Software Demo Videos - How-To Tips!

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Demo videos are a great way to showcase what a particular software application can do. After all, that's exactly what they're meant for! There are some important tips to pay attention to when creating these types of videos, and we'll be outlining them below. First off, how can these videos be useful? Software demo videos can be used to attract potential clients, update paying customers on the latest additions to your software app, or even take the place of live webinars in order to educate people on what your app offers. While there are a variety of ways you can showcase your software in the video format, this post is specifically looking at the screencast video, where the majority of the content is comprised of screencast recordings.

One advantage of screencast videos is that they are logistically simple to produce and with minimal effort involved. Rather than having to shoot video content with a camera or create all the graphics from scratch in a motion graphics explainer style video, you are simply recording your computer screen. The only other recording aspect involves recording audio, but even that is not completely necessary; on-screen text can take the place of a voice-over audio recording if desired. Generally though, recording audio is much easier to execute than recording video. Additionally, a great option for audio is to hire a professional voice actor to take care of it for you. As for everything else involved in producing screencast demo videos, you'll still need to put in the time to edit everything together.

Before diving in, I'll note that this post is not an in depth "how-to" on creating your own screencast demo video. Rather, we will be looking at a few important tips to get you started on the right path. Let's begin!

Writing the Script

Writing a script is a key part of the process in producing a screencast demo video (or any video for that matter). To some, writing the script may not seem necessary at first. You may feel that you know your software completely, and have a clear idea of what you want to showcase in the video. This may be true, but going through the script writing process forces you to really consider what you want to include in the video and how you want everything to flow together.

In the cases where you're including a voice-over (recommended), a script becomes that much more effective. When you write out word-for-word what the voice-over is going to say, your video comes across much more professional and clear for the viewer. Rather than having a conversational tone, with filler words and the risk of going off-tangent from time to time, the script will have the voice-over actor (whoever that may be) speaking in the most helpful and concise way for the viewer. Additionally, delivering the voice-over based on a script is always a big help in keeping the length of the video to a minimum.

Recording Audio

As mentioned above, you can hire out a professional voice-over actor to record the script for you. The reason you would do this is simply to get a professional sounding video as opposed to a 'semi-professional' sounding video. Voice-over actors will send you a quality recording that would be fit for radio or television. We recently made a post here on a voice-over service that we use, so definitely check that out if you're looking to have this done. It may also be the case that you simply don't have the necessary equipment and know-how to produce your own audio recording that meets your expectations. In that case as well, having someone else get the job done for you can of course be very handy.

If you are looking to record audio yourself, besides considering all the basics of recording good audio (using a quality microphone, recorder, recording location, and voice actor), one thing that may slip your mind is to consider potential revisions in the audio recording. While a script greatly reduces the likelihood that you'll want to change the wording in the script/voice-over, there is always the possibility that you'll want to re-record part of the voice-over, perhaps a week after the original recording for example. In these cases, it's very helpful to have access to the same recording equipment, and more importantly, the same recording location. Audio recordings are greatly affected by the locations in which they're recorded due to echo and acoustics. If you re-record a part of your video in a different location, and splice in the new recording to your video edit, the change in audio characteristics will stand out like a sore thumb. So, just make sure that you either record the original audio in a scenario that can be easily reproduced (eg. inside a very small room), or that you can still get access to that same room in the future.

Recording Screencasts

Recording a screencast is perhaps the most straightforward of the activities mentioned thus far. For recording screencasts, we'll touch on a couple things. First, how do you get the job done? While there are services that are made specifically to help record screencasts, we've gotten by quite well by using the built-in functionality that the Quicktime video player offers. If you have Quicktime, feel free to use it. Just select the screen recording from the dropdown menu, select whether or not you want a full screen recording or just part of your screen, and voila... you're off to the races!

Secondly, you'll want to record screencasts in such a way that they work well in the video edit. The tip here is to take your time. You don't want to be whipping the cursor around your screen, not leaving time to have things looking and sounding as you want in the edit. The voice-over recording will largely determine the pacing of the video; you will be editing the screencast recordings to match the voice-over recording, not vice-versa. So if you don't pause on a particular part of your screencast recording for long enough for the voice-over to speak to it, you'll cause unnecessary editing in order to remedy all those timing issues (attempting to add time back in, rather than the simpler option of cutting out excess content).

Besides that, timing need not be a big consideration. You might imagine that you need to record the screencast to perfectly match the voice-over. This is not the case as you can simply make cuts in the edit to proceed quicker through the screencast than the speed at which you recorded.

Editing

Once you've recorded the screencasts and voice-over audio, everything is ready to be put together in the editing timeline. The tip here is to supplement that main content with other things in order to keep the video both organized and engaging. You can use title cards throughout the video to keep viewers aware of the main points being made (similar to the video attached to this blog post). Your software application will have multiple capabilities, and having the repetitive nature of both the screencast, audio, and title cards stating what those capabilities are will help to cement in the viewer's mind the main points that were made in the video.

You can also consider adding simple motion graphics, or even static graphics to the screencast video. Depending on what you want to communicate in a given video, a graphic will sometimes be more effective in showcasing what you're offering. The screencasts act as the tangible evidence of your product's quality, and any additional graphics can help to give context or additional information. Some examples of these graphics might be the different payment tiers that your service is available under, or perhaps help to portray the problem that your software solves before actually jumping into the software solution itself.

Demos Are For Everyone!

That covers some important tips to consider as you go to create your very own software demo video. These videos are great in that almost everyone has the capability to create them. The more time and money you invest into each production will play a part in its outcome, but at the very least, they're for anyone who wants to have a demo video of their software application. These tips can also play a big part in having your video sound and look professional. When you compare a scripted screencast video with a webinar style live-recorded screencast that is instantly uploaded to YouTube after recording, the difference is night and day. Happy recording!

Timclark
Tim Clark
Filmmaker, BiteSite