Ubuntu Open Week - Screencasting Team - Alan Pope - Tue, Apr 24, 2007

see also Saturday Session.


16:03:39 <@popey> Ok, here's the plan for the next hour-ish
16:03:45 <@popey> * Introduction
16:03:45 <@popey> * Brief history of screencasting
16:03:45 <@popey> * Brief history of the screencasting team
16:03:45 <@popey> * Useful Links
16:03:45 <@popey> * How do we make screencasts?
16:03:47 <@popey> * How do other people make screencasts?
16:03:54 <@popey> * How/why do we convert videos to other formats (or "There are formats *other* than OGG!?")
16:03:54 <@popey> * How do we make them available?
16:03:54 <@popey> * What can people do with them?
16:03:54 <@popey> * What we should be doing
16:03:54 <@popey> * What we need / how you can help
16:03:54 <@popey> * What else can we do / any questions?
16:04:28 <@popey> * Introduction
16:04:30 <@popey> Hi, my name is Alan Pope, you may remember me from such IRC channels as #ubuntu-uk, #launchpad and the hilarious #lugradio. I'm an Ubuntu user just like you. I don't work for Canonical, I'm not a system admin, or a developer in fact I can't really code at all. Oh and I have no artistic skills whatsoever.
16:04:45 <@popey>  It's not looking good is it!?
16:05:02 <@popey> I do however have some experience of IT Training so making screencasts makes sense to me as a way of contributing to the community because it's something I can actually do!
16:05:25 <@popey> * Brief history of screencasting
16:05:28 <@popey> "A screencast is a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration." - - read the first paragraph of that, I'll be testing you later :)
16:05:47 <@popey> Some people learn better by being shown how to do stuff rather than by reading detailed How-Tos or man pages. Whilst this is an alien concept to many geeks who memorise URLs of How-Tos and commit entire man pages to memory, your average Joe Ubuntu User needs pretty pictures and videos.
16:06:02 <@popey> So for this reason I created a few screencasts.
16:06:12 <@popey> * Brief history of the screencasting team
16:06:21 <@popey> About 7 years ago I was working for a company doing IT training on evil software. We had an idea over coffee one day to make some videos that people could watch online. At the time Viewlet Builder (proprietary app) was available and seemed to do the job of recording screen activity quite well.
16:06:58 <@popey> I registered to host them, because we thought they would be quick videos, 5 minutes about how to perform a particular task on a computer. Unfortunately the project never really got anywhere so the domain got used for something else.
16:07:21 <@popey> Cut forward to 2005 when I started looking at screencasting tools on Linux. I tried some of the desktop recording tools, and some video editing software to see if I could make screencasts that would render well over the web or downloaded and played locally. Some of the tools are pretty good, I filed a few bugs, requested some features and contacted the authors of some of the applications.
16:07:57 <@popey> I settled on a suite of tools (more of that in a moment) which I use to do my screencasts. It was (and still is) important to me
16:08:17 <@popey> to make screencasts using completely free tools.
16:08:33 <@popey> i.e. not use windows applications such as camtasia to make the screencasts - but thats a personaly thing :)
16:08:51 <@popey>  After making some test videos and sending them to my local LUG mailing list for evaluation I started making lists of screencasts that people might want to watch. I tried to figure out what people would want to see, common questions people ask and funky new things new users might not know about.
16:09:18 <@popey> A few people tested the videos and gave me some feedback about the format, style and content of the screencasts. Towards the end of 2006 I made a bunch of "feature length" screencasts. They are each about 5-10 minutes long and cover some basic concepts such as installation of Ubuntu and customising the desktop.
16:09:43 <@popey> Matthew East contacted me and offered some help and hosting on the documentation team server - which we are now using. We setup the screencast team on launchpad and more recently had a meeting on irc to discuss the direction and technical issues surrounding screencasting.
16:10:15 <@popey> It was decided that we should target the current release (Feisty) for new screencasts. We also decided to drop the default resolution from 1024x768 to 800x600 because some popular machines couldn't play them due to driver bugs, and the video files were very large with little added value at the higher resolution.
16:10:47 <@popey> Ok, thats the history lesson over
16:10:54 <@popey> * How do we make screencasts?
16:11:25 <@popey> The tool set _I_ use is QEMU+KQEMU(or KVM) (virtual machine), xvidcap (screen recording), avidemux (audio recording), ffmpeg and avidemux (format conversion). In slightly over one sentence:-
16:11:48 <@popey> "I install Ubuntu in a QEMU vm which runs in an 800x600 window on my desktop (we used to use 1024x768 but this casued problems). I run xvidcap on my desktop and set it to record the QEMU window only. I do my demo in Ubuntu under QEMU and when finished I stop xvidcap. I watch the video back, recording the audio track in audacity as I go. I merge the audio and video in avidemux and upload to the web"
16:12:05 <@popey> (If there are any questions about any of the above tools, please ask)
16:12:26 <@popey> It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
16:12:35 <@popey> and in a way, it sounds a lot harder than it actually is :)
16:13:10 <@popey> I will take some questions at the end of this section in a moment
16:13:24 <@popey> See for considerably more detail.
16:13:33 <@popey> Some people have reported that this process is convoluted (recording audio separately from video), doesn't perform well (some people get low frame rates out of xvidcap), and cumbersome (running a virtual machine rather than recording the local machine direct). These are of course all valid concerns :)
16:14:09 <@popey> On the wiki we outlined the reasons for doing it this way. Of course other people can create screencasts in any way they want, this is just the way that works for us. So long as people can create high quality screencasts in a format that we can use, we really don't care how they are made.
16:14:33 <@popey> If anyone has a better (more streamlined, faster, easier) way to create screencasts _on_ _Linux_ (i.e. not using a Windows/Mac screencasting app) which results in high quality video in formats we can use, we want to hear it.
16:14:49 <@popey> If you have any questions about the way we make screencasts, please do ask and I'll try to answer them as best I can.
16:14:57 <@popey> Ok, I will break for questions now.

