Tool Name: Screencast-O-Matic
Version Number/Release Date: v2.0.0 – Beta 30/Jan. 28, 2015
Developer Website: http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/
Reviewed by: Emily Donahoe
Review Date: 6 February 2015
Tags or Keywords: Screencast, screen capture, video, pedagogy, tutorial.
General Purpose of Tool: Screencast-O-Matic is a web-based program that allows users to create screencasts (screen-capture videos) with an audio component. The tool can be used to create tutorial videos and capture remote presentations.
Video Review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30nD92NfwQ8
Review: Screencast-O-Matic is a free web-based program that allows users to create basic screencasts. Of all the screencast programs I tested, I found Screencast-O-Matic to be the quickest and easiest program available for general purposes. While users who need to create more specialized screencasts may require additional tools, the free version of Screencast-O-Matic is appropriate for basic videos and the Pro version, available for $15/year, has almost all the tools one would require to make more advanced videos. Though the program does have its drawbacks, I found it easy to use, and the videos it creates are of fairly high quality.
When users first visit the Screencast-O-Matic site, it can be difficult to navigate. The information is presented in a somewhat scattered way and is not linked very well. Simply recording videos, however, could not be easier. The website’s home page links directly to a two-minute instructional video that has all the information one might need to create a basic video very quickly. Provided that the user has an updated Java plugin installed on his or her computer, he or she could easily record a video within five minutes of visiting the site’s homepage. Downloads, registration, and user accounts are not required, though there is an option to download the application to your computer. Though they are not immediately apparent on the homepage, the site also provides tutorial videos with more advanced instructions, for users of both the free and the Pro versions.
To record, users simply click the “Start Recording” button on the site’s homepage. The recorder allows the user to select which portion of the screen to record and includes both full-screen and HD options, which are ideal for uploading videos to YouTube. There is also a handy feature that auto-adjusts the microphone recording volume so that the audio is perfectly balanced. Even with this feature, however, the audio is not perfect. Using the built-in computer microphone, typing and clicking sounds are incredibly loud, and videos often pick up a lot of background noises; if you have an older computer like mine, which tends to whirr a lot, the noise can be very distracting. Fortunately, the program allows users to record using different kinds of microphones; I found that my Snowball microphone works exceptionally well for recording audio.
Though there are small problems with audio, the video is very clear, especially when users take advantage of the HD option. The biggest drawback to the visual component is the yellow circle that appears around the mouse at all times. Though this is handy for how-to videos and for viewers who need to follow the mouse, it can be distracting for viewers and frustrating for users if the video does not require close attention to the cursor. The cursor tools should be optional, but unfortunately, they are not. The yellow circle appears around the cursor in every video recorded using Screencast-O-Matic, even when users take advantage of the Pro version of the program. Though there are some drawbacks to the videos, they are very easy to record: users can even pause the recording if necessary and begin again seamlessly. Additionally, Screencast-O-Matic offers the handy option of recording with the computer’s webcam.
When finished recording, users can save the video as an MP4, AVI, or FLV movie to their computer or to publish the video to the Screencast-O-Matic website or to YouTube. Each of these options is easy to use, and it is especially convenient to be able to publish directly to YouTube. The completed video, unfortunately, includes a Screecast-O-Matic logo when published to YouTube; however, users can work around this inconvenience by saving the screencast as a video file and then uploading it to YouTube from their computer. The Pro version of the program allows users to publish with no logo and offers even more options for publishing formats: users can save to Google Drive, Vimeo, “and more,” according to the site.
Though the free version of Screencast-O-Matic is perfectly adequate for recording basic videos, the Pro version, available for an affordable $15/year, has many useful features for creating more advanced screencasts. While the free version limits videos to fifteen minutes, the Pro version allows users to create videos with no time limit. It also provides handy tools for scripts, screen shots, editing, drawing, and zooming, as well as the option to record using the webcam only. Users can create good basic videos without these additional features, but for someone who creates screencasts often, they could be very helpful.
I can imagine various uses for this kind of screencast program within academia, especially as a pedagogical tool. For example, I find that many students don’t know how to use the features of Microsoft Word or other Office programs, and screencasts could provide a handy how-to reference for more visual learners. Additionally, this program could be useful for online or remote lectures. Likewise, students could use the program for various types of class projects, even for presenting remotely in online classes. Scholars could make use of screencasts for remotely presenting conference papers as well.
The program seems especially useful in a DH context. With all the digital tools currently available, instructional videos could be extremely useful for scholars who are trying to complete DH projects but lack the knowledge to make use of various kinds of tools. Screencasts could provide ways to make instruction easy and accessible for digital learners of all experience levels and abilities. Though it has some drawbacks, I think Screencast-O-Matic is the easiest program and the best value available for creating screen capture videos.
Ease of Use: Screencast-O-Matic is intended for multiple audiences (teachers, students, and the general public) and is extremely user-friendly. Though there is a minor learning curve involved, an average user could make a short video within five minutes of first visiting the site. The website also provides useful tutorial videos for both the free and Pro versions of the program.
Cost: Basic version is free. Pro version is $15/year.
Requirements: The program operates on Windows and Mac and requires an updated Java plugin. For this review, I operated the program from a PC with Windows 7.
Rival or Comparable Tools:
Camtasia Studio: http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html
While Screencast-O-Matic has its problems, I found it the quickest and easiest to use of the listed programs, and of course, unlike Camtasia, it’s free. CamStudio and Jing both require downloads. Jing comes with more tools than I wanted or needed and requires online registration and a user account. Screenr, like Screencast-O-Matic, is a quick and easy web-based program, but all videos are limited to five minutes. All things considered, Screencast-O-Matic seems best for the purposes of scholars and teachers who want to make basic screen capture videos, though different individual needs might require use of another program.
Note: These reviews do not necessarily contain updated information.