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Making screencasts

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If you are a user of British History Online, you may have noticed a couple of screencasts (video tutorials) that have appeared on the site over the last few weeks.

This is something that we have felt the site could do with for a while, but getting to this point has been a learning process.

Initially we tried using a couple of different free software tools, such as CamStudio. The problem we found was that we were recording the audio and the screen at the same time. This meant that the slightest thing that went wrong (mistyping, a vocal stumble, drilling in the street outside) would ruin the whole take.

This problem was solved by paying for Camtasia, which allowed us to synch separate audio and video tracks (or multiple sections of each). With a good audio recorder (we used the Marantz PMD660, which we use for recording IHR seminars for podcasting) we could ensure that we had a good audio track; that was played back while the screen was being recorded to ensure that everything syched.

Because Camtasia has lots of functions that can be added to a screen recording it’s tempting to overuse them. What we decided from the start was to keep to certain conventions: we circled navigational features in a red line, and we highlighted results in a green rectangle. We also thought that two minutes to introduce a single feature was about the maximum length we would want.

You can judge the results for yourself here and here. More screencasts are planned for the near future, this time introducing key content on the site. If you have any comments please do let us know below or contact us on the British History Online contact page.