Screencast Video Recording: Definition + Use Cases

Written by
Brandon Copple
min read

Showing your coworkers how to do something on a Zoom call, presenting a slide deck, remote-reviewing a doc together — sharing what’s on your screen is as much a part of modern life as smart phones and robot dentists.

But if you can record what’s on your screen, you can turn that one-time thing into a reusable resource — for feedback, training, or even as a replacement for email. Come along with us as we walk you through using screen recording software to turn an idea or presentation into an easily accessible video with relatively little effort.

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What is a screencast recording?

It's not complicated: a screencast recording captures the video and audio activity happening on your computer screen.  

How to use a screencast recording

Basically, if you can do it on a computer, you can make a screen recording of it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Lead a webinar. The hard work of creating and hosting a webinar pays you back many times over when you record it and never have to present it again because you recorded it. And you can edit out all the times you stumbled while speaking, or cut the parts that you later realized were unnecessary.
  • Make a how-to video. Whether you’ve got an instructional YouTube channel or you just need to teach a new hire how to use company software, a recording of your screen can make everything easier. Screencasts are a great vehicle for instructional videos: They allow you to narrate a skill or technique on the computer as you do it so that the viewers can easily follow along. And by sending them a recorded version you allow them to watch it on their own time — and save yourself the hell of trying to coordinate calendars.
  • Send a nuanced message. The problem with email and text messaging has always been that you can’t tell a person’s tone. If you’re in a hurry writing an email, the person reading it might think you’re mad at them, or take offense at your perceived discourtesy. With a screen recording, with you talking on camera while you show them something on screen, they can see your face, read your body language, and get what you’re saying without emotional confusion.
  • Record a class session or lecture. A lot of educational resources are now available to students online. Sharing a lecture using a screen recording means that students and watch and learn on their own schedule and at their own pace. It also allows the instructor to spend class time on more interactive discussions.
  • Give a sales pitch you can use again and again. As you give your pitch over and over, it might start to get stale — especially if you’re doing from your living room in front of a computer. You can preserve the razzle-dazzle by recording it while it’s fresh, and before you've lost interest in it, and then sending it to prospective customers as needed.
  • Demo a product or technique. If you’ve built a digital product of your own, a screencast recording makes it easy to show how it works in real-time. Rather than explaining your product’s features, you can show them in action so potential customers can see how they actually work.

How to make a screencast

Here’s how to use screen capture to make a presentation you’ll actually want to show people:

  1. Write a script and practice it. A script helps you organize and focus your ideas while also ensuring a smoother presentation. Winging it rarely works, so practice your main points with a run-through before you start recording. Self-promotional note: if you're recording in Descript, you'll be able to fix any mistakes easily, in moments, so there's no need to kill yourself trying to get the perfect take.
  2. Open up your screencast recorder of choice. Of course we think Descript is the easiest, most powerful way to record your screen. What else would we say? It’ll even make an automatic transcript that makes it easy to include subtitles on your final video.
  3. Get your materials in order. Before you start recording, keep in mind that if you’re doing a full-screen recording, viewers will be able to see everything. So close any irrelevant/private/humiliating tabs and messaging apps, turn off all notifications, and queue up any slides or examples you’ll need.
  4. Start your recording. Game time. If you’re using Descript, just click the D at the top of your screen. The default option provides you with a webcam view of yourself in the corner so people know who’s speaking; you can set the size and shape of your face-window, or turn it off by disabling your webcam in the dropdown menu. Select the part of the screen you want to record (or just press space bar to record the whole thing) and go.
  5. Finish your session and edit. If you’re using Descript, when you stop the recording by pressing the stop button on the side of the screen, we'll open a new browser window with your recording and an auto-generated transcript. You'll get a prompt to remove all the "ums," "uhs," and other filler words — click Remove to vanquish them all at once. Then just edit the text to make changes to your video. Or open the project in Descript to add audio filters to clean up the sound, put some music under your voiceover, or add additional elements like title cards and transitions.
  6. Share it far and wide. Once you’re happy with your final recording, you can hit Publish to get a link you can use to share your project with anybody. Or export it as an MP4 file.

4 tips to level up your screencast

Whether this is your first rodeo or you’re a seasoned creator who just wants to up their game, here are some ways you can take your screencast up a notch:

  • Use external recording gear. No offense to your computer’s built-in microphone, but you can probably get better sound — and less background noise — by using an external mic. The same goes for your built-in webcam — you can get a better-quality picture if you use a high-definition external camera. The more professional your setup, the more professional you’ll look.
  • Focus on the details. Since your screen is more or less the entirety of the presentation, people will notice everything. Double-check that you’ve closed all those  tabs that reveal how weird you are, and that there’s nothing distracting behind you in the webcam view. Similarly, when you reach the editing stage, make the most of the tools you have. For example, Descript’s Studio Sound tool uses AI to help you eliminate unwanted background noise, which can make a big difference if you’re in an echoey room or using a low-quality microphone.
  • Make your presentation a true multimedia experience. Your video doesn’t have to stay on your screen the whole time. Instead, try integrating technology into the video: Cut to a fun GIF or add a beautiful visualization that clearly lays out what you’re talking about. And use music. There are plenty of royalty-free music tracks that can totally change the vibe of your screencast. Here again, if you're using Descript, adding those things is as easy as dragging and dropping.
  • Practice, practice, practice. If you have audio narration — and you really should — run through your script a few times to make sure you’re speaking slowly and clearly. If you’re doing a demo, go through the steps a few times. If you're using Descript, editing is so fast and easy, you don't need to "practice, practice, practice." You just need to "practice."
Written by
Written by
Brandon Copple

Head of Content at Descript. Former Editor at Groupon, Chicago Sun-Times, and a bunch of other places. Dad. Book reader. Friend to many Matts.

Descript is a collaborative audio/video editor that works like a doc. It includes transcription, a screen recorder, publishing, and some mind-bendingly useful AI tools.
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Brandon Copple

Head of Content at Descript. Former Editor at Groupon, Chicago Sun-Times, and a bunch of other places. Dad. Book reader. Friend to many Matts.

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