We live in the era of the app! This means that software users no longer expect to pay hundreds of pounds to acquire new pieces of software given that mobile or web based versions of the same tools are available for free or not very much money. Screencasting tools allow computer users to record video clips of their screen actions, which is very useful for teachers to show others how to do things on a computer. Showing is much easier than telling, but good screencasting tools used to be very expensive and the fully featured professional screen recording tools are still costly. Here are some examples. Camtasia Studio for Windows is £251 including VAT and the Mac version is only £83. Adobe Captivate is £333 even for the teacher and student Windows or Mac edition. Screenflow for OSX is a bargain at £91!
Fear not. There are a number of affordable options, which I use when I want to make screen recordings and I will summarise them in this post.
1. Screencastomatic (Free/ $15 a year)
Screencastomatic is a cross platform browser based screen recording tool that I have been using since 2011. My screencast on handwritten notes was recorded using this tool. The free version lets you capture upto 15 minutes of screen activity and completed videos carry a watermark, which will be good enough for students and casual users. I prefer the premium version of the service, which lets me record videos of indefinite length and the editing tools have more options such as inserting videos and adding overlays. The recorder also supports picture in picture webcam capture so the face of the speaker can be shown as the video is being recorded. Screencastomatic is used to record and encode screen videos using a Java applet that was downloaded to the browser each time you ran the tool but Java has been criticised heavily as a vector for security breaches and malware. There is still a plug in that needs to be downloaded each time the tool is run but I cannot confirm if this is in fact Java based but I have never had any security concerns running this software.
2. Windows 10 Xbox Game DVR (Free)
Windows 10 has a free Xbox app, which has an inbuilt video clip recorder called Game DVR to capture footage from playing games. The tool does not have any editing facilities beyond save and trim and the recorder does not include the use of a webcam to show the face of the speaker, but it is a free way of creating clips without having to purchase and install additional software.
Screencastify is a Chrome plugin that records screen activity on any desktop OS running the Chrome browser and that includes Windows, OSX and Chrome OS. Chromebooks do not support the other screen recording tools. Recording is very similar to using Screencastomatic and the basic free version allows you to capture upto 10 minutes of footage with a watermark overlaid onto the video. This tool also has webcam support. The premium version provides for unlimited capture without a watermark but this will cost 20 Euros as a one off lifetime purchase.
4. AZ Screen Recorder (Free)
My smartphone is an unrooted Samsung Galaxy Note 3 running Android 5.01 and it allows me to use this free tool to record footage of apps and screen activity, which is exported as an MP4 file upon the completion of the capture session. It works fine but there are no editing features so footage would have to be edited on another computer after the event.
All of the tools I have described work very well to record screen activity, which is useful for teachers to show and for students to record their learning. Screencastomatic is the only screen recording tool in this list which supports editing such as overlays, trimming and picture in picture. These are features usually reserved for professional software that is very expensive. However, most teachers and students should be happy to use any of these screen recording tools I have reviewed because editing clips can be very time consuming. Capturing footage in one take is more realistic and sustainable in terms of time and effort even if it means the completed video is rough around the edges. That said, my screen recording tool of choice is Screencastomatic because I still like to have the option to make a few basic edits after I have finished capturing footage.