What display resolution should you use for screencasting?

[Q&A] “What display resolution should I set before I record my screencast?”

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Question:  “…I am kind of stuck on the resolution issues.  Screenflow uses by default the whole screen.  I need to record Outlook instructions so I maximize outlook to full screen. In my case a 27 inch iMac.  Do I need to switch the resolution of my Mac screen to 1280 x 720 (can be done in preferences).  Or do I just leave it as is and set the canvas size in Screenflow? Or is it something totally different…?”

Answer:  So the question above came up in the members only Q&A forum that accompanies our courses.  The long answer is that there are several ways you can go about accomplishing a final production at 1280 x 720.  But, the short answer is:

1.  Set your screen to 1280 x 720 (or as close to it as possible… some displays won’t have exactly 1280 x 720 as an option, so you might have to choose 1280 x 800, for example).

2. Maximize your subject software (Outlook in your case) so it fills the display.

3. Then, start your screencast recording at full screen. (I actually also prefer to record at full screen whether using ScreenFlow or Camtasia.)

That’s basically it on the recording side.  After you stop the recording and are ready to begin the editing, then:

1. Set your canvas to (exactly) 1280 x 720.

2. Shift-click any CORNER of your video to scale it up proportionally so as to fit the entire canvas.

I included a video above to show what I mean.

Can you do green screen effects in screencasts?

November 24, 2013

Yes, you can.

This video is an abbreviated module from one of the lectures in our Udemy course offerings.  For a limited time, I opened up the unabridged version of it as a free preview in the course page of the Camtasia Studio course.  No need to register or sign up for any newsletters, just click and watch.  (Tip:  You can do the same thing in ScreenFlow for Mac and Camtasia for Mac.)

What does Camtasia or ScreenFlow Offer That Screencast-O-Matic Doesn’t?

What does Camtasia or ScreenFlow offer that Screencast-o-matic Doesn’t? snapshot - facebook question

I see this question — or variations of it — a lot in discussion groups where folks are creating their first online course.  Usually, it’s in context of someone wanting to spend the least amount of money for screencasting/editing software as they create their first online course.  Understandable.

First some helpful references

  • Camtasia Studio (for Windows – $299), Camtasia For Macintosh ($99) and ScreenFlow (for Macintosh – $99) are powerful, multi-featured downloadable software products that let you — in a nutshell — capture, edit and publish video and audio of anything you can display on your computer screen. 
  • Screencast-o-matic ($15/year for a Pro account), is a low cost alternative that you can use directly online with either a PC or Macintosh.

My Response

For my part, in response to the oft-asked question about the main advantages of software like ScreenFlow or Camtasia over Screencast-o-matic:

I think screencast-o-matic (SOM) is actually a pretty good (I daresay even excellent) software if the course objectives (and of its marketing) call for BASIC screen/voice capture with the occasional bubble, box or text callout as an overlay. In fact, at $15/year (for the Pro version), I think it’s actually quite powerful for the price.

At some point though some online content creators (though not all) find the need to differentiate their presentations a little more from the “basic” look and feel.  (And, let’s face it, to differentiate theirs from the run-of-the-mill “death-by-PowerPoint” type presentations.)  So it’s for those folks that I think one of the other tools like Camtasia or ScreenFlow might actually be more cost effective.  (As an aside: Contrary to what some may believe, the learning curve for comparable functions in Camtasia or ScreenFlow isn’t really more steep than that for SOM.) 

Indeed, there are many features that will teeter the scale one way or the other if you were to compare each feature one-by-one.   But one of the key features that I think gives a lot of power to tools like ScreenFlow or Camtasia over SOM is in their capacity for you to have many more LAYERS (“tracks”) in your screencasting project.  This multi-track capability gives you the ability to layer video objects, images and audio clips over your main presentation and with much more flexibility to change different properties for each of those objects independently of any other object.

For example, in addition to a basic PowerPoint and voiceover narration, some folks may want to overlay a music track, a video clip, and/or a video interview that supports the main presentation — these require 3 or 4 layers (or more). In contrast, SOM only gives you one layer.  (Two layers could be argued, but certainly not more than that.)

(Click here to watch free previews from this ScreenFlow course.)
(Click here to watch free previews from our Camtasia Studio course.)

The video above is an excerpt from Lecture #2 in my course, “Beyond PowerPoint: Teach Online Now With ScreenFlow For Mac.” It shows some of the layering and property manipulations (animations) I mentioned that is much more powerfully done in ScreenFlow or Camtasia than in Screencast-o-matic.

Camtasia or ScreenFlow isn’t for everybody

Again, not everybody will need or want all that extra “flair” in their presentations.  In which case, if you’re in that camp, then screencast-o-matic should work just fine — especially if price is a huge factor.