Screencasts are video recordings of your computer screen. They are an ideal tool in any computer-related instructional course. In addition to creating instructional videos, screencast videos also help you seek remote assistance by recording your actions as you retrace steps and reproduce a problem.
Not surprisingly, there isn’t any shortage of screencasting tools in Linux. What sets Kazam apart from the rest is its omnipresence across repositories of popular Linux distros, which makes it a breeze to install. Furthermore, the tool has a simple, unintimidating and intuitive user interface that helps new users get started, and offers just the right number of tweakable controls to experienced users.
To get started, install Kazam from your distro’s package manager. In Ubuntu, you can either install from the Ubuntu Software Center, click here, or with the command:
sudo apt-get install kazam
When you launch the app, you’ll notice that in addition to recording screencasts, you can also use the app to take screenshots, by switching to the appropriate tab at the top.
The app has four modes of operations. In the “Fullscreen” mode, Kazam records the complete desktop. This mode is useful for creating tutorials where you need to show the interaction between the desktop manager and the different windows and apps.
There’s also the “Window” mode which records only a particular window and is ideal for recording screencasts of an app. As you get more proficient in making screencasts, you’ll find the “Area” mode to be the most useful. This mode is ideal for including multiple apps in your screencast without recording the full desktop.
Finally, there’s the “All Screens” mode that is meant for recording screencasts across a multi-monitor setup. Unless you have such a setup, this mode will be greyed out.
When you select a mode, Kazam might ask you for additional information related to that particular mode. For example, if you select the “Window” mode, Kazam will prompt you to select the window you want to record.
All modes also share some additional options. You have checkboxes that let you select whether you wish to capture the mouse or not, which is useful for following the cursor in a tutorial.
You can also choose whether you want the app to capture audio while recording the screencast. With Kazam, you can capture audio from a microphone as well as from the speakers, and the software gives you separate options for both.
Once you have made your selection and configured these settings, click the “Capture” button. This will start a countdown to enable you to prep before Kazam starts recording the screencast.
While the screencasting is being recorded, the app minimises to the system tray. When you click on its indicator icon in the system tray, you’ll get a popup menu to either “Pause recording” or “Finish recording”.
When you finish recording the screencast, Kazam will process the video (which might take some time depending on the length of the recording and the processing power of your computer) and present a popup window with a couple of options.
The default option is to save the video. The other option will let you edit the screencast in a video editor. The app can pass the recorded video to one of the four supported video editors: Avidemux, Kdenlive, OpenShot and PiTiVi. Make sure the app you wish to use is installed on your computer.
Kazam ships with default settings that should be ideal for most users. Once you’ve created your first screencast and experienced its ease of use, you can tweak it to produce better screencasts.
To configure kazam, head to “File -> Preferences” and switch to the “Screencast” tab. One of the two most important settings on this page is the framerate setting. The default value here is 15 frames per second which keeps the size of the screencast video reasonable, but doesn’t always produce a very smooth video.
You need to spend some time before choosing the framerate for your screencast and take several things into account. For example, how much area will the screencast cover? How long will it be? What type of application are you screencasting? Does it really need super smooth mouse trails?
In my experience, 30 frames per second often gets the job done.
Another important setting you should look at is the video format for the screencast. If you want to edit the screencast in a video editor, you should go with the RAW file format and then encode it in whichever format you prefer.
If however you wish to publish the screencast as is, you can save it in either the default and the most commonly used MP4 format or the web-friendly WebM format.
Share your screencast
After you’ve created a screencast it’s time to share it with the world. Video sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo are filled with screencasts. You can also host the screencast on your own website. The easiest way to do this is to encode the screencast in the WebM format and then embed it using HTML 5’s
I also discover a lot of screencasts via social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can use these channels to spread the word about your screencast. If you’ve done a screencast about an application, you can also contact its developers who can link to your screencast or even feature it on their website.
Image credit: Screencast Beta Testers