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Guide to creating your first screencast

These days it feels like most websites have an introductory video on their homepage. So, I figured it was time for me to create a short screencast to describe what Hoshon is and how it works. But, since I had never made a screencast before there were a lot of things that I needed to figure out. In this post, I’m sharing what I learned so that you’ll be able to get up and running a little faster.

Before you take my word for how it went, here’s the video I made:


To start, I needed to answer a simple question: what do I want people to learn from watching my video? I settled on showing viewers only the most basic information about Hoshon. For me, this meant focusing my video on the key Hoshon workflow to demonstrate the value proposition. While I struggled with leaving interesting features out of the video, at the end of the day, objectively I know that shorter videos are more effective.

This introductory video is meant to earn the right to show the viewers additional features during a demo call or after they sign up.

Knowing what I wanted to convey was helpful, but next I needed to decide how I wanted to share it. Some videos seem to offer a laundry list of features and are trying to compete on “specs”. Others seem to focus on the high level value proposition without giving many specifics or actual screenshots. I decided to take the approach of telling the story of a hypothetical user. This may not be right for every circumstance, but it seems to be working well for me.

I chose to tell my story using characters from Winnie the Pooh because the cast of characters lent themselves to humor and most people would already be familiar with them. Whether you choose Winnie the Pooh, Star Wars, or Harry Potter, choosing a set of familiar fictional characters helps people connect with the story you’re telling. This allows you to show the process of your product actually working, instead of telling users how your product works. Even if the substantive content is the same, showing viewers something is more powerful than telling them the same thing.

After deciding to use a story to introduce users to Hoshon, I made a list of what I wanted to show and then tried to cut it in half to keep my video short. It was frustrating to leave off seemingly important information, but I kept reminding myself that I’m competing for limited time/attention. My goal is to get viewers interested in Hoshon, so that I would have the opportunity to explain more in the future, not to explain everything. Once I decided on what to include, I wrote a script that integrated my core content with Winnie the Pooh.

To get more concrete, a minute of voiceover is roughly equivalent to one page of prose that is triple spaced. This means that in effect you will have 500 words to communicate everything. But of those 500 words, you need to reserve some for platitudes and transitions, and some to remind people of what you have already told them earlier in the video. So in essence, you should try to boil you message down to 250 words.


Start your video with an introduction of who you are and a single sentence describing what you are going to demonstrate. Think of this as your thesis sentence; viewers need context on what they are about see. Your thesis needs to clearly communicate your key value proposition. Try to keep this as simple as possible. No matter how technical your product is, you should be able to explain it to a middle schooler.

For Hoshon, I wanted to make it clear that users can manage repeatable processes using standardized checklists. This means that each time users create a checklist for a given task, they are going to have the exact same steps.

Next, I wanted to highlight how Hoshon improves consistency and accountability. Then, I worked backwards and folded all of that information into my demo checklist.

After you’ve written out exactly what you want to say, show it to a friend to be sure it makes sense to someone who’s not thinking much about your product.

Lastly, practice voicing over your demo with the script so that you don’t stumble over your words. It’s hard to talk and give a demo at the same time!


Before recording this video I had used QuickTime to record my screen, but I wanted to restrict the recording to just the web browser. Then I stumbled across this great blog post.

I’m glad I found out about OBS; it does exactly what I need and, as a bonus, it’s open source. There are other good tools like ScreenFlow or Camtasia, but OBS gave me all the functionality I was looking for, so that’s what I went with. The main things that you’ll need to do in OBS are: create a scene with the window you want to capture, and set your audio input so that as you speak it peaks around -12dB. I’m using a Blue Yeti microphone. If you can afford it, I’d recommend using a stand alone microphone. People can tell the difference in audio quality.

Post Production

After I recorded the video, I needed to do some editing. While I tried to get through my script in a single pass, I inevitably either stumbled on my words or forgot to move my mouse at the right time. So, for post production, I re-taught myself how to use Adobe Premiere. The big thing I needed from Adobe Premiere that I couldn’t figure out how to do in iMovie was adding annotations over the video (i.e. adding boxes to call attention to certain parts of the screen).

Going through the footage reminded me a lot of my War News Radio days. For example, I cut audio segments before/after breaths so that it’s harder to tell where I cut the footage. It also occurred to me that this may be the reason that a lot of video productions use multiple camera angles. While it’s pretty easy to cut audio in indiscernible ways, cutting video would be pretty tough. But, if you’re changing angles anyway, it’s easier to hide.

I experimented with adding some background music, but generally found it to be distracting. It’s amazing how hard it is to find music that strikes the right mood. In the end I just added some music for an outro. I was looking for a media equivalent of the Noun Project to find music. Is there one? I’d love to be introduced to one, if it exists, since I’m going to be making more videos. I ended up using icon8 and the free music archive, which offer royalty free music. (Edit: Here’s a list of tools that I’ll consider using in the future.)


The last decision regarding my video was about whether to host it on YouTube, Vimeo, or directly on AWS. I ended up choosing to go with Vimeo because it allows me to update videos while keeping the same URL, while also providing a nice looking player and pro features that I can hopefully grow into.


Thanks for reading. Hope you have found this helpful. Writing this up has helped me clarify my thought process for the next time I make a screencast. Would love to see the videos you make. Happy hacking!

Category Tutorial