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Remember what it was like to capture video off a computer screen before desktop recording software came along?
You'd mount a big, expensive camera on a tripod, point it at the screen and, unless you had tweaked a bunch of settings or loaded special software, you'd get black bars creeping up and down the screen because of a refresh rate mismatch. And once you solved that problem, you still needed to be well versed in editing tools, video-tape transfer and replication.
1990s: Cost of Production and Distribution = Very High
The advent of all-in-one desktop recording software was a minor revolution, because it gave ordinary computer users the means to capture anything they could see on their computer, edit it into a finished production and get it onto a CD-ROM or their Web server.
Now, anyone could be a software trainer—or at least share tips and show off cool stuff that they'd done on their computer.
Just as blogging platforms lit the fuse that rocked the world of online publishing, tools such as Camtasia Studio brought screencasting production to the mainstream. And video-sharing sites (think YouTube and Screencast.com) came along to eliminate distribution costs and hassle. The read/write Web took a step forward.
2000s: Cost of Production and Distribution = Low
Then along came "instant" screencasting tools such as Jing, ScreenToaster and Screenr (see ReadWriteWeb's reviews), which have lowered the barrier even further. The cost of these tools is nothing. And because content uploading and hosting is built right in, the time between idea and posted content has shrunk from hours to seconds. Think it, record it, post a link.
If the all-in-one screen recorders are like blogs, these new apps are like Twitter. And they've birthed a new mode of communication: the casual, disposable micro-screencast.
2010s: Cost of Production and Distribution = 0
Meticulously orchestrated and slickly edited screencast productions will always have their place. But now it's also practical to fire off a quick, informal micro-screencast in the time it takes to jot an email or dial a phone number.
And just as with Twitter, a stripped-down feature set and length limitations can be a benevolent deficit. The author has no time to ramble and no temptation to fiddle around, "improving" something that's good enough. (Anyone who has wasted 15 minutes tweaking the formatting of an unimportant document just because you could, raise your hand!)
On the other hand, simple doesn't mean poorly executed. You don't want the equivalent of typos and grammatical errors in your screencast. So, keep these basic tips in mind and you'll make something worthy of the viewer's time and attention.
Three Tips for Micro-Screencasting Excellence
This is as easy as pausing to collect your thoughts and maybe jotting down on a sticky note three things that you want to communicate. This will help you focus and be succinct.
No one wants to watch you hunt around, looking for the right window or browser tab. A quick dry run goes a long way towards smooth delivery on the first take.
Memorize the hotkey that pauses your recorder (or write it at the top of your sticky note). Use it to stop and regroup if your brain freezes or you start to bumble. It's faster than starting over.
How about you? Are screencasts part of your day-to-day communication? Got a story or tip to share?