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HD Screencast Example

by Tom Johnson on Mar 8, 2009 •
categories: technical-writingscreencasting

Embedding HD video screencasts into a WordPress blog is something I've been trying to figure out. The HD quality is key because it allows me to compress the file into a small space without the video looking fuzzy -- a necessity for screencasts with small text. I also like the idea of showing video content directly where the reader is, rather than displaying the video in a popup or secondary window.

I learned that if you upgrade your space on a WordPress.com blog (not a self-hosted WordPress blog), you can then upload videos using the Add Video button. If you record in a 1280 x 720 px dimension, the uploaded video will be automatically rendered into HD format. You can then grab the embed code for the video and embed it on your self-hosted WordPress blog, changing the width to 640px and the height to 360px, which is what I've done below.

The following video explains a bit about the different files in a WordPress theme. I'm not so much trying to explain this concept as I am demonstrating the HD format for the screencast. Make sure you select the HD On option, since you can't toggle back and forth from Off to On without restarting the video.

If you expand the view to full mode using the expand button in the lower-right corner, you can really see the difference between HD and non-HD. When it's small, the difference isn't that noticeable. Still, either mode is a lot clearer than other non-HD videos compressed to this size.

Youtube is also offering an HQ (for "high quality" -- not quite the same as high definition) option for uploaded videos, so soon this may be a default feature with screencasts. The following is a youtube video that looks fuzzy if you don't select the HQ option. If you expand the video to full size, though, it's not as clear as my expanded WordPress video.

To overcome fuzziness problems, you usually have to use pan and zoom features to magnify content. This makes it more time-consuming to create the video. I realize, though, that the text in my sample HD screencast is pretty tiny and would benefit from some magnification.

What's especially cool is that WordPress has made the HD transcoding engine available for use on your own server. The only catch is that it requires some advanced configuration on your part. Still, you could essentially create HD screencasts behind the firewall for your company.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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