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Recording software guide: Create training videos people will love

In a previous article, I discussed the importance of a change management and training program to any IT project. To deliver excellent training, you need the right gear to create the content. That is why I wrote another article that focuses on what hardware you need to record the audio. In this article, I show you how to set up all the software to create the content on your computer.

Note: I make some software recommendations in this article, and they are mine alone. Neither TechGenix nor I am being paid by any companies I mention.

Training software requirements

Before you sit down to create online training, you need to prepare yourself with the right software and tools. Here are the basics you will need:

  • Screen and audio recording software.
  • Audio and video editing software.
  • Potentially, you need software to modify your computer's resolution.
  • Software to deliver your training.

Screen and audio recording software

This article focuses on recording training videos for computer-based software, so naturally my focus is to help you record the applications running on your computer. There are a number of products that allow you to do this. Actually, there are a lot of products that let you do this.

If your company uses WebEx, GoToMeeting, or other web-meeting software, you can record the session and play it back. I do not recommend you use this option because these software products record your screen as-is and do not offer any sort of editing capabilities. For example, maybe you want to remove the opening part of the video where you coughed or add an arrow overlay to draw the viewer's attention.

I suggest you find a software product that allows you to record the screen and has a video and audio editor built in. These software products have a wealth of features, like:

  • Recording the screen while simultaneously recording the audio.
  • Edit the recording to remove noises and adjust audio volumes.
  • Combine multiple recordings.
  • Add arrows, text, and other media to highlight an area of the screen.
  • Add closed captions for people who are hard of hearing.
  • Create quizzes to test your student's knowledge.

This is just a small list of what an eLearning creation tool can do. There are many products out there, but the most popular are:

If you look online for other screen recording or eLearning products, you will find many, but Camtasia and Captivate are the most widely used. I personally use Camtasia because most of my clients and business partners also use that product, making it much easier to share files.

If you find another product, make sure it offers Mac and Windows support. This way, you can record your training on the two most popular desktop operating systems.

Screen resolutions

Before you record your first training course, you need to prepare your computer. All of today's video is recorded at at 16:9 aspect ratio. This ratio is what sites like YouTube and Vimeo use and will display best on computers, phones, iPads, and most any other device.

You also want to record the screen at 720p or 1080p. 720p is usually more than enough for most screen recordings, but 1080p is becoming more and more popular. Keep in mind, the software will record your screen at 30fps (frames per second), so the files get exponentially larger as you increase the screen resolution. Here are the basic screen recording options you should use:

  • To record at 720p (usually quite good for screen recordings): 1280 pixels x 720 pixels.
  • To record at 1080p (very good quality): 1920 pixels x 1280 pixels.
  • Here is a good article if you want to learn more about screen resolutions.

Screen resolution software

Unfortunately, not all computers are created equal, and may not let you change your screen to the required resolution. For example, these are the options on my Windows computer. They are close to  but not exactly 720p or 1080p:

The screen resolutions for my Mac only allow me to choose a few options, but none are 720p or 1080p:

Recording resolution vs. recording area

At first, I was very frustrated with the fact I could not set the resolution of my Mac or Windows PC to an exact 720p or 1080p. But actually this is not always a bad thing.

Part of creating a professional training video is to focus the user on the application you are training them on. A best practice is to remove the toolbars, menus, and any other superfluous screen elements. That is why products like Camtasia offer a custom resolution where it will only record within a certain space on your computer.

As you can see in the image below, my computer is not set to a resolution of 1280 x 720, but Camtasia will only record a 1280 x 720 rectangular space. Since this eLearning course teaches PowerPoint, I just modify the PowerPoint window so it fits within the recording space.

Custom resolution software

In the previous example, I resized PowerPoint so it fit within a particular space on my screen. Personally, I like to be a little more exact within my windows, so there is a free product I use called AutoSizer. This only works on Windows, but it allows you to specify the exact pixel size for a window.

While I have never downloaded any software to force a specific resolution on my Windows computer, I have followed the steps found in this article. I have heard the software mentioned in this article does a good job, but since I have not used it, I cannot recommend its use.

For the Mac I use QuickRes to set the resolution on my computer. Unlike AutoSizer, this is not a free product, but it is relatively inexpensive and gives you the features you need. Tip: Use the Show Stretched Sizes option in the QuickRes Advanced Preferences window to show options for the 16:9 aspect ratios.

Audio editing software

For the most part, you will be able to edit your audio without many problems using Camtasia or Captivate. Unfortunately, we do not always get ideal situations from our recordings. For example, there may be loud noises in the background or a strong echo in the location you are recording. You can avoid this with a professional vocal microphone, but sometimes the audio just needs more work.

If you need to adjust the audio, I recommend the following two products:

  • Audacity is an open-source product with a wealth of features.
  • Adobe Audition, even though at first the user interface might seem quite daunting. If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud account, you might get Audition as part of that suite, so check first before you make a purchase.

Sharing your training

If you want to share your training videos, there are a number of ways you can do this. First, you might want to purchase a professional eLearning software package like Adobe Captivate Prime. Of course if you are selling your eLearning outside your company, then you could find a company to sell your software for you like GoSkills.com or Lynda.com (now part of LinkedIn Learning). You could also sell your training on any number of websites like udemy.com.

If you work for a company and they do not have a LMS (learning management system), that is okay because you still have some options.

If your company has Microsoft SharePoint, then you could just upload the videos to a document library and provide links for each video. If your company uses Microsoft Office 365, then you can upload the videos to Office 365 Videos, where you can create a Channel for your training and upload the videos there.

If you just have a shared drive on your network, that will work, too. You can upload the final videos to the shared folder (I suggest you number the filenames so they show in the correct order), and then create a Microsoft Word document that explains each video and links to them.

Photo credit: Adobe

Bill Raymond

Bill Raymond is a Microsoft MVP. As a contributor to TechGenix, he focuses on topics that directly affect IT, with a focus on cloud and hybrid cloud solutions.

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