Creating a Software Demo Video

I recently had the opportunity to work with a friends company to create an on-line application demo video. This is similar to work I had done in the past, except that this was for a commercial application instead of for an in-house custom application.

View the video here:

CamtasiaI used Camtasia for the entire process – screen recording, editing, and final flash production. Camtasia is a great tool. I’ve been using it for years and for the $300 price tag it’s really quite a good deal. By defining the portion of the screen I wanted to record and connecting a USB headset to use as the microphone, we were able to start recording the demo pretty quickly.

The overall demo was to be under 5 minutes total. Unless you’re a professional voice-over artist, it’s nearly impossible to speak for 5 straight minutes without making a mistake of any kind. Camtasia makes this easy for us. We started by recording audio over a two slide PowerPoint. Then, we recorded each page of the script (you need to have a script) separately and, using Camtasia, pieced all of this together along with a closing PowerPoint.

The next step was to add the highlights and other enhancements. Using Camtasia’s tools, I highlighted areas of the screen, added text-callouts, and closed out with links to download the demo version, get a price quote, and request a detailed demo. The final output was generated as Flash and uploaded to their website. The entire process took less than two days, with most of the time spent doing multiple audio takes as we tweaked the script and mouse movements.

Below I’ve outlined some of the lessons learned and my recommendations for anyone creating a similar on-line video. These tips will likely apply whether this is for a software demo, training video, or any other type of short recorded multimedia presentation.

Preparing to create the demo or training video:

  • Write the script ahead of time
  • Keep the video short – 5 to 10 minutes maximum
  • Focus on features that will capture your potential clients attention
  • Avoid acronyms, application specific, or technical terms that may be confusing to some viewers
  • Prepare your data carefully ahead of time. Good demo data should not distract from the application and must be accurate and consistent
  • Run through the script and data before starting the recording process. Make modifications as needed.
  • Get a good headset microphone
  • Close all other un-needed applications and programs on your computer before starting

Key tips for creating a good product demo video:

  • Use two people – one to run the mouse/keyboard (aka “driver”) and one to record the audio (“speaker”)
  • Coordinate the speaker and the driver so that the application is showing exactly what the speaker is discussing at that moment. This will help avoid areas of silence and will allow the viewer to more easily connect what they are hearing to what they are seeing.
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Avoid blocks of silence in the video. Use editing to remove these where possible
  • Be prepared to record multiple versions before getting it perfect
  • Split the recording into multiple short segments. This makes it much easier for the audio person to get each segment correct. Nothing worse than recording four minutes of perfection audio only to make a mistake at the very end!
  • Listen and watch each segment carefully to look for mistakes
  • Use highlights and zooms to direct the viewer to areas being discussed in the audio
  • Use highlights and other call-outs to point out important application features even if these are not being specifically mentioned in the audio.
  • At the end of the video, include links to take further action. These can be part of the flash or links on the surrounding HTML page.
  • Produce the video in an appropriate size based on on your expected users. If needed, produce multiple versions (800 x 600, 640 x 480, 320 x 240) to support various computer and bandwidth possibilities.