< chell> QUESTION: Why don't you record the audio at the same time as the video?

  • Because pretty much every screencast I have watched where this is done consists of the speaker going " uhmmm.. errr..." as they concentrate on what they are doing it doesnt sound nice to the listener chell: does that answer your question? in addition, if you record audio and video together and mess up the audio due to someone walking in the room for example, you have to re-record the whole thing if you record the audio separately if you mess it up, you only need to re-record the audio

< chell> you still get uhms and errs if you do the narration afterwards (or do you have a script)?

  • i record the video, then watch it practicing what I am going to say, then watch it again and record the audio as I watch. I dont think I uhm much. watch them and feel free to tell me I do though Smile :)

< cellojoe> QUESTION: are all the tools available in the officials repos?

  • All except xvidcap, which is packaged as a .deb on the xvidcap site. it works on dapper, edgy and feisty. qemu, avidemux and others are packaged except the kqemu accelerator for qemu which needs compiling from source - its documented on the wiki iirc

< LjL> QUESTIONS: Why do you use virtual machines? Just because of the resolution difference?

  • because I want to show people what a real amchine looks like, not my heavily modified desktop. if someone watches a screencast that isn't exactly what they see on their desktop it can put them off. they might be less inclined to "trust" it. i can also rollback what I do with qemu Smile :) so if I mess it up I can "reset" and do it again very easily

< PriceChild> QUESTION: You compiled xvidcap yourself then I guess? Do you still use it and if so could you package it as it is evil and I've given up :P

  • no, I use the deb from . I would gladly package it, but i refer you to my skillset that I pasted at the beginning Smile :)

< maxi_> How is quemo working, is it difficult to get startet with it?

  • qemu works for me very well out of the box especially if you use either kqemu of kvm - kvm only works on CPUs that have the VT virtualisation instructions, kqemu works on any cpu AIUI

< samgee> QUESTION: Isn't 800x600 too small for Ubuntu? I know from experience that it's not enough for the installer.

  • all the screencasts I have made so far are at 1024x768, it's possible that we may find some things that dont fit in 800x600 and we may make a special case for those but we should try to stick to 800x600 as much as possible IMO

< robotangel> QUESTION: Why use xvidcap when there's istanbul (and that's even in the repos - btw why isn't xvidcap)?

  • istanbul records to ogg, xvidcap is very flexible in the formats that it can encode to, xvidcap also has some nice other features - some of which I have asked the author of istanbul to implement. I am not against istanbul at all, it's just that xvidcap is considerably more feature rich and that goes for pretty much any screencasting app you care to mention

