of the Yeti.
Phase 1: Preparation
I start by writing a script for my video. Originally, I was just writing outlines for videos but I found that my “ummm” count was a lot higher in a video if I didn’t have a real script.
I try to remember to clean off my computer desktop because it is always way too cluttered. I also like to change my desktop background to an image with my branding because I usually show the desktop during the introduction to a video.
After my desktop is cleaned up, I open all of the applications I want to include in my recording and adjust their window size. One problem I ran into with the built in screen recording on Mac is that iMovie clipped off the top few pixels of the screen. I tried researching how to fix this problem but didn’t find any settings to change. My workaround was to make several different test recordings of apps open with different screen sizes. I would then bring these clips into iMovie, crop the clips, and choose whichever size fit best after cropping.
On my MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch) with increased scaling enabled the size that worked well was 1650×950 pixels. I recommend playing around with this until you get the right size for your monitor and screen resolution.
After I have my computer ready I record a quick test video. I use this video to make sure that my mic is on and that I have sized all of my application windows correctly to fit in the video frame.
When you are setting up the recording you need to:
- Choose which microphone to use. In my case, that means selecting the Blue Yeti mic.
- Select if you want to record the entire screen or just a selected portion. I always choose to record the entire screen.
- If you have multiple displays you will need to pick which display to record.
Script Run Through
Right before I am ready to film I read my script out loud all the way through 2-3 times. Reading through the script keeps the content fresh in my mind. I get less lost while recording after doing a readthrough of the script. It also gives me one last chance to catch anything that sounds weird when I read it out loud.
After all of that prep, I am ready to record.
Phase 2: Recording
The recording process is pretty straightforward once you have everything set up the way you like it.
I have a few things that I do which help me while I am recording:
- Keep the script somewhere I can read it while I record the video.
- Wait a few seconds after hitting the record button before I start talking or trying to film anything. If I start talking right after hitting the record button the first word or two seems to get cut off.
- Stop talking when I get tongue tied or lost. It is much faster when you are editing to cut out sections where you aren’t talking than when you are. Just like at the beginning of the recording, when you make a mistake pause before starting that section over.
Phase 3: Editing With iMovie
Creating a New Project
In order to edit your video you will need to create a new project in iMovie.
Click on the `Create New` box and select the Movie option.
Importing Your Clips Into iMovie
Drag and drop the video clips you recorded into the bottom half of the iMovie window
Crop Your Video
I found that I needed to crop my videos because of the cut off pixel issue I described earlier. You want to make sure that you crop your video now before splitting it into more clips to avoid repeating your work.
To crop the video you need to:
- Select the video clip you want to crop
- Press the Crop button in the top right corner
- For Style of crop, choose `Crop to Fill`
- Move the highlighted section around until you have selected the area you want to include in your video
- Click on the checkmark button
Editing Your Video
Currently, my main form of editing is simply removing sections of the video that I don’t want included in the final product.
To remove sections from your video:
- Click or drag the cursor to the start of the time window you want to delete
- Go to Modify -> Split Clip. This should split your video into two clips
- Click or drag the cursor to the end of the time window you want to delete
- Go to Modify -> Split Clip.
- Click on the clip you want to delete and press the Delete button
One method I use to spot sections that I need to remove is to look for quiet sections in the audio waveform of the video clip. If there is not any noise happening in those sections, it indicates to me that I was pausing to gather my thoughts and the content isn’t needed.
Exporting Your Video
After you have finished editing you are ready to export your video.
Click on File -> Share -> File to export your video. The video will get saved in mp4 format which you can upload to YouTube.
Phase 4: Creating Other Assets Needed For YouTube
In addition to the actual video, you will also need a thumbnail and a description.
Writing a description for the video is pretty straightforward. I take my script and turn it into an outline. This outline becomes the description for the video.
I use Sketch to create the thumbnails for my video but you could use any sort of design software that you like. The image size I ended up going with was 1280 x 720. From my experience, this size looks good on both mobile and desktop. If you are going to make a series of videos, I recommend creating a simple design that you can add individual touches to for each video. I chose a background to use on all of my thumbnails and then I simply added the title of the video to the thumbnail to make them unique.
Phase 5: Upload to YouTube
Assuming you already have a YouTube account, the process for publishing your video is very straightforward:
- Go to YouTube Studio
- Click on Create Video
- YouTube will walk you through the process of uploading and publishing your video. You will need the assets from phase 4 of this process
I hope that this post was helpful to you and that it inspires you to create your own videos!