For my next “Meet the ScreenFlow-er” I am happy to have had the opportunity to interview John Basile, the man behind Scraster Professional Screencasting. John is a professional screencaster who is very active in the screencasting community. He regularly contributes to our forum, and also moderates a screencasting group on LinkedIn. If you haven’t seen a screencast of his, click to view them on the links shown below. He’s got some great techniques that make for very effective and interesting screencasts, as well as some good advice for new screencasters.
How long have you been screencasting?
I’ve been screencasting since ScreenFlow was introduced in early 2008. Scraster Professional Screencasting, like a lot of small businesses, grew out of work I was doing for a single client. I was lacking direction at that time, so realizing that this kind of fun new work — geared perfectly to my skillset — could be a viable business opportunity was very exciting. Cheesy as it may sound, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that ScreenFlow changed my life!
For what purpose to do you make your screencasts?
Scraster has done a lot of tutorials and a few pieces for live presentations, but the vast majority of our videos are front-facing product tours to sell apps and online services from the homepage or Tour page of clients’ sites. These marketing videos average about 3 minutes in length.
What kind of studio or set up do you have?
My primary computer is a MacBook Pro. The MBP has a 80gb SSD running the OS and apps and a 7200rpm 500gb OptiBay harddrive for storage. (I produced a short time-lapse of this install process with ScreenFlow). My ram on the MBP is maxed out at 4gb, and aside from a failed video card/motherboard at the worst possible moment last month, it’s an awesome machine.
Scraster’s in-house audio is recorded at Shoestring Studios (a well-soundproofed closet at Scraster HQ) using an ADK studio condenser as the primary vocal mic. I use an Mbox 2 in the studio and an original Mbox at my desk for recording and editing (respectively) using ProTools LE 8.
Final Cut Pro was used for a few early videos, but most video editing is now done right within ScreenFlow, with only some post-production done in AfterEffects. Any live camera footage Scraster uses is either stock video, video delivered by the client, or out-sourced video.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of creating your screencasts?
The most challenging aspect of creating screencasts is probably maintaining tight timing and fluidity in the audio and video. Since our video is pegged to pre-recorded audio narration, timing often comes down to a lot of takes in the screen capture stage. Needless to say, the introduction of the speed control feature in the release of ScreenFlow 2 was a huge help!
What’s the process you use for creating your screencasts?
After a couple years of working with clients, Scraster’s process is pretty dialed in. Once we’re engaged, we and the client usually work collaboratively on the script. (The level of client involvement varies). Google Docs works perfectly for real-time editing and maintaining version control. When the stakeholder/s sign off on the finished script, things proceed to the audio recording stage. Narration is either professionally recorded in-house or by a VO talent from a voice bank. The client previews and approves the audio and then it’s on to the video screen capture and post production (using ScreenFlow and a host of other tools). We’ve recently been incorporating AfterEffects animation into most of the videos. These elements are brought into the ScreenFlow project and exported in our final video, which is typically delivered in 1280×720 HD for the client to upload to their web-based hosting solution.
Do you have a screencast that you’re especially proud of? And why?
I’m proud of Scraster’s video for Teambox, a newish cloud-based project collaboration tool. Teambox was profiled on TechCrunch a few days after we delivered their video and their team has been killing it over the past months. The script was written by Scraster and introduces a number of characters and scenarios. Screencasts for social and collaborative tools/apps are always really challenging to set up and capture (views from multiple user accounts, indelible and real-time changes effecting the pages), but Pablo at Teambox was really responsive and helpful in making that video turn out as well as it did. I have high hopes for the success of Teambox and feel lucky to count them as a client.
That having been said, Scraster’s best looking video is probably going to continue to be the one we’re working on. The work keeps getting better. If it’s on our YouTube channel or the Scraster website’s Work page, we’re proud of it!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in screencasting?
Get your chops together and go pro! Brand your work, build a website, and get in the ring as a premium producer while the industry’s still relatively small. As online and mobile video content continues to blow up, professional screencasts will be in higher demand. The professional screencasting community is generally inviting, encouraging, and cool. I’m fortunate to be friendly with nearly all of Scraster’s competitors and several of us pass jobs back and forth when our work schedules are jammed.
I’m a little envious that there’s now a copious amount of resources for screencasting noobs. Resources that have popped up in the last couple of years include Telestream’s ScreenFlow user forum, a community growing around Ian Oszvald’s new screencasting manifesto called the Screencsting Handbook, the LinkedIn screencasters group (disclosure: I manage this group), and a video sharing site rife with helpfulness called YouTube. If I’m not too busy, I’m happy to field any screencasting questions that come my way via email, twitter, or LinkedIn.
Besides ScreenFlow, what are your favorite tools for the mac?
Besides ScreenFlow, and aside from a handful of invaluable cloud apps Scraster depends on, the following Mac apps are essential: OmniDazzle (from the Omni Group), ProfitTrain (a Mac-alicious invoicing app from Clickable Bliss), the Ratio dashboard widget, the ruler tool from Art Director’s Toolkit, and a great clipboard manager called iClip, (which has been mostly unavailable/unsupported since Snow Leopard caused it problems). YellowMug’s Sizzling Keys for Mac is hands-down my most valuable app. Ever.
As far as peripherals go, a few must-haves on my desk are my Standy (custom MBP computer stand from Standyworks), my MicPort Pro (used w/ an AT shotgun on a gooseneck for desk audio), and the Tivoli Model 2 table radio.
And you have your own resource at scrast.net. What’s new there?
Nothing! Client work at Scraster has been keeping me busy enough that I haven’t touched scrast.net in quite a while. It’s kind of a bummer, because it’s a well-positioned blog in an underserved niche. I might make a push to refresh and try to upkeep the content, but what’s more likely is finding someone to pass the torch to… or just letting it atrophy until it’s totally outdated! For the moment, there’s still some good stuff there for people to stumble upon.