6 Great Suggestions For Improving Audio in Your Screencasts

This is very opportune. On the heels of my post yesterday comparing audio quality from a few of the microphones I’ve used over the last year, I then today came across these excellent posts by: Tom Johnson over at the I’d Rather Be Writing blog (What’s the Best Microphone for Screencasting), and this one by Scott Skibell over at the MacScreencasting blog (Audio and Microphone Comparison for Screencasting)

You’ll want to read Tom’s post because of the comprehensive analysis and interactive examples he gives for the effect that additional equipment, such as a mixer and an audio interface, can have on the quality of sound. But, there’s much more; it really is worth a thorough read if you’ve been thinking about those little extra oomphs to take your screencast audio to the next level.

Meanwhile, you’ll want to read Scott’s post because of ideas he gives for different types of microphones you can use for mobility (lapel microphone) and iPhone connectivity. There’s also a tip he gives for the use of a cost effective Radio Shack stereo converter for one of the mono mics he demonstrates. And, you’ll also find Scott to be a charismatic presenter with some personal touches he puts into his screencasts that I think you and I would do well to take a lesson from.

All told: my post yesterday, along with Tom’s and Scott’s articles, all listed above, give a compelling laundry list of 6 accessories to consider for improving your audio:

  • Microphone
  • Mixer
  • Audio Interface (analog-to-digital)
  • Pop filter
  • Acoustic shielding
  • and the role Music can play in screencast audio

[Demo] Do Microphones Matter in Screencasts? Here’s an interactive comparison to help you decide.

Last week I finally unpacked the Yeti.

No, I haven’t solved the mystery of the fabled furry-guy legend.  I’m talking about Blue Microphones’ multi-pattern USB mic of the same name.

Before this investment, I was using Samson’s C01U USB condenser mic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been pretty happy with the Samson.  But I’m on a never ending quest.

I’ve been on a tear lately trying to get better stereo quality with slightly deeper bass tones in my screencasts and online learning development projects.  I found the Samson was a pretty good mic, but it isn’t a stereo mic.

Meanwhile, I’ve known about Blue Microphones for a while via the favorable rep they developed with the Snowball.  It was through poking around on their site checking out the features of the Snowball that I discovered the Yeti model.  I liked it immediately because of its user-selectable stereo patterns (cardioidomnidirectional and bi-directional) and figured it would get me closer to that holy audio grail.



I know it might sound a little obsessive of me, but microphones (as one component in a list of enabling devices) really do make a difference.  As a matter of illustration, I took the liberty of configuring the audio comparison slide above.  Use the buttons on the left to compare the microphones I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last year:

I can comfortably say that I’ve been pretty happy with Blue’s Yeti; I’m comfortable recommending it… but, I fear my quest isn’t complete.

I’m now shopping for a USB I/O mixer and maybe a Reflexion Filter after that.  (I’ll let you know how it goes.  As far as mixers go, I’m eyeballing Numark’s M1USB.  But, if you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear ’em.)

Anyway, check out the demo and let me know which mic you like best.  If any of them strike your fancy, I took the liberty also of including a link to that vendor’s website.  I hope it helps you.  Meanwhile, if you can help me with any  recommendations for an affordable (under $200?) USB I/O mixer, please let me know in the comments below.  

Whatever I end up getting, you can be sure I’ll give it a review in a future blog post.

5 (plus 5 more!) Tools For Creating a Screencast

5 Free Tools

Sarah Kessler over at Mashable posted a nicely succinct piece today about 5 Free Tools For Creating a Screencast.  Included are:

If you’re testing your hand at screencasting, Sarah’s article is a nice list to get started with.

And Here’s 5 More!

From the list above, I might recommend Techsmith’s Jing as one to get started with.  Although, Articulate’s Screenr is pretty decent, as well.

That said, after the screencasting bug bites you, you’ll eventually want to start considering paid versions of screencasting software.  The main reason is because of the flexibility and robustness of editing, zoom/pans, callouts, to say nothing yet about the flexibility they afford in production settings.

For paid versions of screencasting software, I’ve long been had a hard-on (can I say that) for:

And, for the under $100 crowd, there’s:

  • Shinywhitebox’s iShowU family of products.
  • Animoto.com.  This is a nifty little tool that lets you create video slideshows.  It’s worth a looksee if you haven’t checked it out yet.  Prices range from Free to a couple of flavors of subscription plans.
  • and finally, I’d also add CamStudio.  (Not to be confused with Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio listed above.)  This on’e opensource / freeware.

What Else?

But, the field’s always changing.  Do you have any recommendations you think should be on the list above?