Critique of Tour Screencast

Jay of GibraltarSoftware posted a link to the Business of Software forum asking for feedback on his new Tour screencast.  I figured that a critique here would be useful to other Handbook readers rather than a reply over a BoS.  Over on ProCasts I have critiqued five other screencasts, I’ll be doing those here now as the Handbook is a more suitable place to offer a constructive critique!

Update – the video was recorded over 3 days on Windows using Camtasia 6 via these suggestions with a Shure SM58 mic with some of the work being done in several Adobe programs.  Jay has also added a detailed write-up.

This is Jay’s video:

Overall I thought that the video was very clear.  As mentioned by some others in the BoS forum it could have done with a bit of clarity up front explaining what would be demo’d but I found it compelling enough to watch all the way through.

The Good:

  • Jay opens with a webcam view, with smiles and enthusiasm – this is lovely.  Seeing the founder give a friendly intro makes things instantly more watchable (and we’re more likely to forgive mistakes since we have a more personal connection)
  • Jay’s narration is clear, it moves along at a nice pace and has enthusiasm, it makes it very easy to listen to
  • I’ll say again – the picture-in-picture effect and seeing Jay’s enthusiasm is lovely!  So few founders show themselves (it is hard both on the technique, quality control and one’s ego) so it is great to see!
  • The story is clear, I understood the use-case and I now have a story I could tell to someone else.  This is a product I could have used as a programmer and the demo means it is easy to pass on to someone else
  • Using YouTube is smart – anyone (like me!) can embed the video in a blog review or email

The Bad:

  • When the webcam is displayed we can see that the audio and video aren’t quite in sync.  This is hardly a deal-breaker but it does jar a bit
  • When speaking, Jay’s breaths can be heard and background hiss is is present.  Audacity is a great tool for de-noising and fading out unwanted sounds like breaths.  Cleaning this up would add a further professional touch
  • In the webcam shots it looks like Jay is holding the mic (it moves in and out of shot), a mic-holder might be a sensible purchase
  • At 2:58 the volume of the narration changes.  This can happen when the speaker moves away from the mic.  This could be fixed with the Envelope Tool in Audacity or by not moving when recording a new take of the narration
  • There’s a lot of wind at 3:53 caused by gusto during the narration, a pop-shield can be helpful but mostly it comes down to good mic technique and breath control (and you only get that via practice!)
  • At 4:06 there’s a quick cut when Jay asks the user to try the software – because his head is shown the cut is very obvious, also the audio ‘sounds’ like it has been cut.  Cutting head-shots is very hard, they always look chopped up.  It isn’t a deal-breaker but again does jar a touch


  • There aren’t any zooms at 1:31 but there are later – some zooms at this point would help.  Although the video is HD and it is possible to read the text, it is tiny and hard.  Zooming in e.g. for the wizard would help readability
  • At 2:09 we see a zoom and an arrow call-out.  I’d suggest using Camtasia’s spotlight call-out so the rest of the screen is dimmed, that way the user’s attention is focused where the arrows will be shown and not elsewhere

If you found this feedback helpful and you’d like to learn more screencasting techniques, do read about The Screencasting Handbook and join up.

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7 People have left comments on this post

Hi Ian,

Thank you so much for this review. My new screencast got more views in one day than my previous screencast received in two months!

Your suggestions are spot on. I actually knew about these flaws at the time I uploaded, but had reached the end of my endurance after a 3 day marathon creating this screencast. I’ll be spending a lot more time here learning from you before starting my next screencast.

For a few laughs at my newbie struggles, check out this blog post about my behind-the-scenes experience producing this screencast:

All points made by Ian are the same ones I’d make.

I enjoyed the screencast, but because there wasn’t any background on how the application worked in its most basic form, I felt lost.

We can hopefully get a screencast showing a more basic approach to how this product works.

My 5 cents.

@Gasto, you and Ian are right.

I originally conceived this video as “inner content” for our site (incorrectly) assuming users already knew something about Gibraltar. I now see that I could have easily included a bit more background at the start that would have made it much clearer to folks who are getting their first look.

You might prefer this an earlier screencast that was designed as a basic approach to how Gibraltar works:

» Kevin M said: { Aug 27, 2009 - 03:08:58 }

I concur with the previous comments and have the following to add. Trifles really, but perhaps worth considering for next time.

1. When watching the cast on Ian’s blog with default sizing the blasted “YouTube” branding sits on the host’s face.

2. When introducing the high-level product architecture, I’d suggest keeping the text labels inside the objects very sparse. As the voice-over reveals more about the objects’ function/purpose, you can reveal more text.

3. Overall the pace was good, however, you know your UI much better than we do. The segments where the VO informed me what we were going to see just before, or as, we saw it helped me learn the UI better.

4. Lastly, and I think this has been covered, an upfront statement of What’s In It For Me would orient the viewer much more to the market and positioning of the product.

Good work!

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