Desktop Recording Tips & Tricks

by William Guth

Recording a lecture video on your desktop or laptop might not feel as natural or as forgiving as lecturing to students in your classroom. In fact, recording a lecture video can be more like recording a performance than giving a lecture. For that reason it is important to be aware of not only your content, but of your equipment, your surroundings, and your delivery.

Close down any programs or applications on your computer that are not required to deliver the lecture or demonstration.

Desktop video recording software is computer memory intensive. Having additional programs open on top of what is specifically needed for your presentation may use up valuable memory and could cause your computer to freeze up or crash.

Even if you have a modern machine with latest multi-core memory chip, you may receive notifications from applications running in the background, and those will appear on the recording. Notifications like that can be distracting to students and make your video look less professional.

Check your audio set-up and confirm your input level.

While not required, a headset microphone is recommended to help isolate your voice, and eradicate external noises (e.g. fire truck sirens, dogs barking, fan noises, etc.). Using your built-in computer microphone will work fine too, but if you can hear any noises while you record, they are likely to be picked up by your microphone.

If you do decide to record with your built-in laptop microphone, navigate to the input settings and make sure the mic is picking up your voice at an appropriate level. If your voice is recorded too softly, students may not be able to turn up their speakers loud enough to hear you. Try recording a 30 second segment of your lecture, and then play it back at a comfortable listening level for you. If you need to crank up your speakers, or the playback sounds distorted, then your input level needs to be re-adjusted.

Practice Makes Perfect.

For some people, recording a desktop lecture video can be like recording their outgoing voicemail message. You knew what you wanted to say, but the first 10 tries just didn’t feel right. The key to nailing this performance is to practice. Sound it out, annunciate, and make sure you’re not speeding through the words and motions of the demo. By reading your outline or script out loud, you will likely find that the way you write is somewhat different from the way you naturally speak. Adjust your wording and phrasing accordingly. Then go back and practice with all the inflections, intonations, and emphasis this performance deserves. Unless you plan include a web cam recording in your lecture, these performance qualities will be all your students have to go on in terms of interpreting your meaning.

Open all of the necessary programs and software before beginning your recording. 

Getting even to the point of recording is a lot of work, so why not be absolutely ready. You’ve thought things through, you’ve outlined, you’ve practiced, you’ve set aside time, you’ve minimized distractions, but are you truly prepared to record? If you realize mid-recording that you need to open an application in order to demonstrate something, you will likely experience a frustrating set back.

Understand the Medium.

Thanks to the magic of digital non-linear editing, you can shoot as many takes as you like. You can even break up your presentation and shoot it in any order, like scenes in a movie are often shot. If you stutter, mispronounce, or skip lines in your script you can pause, take a breath and reset, then pick up where you left off. Later, you can stitch together the good parts in post-production.

When you do make a mistake and pause to reset, don’t pick up exactly where you left off. Go back a few sentences to the beginning of the paragraph and start again, it will be easier to edit later. If you’re working from a PowerPoint slide with notes, consider starting the whole slide over.

Developing the outline for your course is hard work, not to mention handouts, quizzes, and homework problems. Recording video lectures will likely take the longest of all, and requires dedicated headspace to get the job done right. But don’t let that deter you from creating what may become the most valuable source of information for your students.

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