High Quality Screen Recordings

At Oasis Digital we’ve found that we can communicate effectively with each other and with customers, across time and space, using screen + audio recording (also called screencasts or screen videos). We use these to demonstrate a new feature, to explain how code works, to described how a new feature should work, etc. The communication is not as good as a live, in-person meeting/demo, but the advantages often outweigh that factor:

  1. No travel.
  2. No need to syncronize schedules.
  3. The receiving person can view the recording repeatedly, at their convenience.
  4. Customers and develoeprs who join the project team later, can look at old recordings to catch up.

It turns out that I am unusually picky about the quality of such recordings; I’ve written up some technical notes on how to get good results, and posted them: HighQualityScreenRecordings.pdf.

A few highlights:

  • A reasonably fast computer can both run application and record screen video at the same time; but if you will be recording the use of an application that generates a lot of disk activity, you must save the video to separate hard drive (internal, external, network server, etc.) from the hard drive you are running your OS and applications from. (For applications that generate little disk activity, a single system hard drive works fine.)
  • Use a headset-style microphone, and record in a quiet place: close the door, turn off the music, etc.
  • Adjust your audio levels well. Please. This is the most common and most annoying problem with screencast and podcast recordings I find.
  • Bytes are cheap; use a sufficiently large window and sufficiently high bitrate.

Many more details are in the PDF linked above.

St. Louis Code Camp, May 5 2007

It’s time for the second (annual) St. Lous Code Camp on May 5, 2007. There’s no actual camping (unlike some other ___ camps out there), just one day of sessions. Think of it as a mini-conference. See Brian’s announcement for more details. If you’ve been thinking of giving user group talks and never gotten around to it, Code Camp is a great place to start.

I’m in for two sessions this year, assuming enough slots are available for both:

Flying Boxes

It’s surprisingly easy, with Java and Swing, to build animated drag-and-drop “direct manipulation” user interfaces. I covered the overall topic in a talk at the Java User Group, and found that my “flying boxes” demo and code walk-through were by far the most interesting part. I’ll repeat that demo and explanation here, with more careful (and thus helpful) coverage of the issues involved in getting good results. As “filthy rich” GUIs become more popular, the ability to build such interfaces has become important in commercial business applications, not only in demos and games. The code can be downloaded from my web site.

Selling your Software as a Hosted Service

For the last few years my (other) firm has been selling an application as an Application Service Provider, charging a monthly fee for use of software that we develop, host, and support. (This is sometimes called the “Salesforce.com” model, but it predates them by decades.) Of course we have much still to learn, but in this talk I’ll share some experiences, tips, and advice on how (and whether) to use this business model for your own ventures. The last portion of the session will be a roundtable discussion, I’d like to learn from you too.