Great Ideas Start Here

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by: Christine Swartzendruber, Chief Technology Officer

When we bring on a new client, we spend time training them to use our apps, and they pick it up pretty quickly. Every once in a while they have a question about how to do something specific. We knew video training had become pretty popular, so we decided to give it a try. We’re a bunch of software engineers and marketing professionals, with no experience in video production. We had to figure out how we were going to create high quality videos our customers would love.


We’ve actually been at this for about a year now. We‘ve had a chance to try a few different tools and really perfect the process. We have finally come to the point where we have exactly the right tools for us, and so I wanted to share all that information with you. We don’t receive any compensation from any of these companies for recommending them. As a matter of fact they don’t even know how much we love them.


1.  The first thing you’ll need is a Screen-Casting tool. We actually got a subscription to some very expensive software when we first began. We later learned from a friend who edits media professionally, that the best out there is Screencast-O-Matic, . It’s actually pretty inexpensive, but much easier to use and the quality is comparable to the more expensive alternatives. It records audio at a higher gain than most of the others we tried, so the sound quality is amazing. I love using it, I can’t imagine using anything else now.

2.  A Video Editor - Screencast-O-Matic comes with an editing interface. You could probably just use it and produce pretty good videos. If you’re looking for something more, there are a few different ones that work well. I believe the best, by far, is iMovie, but you need a Mac for that. For PC a great alternative is iSkysoft, . It’s pretty much iMovie for PCs.

We use Adobe Premiere Pro. This is a very expensive and complicated choice, but we already purchased the entire Adobe suite and decided to use it. We like it because our creative staff is already proficient with Adobe products, so this was an easy transition. I wouldn’t recommend Premiere Pro for anyone who isn’t already an intermediate to advanced user. It can be very complicated and you really wouldn’t need something this powerful for something like screen- casting.

3.  An Audio Editor – Half of us use Audacity, , the other half uses GarageBand for Windows,  . Both are really great. They are also both free. I can’t imagine paying for an audio editor, because I don’t know how you could get any better than these two. They are packed with everything you could ever need.

4.  A pretty high quality microphone. When we first started, we used pretty inexpensive microphones. The sound had an echo and picked up a lot of background noise. Our creative director decided to try a headset microphone. It picked up every sound he made, and added it to the audio. We spent a lot of time editing out junk before publishing.

Recently we got smart and did a lot of research on microphones. We found that the best, by far, is the “Yeti” by Blue, . It’s pretty big and sits on your desk like you’re on a radio program, but I love it. The quality is very high, professional grade. We rarely have to edit our audio anymore. It’s pricey for a microphone, around $150, but worth every penny.

5.  Software for Screen Capture and Image Editing. We use HTML5 for displaying our videos, so we like to create “posters”, the initial image you see before playing the video. We also use screenshots in our videos and add design elements. Windows really has you covered on taking screen shots with their built in “Snipping Tool”. It’s as good as any products you would pay for. For editing and creating elements, we use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. We have a creative staff, so this was the obvious choice for us.

I personally took a class on using these tools, since I participate in the design process for many of my own websites and apps. They can be pretty difficult to use if you don’t have experience with them. An inexpensive and fairly simpler alternative is GIMP, . It has less tools available, but you probably won’t need any of them anyway. I think it’s free or at least very inexpensive.

6.  A Video Compression Tool. This is actually very important. You won’t want to post your video, uncompressed out to a web interface unless you use YouTube and embed your videos, then they do it for you. We’ve tried a few expensive tools, but ended up finding that the best for us was Handbrake, . It’s free, and very powerful. It takes a little time to understand the settings and the best ways to compress, but we’ve come up with the right formula for us.

7.  A place to store and launch your videos. Obviously you can just use YouTube and embed the videos wherever you need them. We’re a cloud software company so we built a media server to work with our web server. We can feed video through it seamlessly to any of our sites or apps. If you use a cloud computing infrastructure like Azure or Amazon, they have service built in that you can use. This is a premiere benefit of using cloud computing.

It’s funny but I honestly believe most of the best tools are the free or very inexpensive ones. I’m sure there are lots of different ways to product high quality videos for the web, but this is this is the best way for us. You can use our process or modify it for your own needs. I just wanted to provide a starting point for anyone who just needed a little help getting started.