What’s the Best Way to Capture a Screencast for Best Resolution?

The Best Way to Capture a Screencast for Best Resolution?

In a few words:  Capture at full screen, then scale it down to your output dimensions during the post-production (editing) process.  Or, better yet, capture at full screen, and scale it down during the rendering (publishing) process (i.e., after the editing is done).  There are usually settings in the publishing menus of most screen-capture programs that allow you to define the output dimensions.

Anyway, this question comes up when you're publishing one of your first screencast videos and start thinking (as you should) about where you're going to display the video when you finally produce it.  If you'll be posting it on a blog or other website, then you'll find typical dimensions to be about 640 pixels, or so, wide in the main content area.

Two Scenarios for Screen Capture Dimensions

This question usually revolves around two scenarios:

Scenario 1. Capture a section of your screen that's equal to the output dimensions you ultimately want, say, 640 pixels wide x 480 pixels tall (a fairly standard set of output dimensions), while also manipulating your subject material to fit within the capture box.


Scenario 2. Capture at full screen dimensions, then adjust the dimensions later--either during the editing process or during the publishing process--to match your desired output dimensions.

The video above will show you the workflow for each path, while also showing you a side-by-side comparison of the output quality for each scenario.  Then, you can decide for yourself.

What's Your Method for Capturing Screencasts?

There are indeed many techniques for capturing screen video.  Do you have a preferred technique that has worked well for you?

Ready to learn the Screencasting Wizard's secrets?Learn to teach online. Go beyond PowerPoint: learn to screencast using Camtasia Studio for Windows, Camtasia for Macintosh, or ScreenFlow for Macintosh. Watch the free previews now and read the topics list on our 5-star rated screencasting courses. Click here to learn more.

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About Mel

Mel is the online training architect and screencasting wizard at Kareo, one of Forbes' 2013 list of 100 Most Promising Companies in America. He's also the creator of Digital-Know-How, a training website devoted to developing learners' skills for screencasting and web video course development. Mel is also the chief blogger of ScreencastingWizard.com; Mel's personal blog. The comments and opinions you read here are Mel's and not associated with any other company.
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4 Responses to What’s the Best Way to Capture a Screencast for Best Resolution?

  1. Mel,

    Good tips on capturing a clear resolution.

    A tip I share in my upcoming ScreenFlow Training is to “pre-size” your application or browser to your target output size. For example, if you’re producing a 16:9 HD video, size your browser window to 1280 x 720.

    Another tip is to increase the font size (Cmd+ in most Mac browsers) so text is even more legible.

    You’ll get better, easier to read videos, and they won’t be letterboxed.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Scott. Those are great additions. Thanks for sharing.

      Another one that also comes to mind as I was reading your comment is to increase the size of the mouse cursor. That will help visitors and viewers have an easier time following along.

      I look forward to your Screenflow training course. I’m sure it’s gonna be great.

  2. Hi Mel,
    Great explanation of using screen capture software. Since I still use windows (any Sony vegas), I use Camtasia. I have found that things work best when I choose a consistent size throughout the process. My instructional videos are captured at 800 x600 and thus rendered at the same resolution. If I am recording a webpage, I utilize the “lock application” in the tools menu and then enter my size of 800 x 600. Camtasia will automatically size the web page to fit the green box.

    I also found that creating my intros and xtros in my editing software and saving as an avi file is very efficient. I just import them to the begininng or end of the screen cast and everything looks great!

    Thanks again for a great post!

    btw, what microphone are you using in this video?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Randy,

      Ha ha. As you can tell, I’m a Camtasia nut. ‘Matter of fact, I have both the Mac and PC version of Camtasia since I alternate frequently between both platforms (I’m using Articulate(tm) quite a bit for a major project at the moment and, as you know, that’s a PC-only piece of software).

      For the microphone, I used an old wireless lavalier mic/receiver connected to a Canon Vixia HV40. There’s a picture of it in this post… https://www.melaclaro.com/2010/08/26/testimonial-videos-simple-equipment-simple-questions/

      Unfortunately, I noticed in post- that the battery was dying. It sounds like I started to lose Channel 1 of the audio about 3/4 of the way through.

      For the edit, I simply used the audio from the Canon and sync’d it to the screencast.

      Thanks for taking time to comment and being willing to share your tips! :)

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