16:24:52 <@popey> ok
16:25:02 <@popey> back to the content, I will return to questions later
16:25:15 <@popey> * How do other people make screencasts?
16:25:22 <@popey> There are a load of screencasting apps on Linux.
16:25:49 <@popey> Istanbul, RecordMyDesktop, screenkast, DemoRecorder (proprietary), and of course xvidcap we would recommend.
16:25:51 <@popey> vnc2swf, vncrec and wink we would generally not recommend for our screencasts (they record to formats that are difficult to manipulate).
16:26:18 <@popey> There are good reasons I don't recommend some apps, and that's all detailed on the wiki, but by all means ask any questions and make any comments about these judgements :)
16:26:40 <@popey> Examples of some quality screencasts that you might want to look at include those at, (Mac OSX videos) and .
16:27:33 <@popey> I am not going to give you examples of bad screencasts - you can find them on youtube and google video yourselves, and when I say "bad" that is entirely my personal opinion, feel free to argue that one with me some time :)
16:27:55 <@popey> * How/why do we convert videos to other formats?
16:28:11 <@popey> It's a bit beyond this session to go into the intricate details of the different formats for the screencasts. Suffice to say that in general there are at least 4 formats we support.
16:28:24 <@popey> Put simply, OGG for the Good, MOV for the Bad, and AVI for the Ugly. FLV is the 4th, (evil) flash based streaming which is done because of the popularity of the flash video format.
16:28:58 <@popey> Whatever you think of flash, it has a massive install base, and that's a lot of potential eyeballs for our screencasts. It might also make sense to make screencasts which can playback on small format devices such as iPod Video and mobile phones.
16:29:22 <@popey> Whatever happens, we _always_ make our videos available in OGG/Theora/Vorbis format as a primary objective.
16:29:31 <@popey> That is unlikely to change.
16:29:50 <@popey> Avidemux is a great GUI application for converting videos. You can load a video made in another application and save it out in some other format using a different codec and can also do neat things like resize as the file is converted.
16:30:06 <@popey> Perhaps we need an avidemux screencast? :)
16:30:24 <@popey> In addition ffmpeg can be used on the command line to convert between formats. We also use ffmpeg2theora to convert MPEG/AVI files to OGG/Theoa format. Other tools have been tried, and suggestions are welcome for other robust, easy to use, flexible tools.
16:31:01 <@popey> * How do we make them available?
16:31:14 <@popey> is the central repository for all the screencasts that have been made under the Screencast Team banner. These are videos actually made by the team specifically _for_ the team (and anyone else) to redistribute.
16:31:49 <@popey> We don't take other peoples ready-made videos off YouTube for example, I know do a good job of collating video content - including screencasts - in that way.
16:32:24 <@popey> In the past we uploaded the videos to however whilst free it's a little painful and the performance is somewhat slow. So now we host on the docteams server - big thanks to Matthew East (mdke) for helping us out there. Some of these videos are large and as such chew bandwidth when linked to.
16:33:30 <@popey> * What can people do with them?
16:33:37 <@popey> Pretty much whatever you like. I rather stupidly created the videos initially under a restrictive license. This was pointed out and now the videos are available under CC BY-SA 2.5 ( Just to be clear:-
16:34:07 <@popey> You can redistribute the videos in any format and media you like. You do _not_ need to ask our permission to redistribute them. You can translate them to other languages - perhaps by overdubbing the audio track, create mashups, edit them, whatever. We really don't mind.
16:34:54 <@popey> Of course we also want people to make their own and contribute back! :)
16:35:10 <@popey> * What we need / how you can help
16:35:15 <@popey> (the important bit)
16:35:23 <@popey> Rationalisation of the screencasting pages on the wiki. Many of the screencasting pages ( and its children) are brain dumps of what we were doing to make screencasts at the time. These pages need some love. They need simplifying. Help!
16:35:45 <@popey> Also the pages under also need some love
16:36:28 <@popey> We need a very very very simple guide to making screencasts. The problem is it's not that easy to make good quality screencasts. People have suggested a "screencast on how to make screencasts" which we have considered but it's also not exactly easy to make (technically)
16:36:49 <@popey> We have a list of screencasts we would like to see made:-
16:36:54 <@popey> Please add to this list, or adopt a screencast and make it yourself.
16:37:23 <@popey> If we can streamline the process I think we can get more people to make them. We would love to hear input on how we can make things easier.
16:37:45 <@popey> Voice overs/dubbing. I understand from speaking to some people that they don't like the idea of their own voice on a screencast. If that's the case, and you have a video you would like to make, then _please_ let me know. We need the videos made, we can record the audio track if that would help.
16:38:06 <@popey> * What else can we do / any questions?
16:38:12 <@popey> Q&A Time.
16:38:25 <@popey> Also - before a question - a link-fest :)
16:38:32 <@popey> * Useful links
16:38:32 <@popey> ** Our pages
16:38:32 <@popey> - Home of the screencasts made by the screencast team.
16:38:32 <@popey> - Base of the screencast team wiki pages.
16:38:32 <@popey> - Launchpad team page.
16:38:32 <@popey> - Team pages on the wiki
16:38:33 <@popey> - The method I use to make screencasts.
16:38:44 <@popey> ** Other people doing good work
16:38:44 <@popey> - Have generated a large number of screencasts.
16:38:44 <@popey> - Aggregate video content (not just screencasts) from YouTube/Google (so all flash based).
16:38:45 <@popey> - Free and pay-for screencasts on various topics
16:38:57 <@popey> Ok, that's everything - question time!

