Screencasting strategies

Composing the audio narration and synchronizing it with the video is, for me, the hardest part of the job. If you have prior experience with voice recording--I didn't--that should help. But even so you're likely to find that syncing your voice with the action onscreen is a real challenge.

For short unedited scenes, you can do multiple takes until you get it right, or as close to right as is possible. For longer productions, though, I've adopted a very different work style. Initially I don't even try to narrate the scenes, I just capture them as video from which I trim all the fat. Then I dictate the audio for each scene in short segments. I save these sound clips in files, load them into the video editor, and arrange them to coincide with the onscreen action.

What happens next is a kind of two-way negotiation between the video and audio tracks. In some cases I'll extend a frame of video to cover a crucial bit of narration. In other cases I'll rerecord a snippet of audio so that it covers some crucial action onscreen. It's tedious to trade files between Audacity and a video editor, and that's one reason I'm investigating more robust video editors with fully-integrated audio editing. But the shoestring approach is the only one I've used so far, and clearly it's viable. [Full story at O'Reilly Network]

Yesterday I gave a talk on the intersection of blogging and journalism -- in particular, the kind of IT journalism practiced by magazines such as InfoWorld. I showed one of my more highly-produced screencasts, and talked a bit about the process described in this column. What I didn't mention, but should have, is how this medium is being used on the other side of the journalistic fence. For example, the other day I heard from John McGuire, CTO of Magoo Software, whose software -- according to the this overview -- "combines XML Messaging, Editing and Scripting capability to provide a graphical client application which can be used to easily integrate user tasks into business processes based on XML and Web Services." Sounds intriguing, but what does that actually mean? This screencast helps make the abstractions real.

It doesn't answer all my questions, but it does help me to ask better questions than I otherwise could have. I made this same point in a different context yesterday. I'd recently listened to this ITConversations show in which Scott Mace interviews Peter Yared of ActiveGrid. Because Peter is doing a good job of articulating ActiveGrid's technical agenda on his blog, Scott came well-prepared and was able to take the interview farther and deeper than he otherwise could have. The resulting podcast helps prepare me to explore the technology in even more depth, as would a screencast of ActiveGrid's visual programming tool.

When all the players are bloggers, podcasters, and screencasters, the game can be taken to a whole new level.

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