Getting an audience to see what you’re seeing is ideal for photographers, videographers, trainers/instructors, and technical communicators. This is especially true for a society that has a “just show me” response to learning new things, as compared to “just explain it to me.” Screen capture software can take different forms, whether it’s capturing a static screen shot or recording movements (e.g., clicking, typing) and audio being performed on a computer. Jing has been my go-to screen capture software for many years, and for static screen captures, it’s still my favorite. But, Screencast-o-Matic is my new love for video recordings of my screen. Jing, Camtasia, and Snag-It all have quality issues with recordings; the text is sometime blurry or pixelated, which is frustrating for an audience who isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be seeing. For the record, this post is not my first encounter with Screencast-o-matic. I had looked at it several years ago and found it lacking, though functional, but dismissed it for Jing/Camtasia. Screencast-o-matic’s “new” look and functionality is a great improvement.
Goal: quality screen recordings for longer than five minutes
- No need to sign up or login to start recording your screen. At this point, I haven’t see the value of signing up since I won’t store my videos to their site.
- Records the computer screen or webcam view and microphone recording; for the pay version, you can record audio from the computer speakers, which makes it a good option for recording Google Hangout sessions or other video conferencing that doesn’t include a recording option.
- 15-minute recording length, as compared the the five-minute limit for Jing. You can record longer versions with the Pro Recorder (pay), but you’re limited to 15-minutes if you’re uploading it to their cloud.
- Recording can be downloaded to PC, or uploaded to YouTube of Sceencast-o-Matic cloud (i.e., hosting).
- Clear (video) screen captures, even when the screen is moving.
- Tutorials are available, though I didn’t review any of them since you can pretty much figure out what to do for simple screen captures
- Unless you download the software, it runs from your Internet browser, yet records to your computer. There are two benefits here. 1) You have access to the most recent version of the software without further downloads/updates. 2) Your video is not saved to a cloud unless you want to; so, there isn’t public access to the recording unless you upload it yourself to a public area.
- A yellow circle rings the mouse pointer so that it’s easier to follow when watching the recording. (See first sample below.)
- If you don’t catch the enable/allow Java screen quick enough, the recorder won’t launch and you’ll see the link to download the software instead. If you catch the Java accept screen, though, you can click the box to not ask for permission in the future. I think that if you have a Mac, you’ll need to download the software as the Internet version wont’ work.
- “Screencast-o-matic” sounds like something Calvin and Hobbes would think up. Okay, not really a bad thing, but it’s difficult to sell the concept to peers and managers with a straight face.
- When making several recordings, and exiting the recorder each time, you have to click back the the website’s Home page to find the Record Screen button again. Again, not a big deal.
- There is a watermark on all the recordings done with the free recorder. That said, it’s not obnoxious, as I’ve seen with other free software.
- If you upload the video to their cloud, then there will be ads on the screen. Since I can save the file and upload it to YouTube, then I don’t have an issue with this. The free hosting plan is limited to a 15-minute upload, so even if you have the Pro Recorder (pay) version of the software, you’d need to invest in their Basic hosting plan for $96/year to get 2-hour recordings uploaded to their cloud.
- No screenshot option for the free version.
- No video editing abilities for the free version; you would need to save the video file and use a different tool to edit the video (e.g., Camtasia, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Movie Maker, etc.)
Insider View: This tool is a great option for those instructors who like to give audio and visual feedback when grading. You can pull up the student’s assignment, and walk through your feedback while using the recording option. The challenge might be making sure students have a video player that will open the recording if you email or otherwise send them the recording. A two-minute recording is about 10MB, which is below the maximum set for most email providers (25MB). If providing video feedback is your thing, you may want to check out an article penned by a KU Writing Center tutor with great experience with technology and reaching virtual students: “Top Three Tips for Video Reviews.” I have not tried this option for feedback, but as I gain confidence with recording unscripted videos, I’m strongly considering providing this option for my online students.
Insider View for Online Teaching: Much of what I do with digital media is a means to reach bridge the cyberspace gap I have with my students. In my classroom, I post an announcement for each unit and give a list of what’s due in the unit, along with tips for being successful in the unit. Previously, I had just posted a graphic, which I thought was informative and visual appealing. Recently, I started to wonder if there was more I could do. I tried Fotobabble, but I was experiencing technical issues as of late. So, Screencast-o-Matic is a great option to show the graphic and provide audio narrative for more insights. I’m not sure if my students listen to the audio, but the option is there and it doesn’t impact the actual viewing of the graphic since the video is only of the graphic.
Final Thoughts: I’m really considering the $15/year in order to record my Google Hangout meetings (and the like). I dislike paying for software on an annual basis, especially when the software overlaps with other software I already have. But, I’m happy with the quality and features from Screencast-o-Matic. As seen in my Drawbacks above, there isn’t anything that gave me a headache or great frustration. I will continue to rely on the free version until I convince myself to part with $15 for more software.
Samples: Both samples were recorded with the free version, and then uploaded to YouTube. The first sample is meant as a sample assignment for tech writing students who need to make a digital media component to go along with a text-based tutorial they’re writing. The second sample is what I mentioned in the Insider View for Online Teaching section above.