Michael Pick's screencasts on WordPress.tv are, in my opinion, perfect screencasts. They're the best I've seen -- and I'm not just saying this because the video quality is crisp and the audio is rich. Pick blends filmography techniques with screencasting. Instead of the typical screencast that focuses almost entirely on the screen, with a disembodied voice narrating at length around a cursor's boring movement, Pick fills his screencasts with eye candy and motion, moving from visual to visual as he narrates, giving you a conceptual understanding more than a detailed nitty-gritty how-to. His videos are dynamic and engaging. Like a good movie, you forget you're watching a screencast and are entranced by the choreography and motion, the music and narration.
Here's an example.
For more sample videos, see Michael Pick's portfolio. I emailed Pick to find out more info about the toolset he uses to create the videos. He said,
It's a bit of a grab bag: Screenflow (for capture), Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects and Ableton Live are the main apps I use, with occasional Cinema 4D. I think you can get away with using Screenflow (mac) or Camtasia (Windows) for the basics though - the rest are "trimmings."
Some of these applications aren't easy. I downloaded Adobe After Effects today. After about an hour I learned how to do a simple animation using keyframes. Final Cut Pro is a Mac application, as is Screenflow. Ableton Live is an advanced audio manipulation application, what perhaps an audio engineer at a recording house might use. I'm familiar with Camtasia Studio, but it's limited when it comes to dynamic motion. Unless you're recording your screen, you can't make things move in the video. For example, if you have a visual diagram you're using to explain a concept, you're limited to a basic image. You can flip from one image to another, sure, but you can't do what Pick is doing in his videos, with full-blow motion of non-screen objects. I'm hoping this kind of effect is possible in Adobe After Effects. Overall, I've come to the following conclusions about screencasts. Engaging screencasts have the following characteristics:
For more information on Michael Pick, see this interview by Blog Design Studio.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.