Quite often it’s far simpler to show something to someone rather than tell them what’s going on, and this is the premise of good screen demos. They can be quick and easy to do, can really illustrate your point and not only fit in with the viewer’s learning style, but also in this digital economy, video is in great demand.
So you’ve been asked to create a demo recording of your new product, that fantastic widget that you’re about to launch? Or you’ve got an issue with the Learning Management System and you need to share exactly what’s going on with the team and stakeholders? Or you have been asked by the L&D team to provide them with a demo that they can pop into one of their latest online training courses? Where do you start? What can tools are available for you to use? What pitfalls do you need to watch out for?
Whoa there, tiger! First you have to understand your objectives. Why are you being asked to do it? What is the expected outcome? When is it required by? Who is the desired audience or viewer? Ensuring you are in on the loop on all of these will ensure you can put together the best possible solution (demo) that fits the requester’s needs. For example, if it’s simply a demo to show a team of five people something is going wrong, you could suggest a WebEx or other videoconference may be a more effective use of everybody’s time, thus redirecting the request and saving everybody a lot of valuable resources. Producing that video demo might not actually be the answer, so always double check the objectives first.
OK now we know we have to go ahead with this, and the demo recording is the ideal solution, what’s available to use? First, your company may have certain restrictions on what you can use, or a suggested product that they know works well, so consult your local team. There are a good number of products out there which can be used, from Adobe Captivate to Camtasia Studio, from Webex (yes, you can record using Webex) to Screenr.com. Of course there are many lesser known, lesser used tools, some of which I have kicked the tyres of, but mostly discarded for one reason or another.
Some of these products are very high value, some have a steep learning curve to learn how to use effectively, but by far the simplest has for a number of years been Screenr, brought to you by the chaps at Articulate. Screenr (free version) was and still is the simplest to use. It basically just does it with no bells and whistles, and limited to five minutes recording duration, which to be honest was just enough for most use cases. No nonsense, and has been the mainstay of my recent work doing recordings. Until, that is, they also brought out a paid version “Screenr Business”. This offered secure storage, 15 minutes recording limit, and a protected collaborative environment which could be branded with your own logo. It became the core of my recent work, with instructional Designers bringing in Subject matter experts on the system to do the recordings and hand them off in system. It was a great tool while it lasted.
Unfortunately, at the end of June, Screenr Business was retired due to its reliance on Java Runtime Environment (JRE ) which is basically no longer supported on most modern browsers. The folks down at Screenr admitted defeat with their business offering and are currently working to see what they can do with Screenr (Free) and are giving it until around November 2015 (according to their helpline).
So where does that leave us? There are others out there, as I have said, but most were plagued with blue screens, freezing, poor quality of image and other such aggravations which would spoil the quality of your output. Then there’s the high ticket price, steep learning curve tools such as Captivate. Or Adobe’s other screen grabbing tool “SnagIt” which has really come along over recent years.
There is however one other tool there that, having kicked the tyres, I was blown away by its features, its collaborative abilities, and the quality of output. ILOS Videos is “ridiculously simple screen recording” (their words not mine). For a start you can pause and resume your recording during mid flow. You can also perform simple edits to your completed recording for example to trim off the top and tail or to blur out certain sections of the screen. Additionally you can also record your webcam at the same time as doing the screen demo – if you really want to show the world what you look like while your doing your recording.
Not only that but you get a whole back end with it too, you can assign videos to “learners” to watch, you can review user stats to see which videos are being watched. You can playlist videos into sensible groups and you can invite “learners” or other “trainers” to come on in and work in your account. ILOS Videos has really come in where Screenr Business left off with the added bonus of a boatload of additional key features. Finally though, and this was the most important factor for most of my customers, ILOS Videos allows unlimited duration recording. It came up many times in customer requests, and ILOS Videos definitely now fills that gap.