< Belutz> QUESTIONS: can you provide video only without sound? so the loco team can just record the audio in local language

  • yes, although if you download the video, avidemux can replace the audio very easily. if you contact me I can provide versions with no audio though. I have those archived

< LjL> popey: you answered. but just a thought (if you find it relevant), what about employing a separate user (with default settings) instead?

  • we did consider this, but the menu will still look different, universe apps may have been installed, java, flash etc may already be there so when we show installing software for example the dependencies would not be the same although I can see that if all you are screencasting is "how to write an openoffice document" that really wont matter

< chell> QUESTION: What are the specs of the machine you use for recording - how well does it work with QEMU (any slowdowns etc)?

  • I mostly use my desktop PC which is quite poweful - a Core2Duo with 2GB RAM. but the CPU isnt often thrashed. its important the virtual machine has plenty of RAM though. I boot my QEMUs with 512MB of ram, so the host needs a bout a 1GB to run efficiently I'd say

< Demon012[GoneToC> QUESTION: Which format is the preferred format to release the screen casts in?

  • I kinda think I answered that, i can probably deal with any original format _except_ flash flv. its just too painful (and did I mention evil)

< Demon012> QUESTION: Is there a screen cast or a series of how to's on setting up these screen casting apps to start screencasting?

  • not quite, there is a how-to. i would like to make a "how to screencast" screencast, but it is difficult to do

< zorglu_> QUESTION: under which license are the screencast distributed?

  • creative commons BY-SA 2.5

< jrib> QUESTION: why not link the screencasts in the relevant wiki pages? At the moment, is the only way people find out about a screencast by going to the screencasts page directly?

  • It *is* a wiki. Feel free to spam the wiki with links to our screencasts wherever appropriate Smile :)

< zorglu_> QUESTION: is there some 'permalink' to the screencast ? (it would help to include them in external documentations)

  • the links to the videos you see on *should* be okay, if we ever move server I will setup redirection if that is possible (i did this for quickones - if you visit you magically turn up at

< JLP> popey: QUESTION: What about adding text captions to recordings? For example for adding subtitles in defferent languages. Is it hard to do?

  • Yes, it's hard. :). I would suggest that if someone wants to transcribe the audio, they can do so and we can put that on the screencast site as a .txt file people can grab unless someone knows some magic - its going to be painful getting the timing right

< deniz_ogut> popey QUESTION: How much RAM do we need to do this job?

  • lots. As much as you can. of course if you are recording your own desktop and not using QEMU (VM) approach then its less of an issue. an alternative is to vnc to a remote machine and record the vnc session using xvidcap (not vncrec or vnc2swf for reasons already stated) that way you spread the load, one machine recording, one doing the demo

< maxi_> QUESTION: How can I find out if there's any loco team close here I coul'd join? I mean I speak German and spanish almost perfect, and english so so, so maybe there's some translation possilbility?

  • speak to jono Smile :)

< deniz_ogut> popey QUESTION: What tools do we need for just dubbing (translations, lets say) and what kind of a CPU and RAM?

  • audacity and something to allow you to watch the video as you talk - some kind of media player - totem / mplayer / vlc. the audio recording doesnt chew up memory, the qemu session does. you can then use avidemux to replace the audio track with your own one or send me the audio track and I will do it Smile :)

< Demon012> QUESTION: How do you do things in screencasts while allowing yourself enough time to talk about it after you add audio?

  • I talk to myself whilst I am doing it Smile :) i imagine what I am going to say at various points whilst I do the demo. I pause a bit. maybe wave the mouse over an important area

< jayteeuk> popey QUESTION: Do you script the screencasts themselves, what actions you're going to take, rough talk-over, storyboards, etc, before you get started?

16:53:04 <@popey> that's all the questions I think ?
16:53:17 <@popey> unless anyone wants me to expand on any?

< Gabz> popey QUESTION: what happens when a screencast becomes out of date eg feisty is released ?

  • yeah, that's a problem we have to live with. either we re-record it or we let it die. depends how "important" it is I guess. the problem is you cant easily edit them

< mc44> question: are there any areas you think we need more screencasts in?

  • everywhere. seriously. *except* 3d desktop effects. there are like a million of those on youtube. but none from us Sad :( .so yeah, maybe one or two compiz/beryl ones. ask yourself what people ask you about. look through irc channels, mailing lists, support tickets. what questions do people ask

< jayteeuk> QUESTION: Are there any metrics for determining the popularity of a specific screencast?

  • ratings on google? I have stats for popularity of pages on our site. and i get email about them. i need to speak to mdke to get "proper" site stats so we really can see which are the most popular. we were on the front page of groklaw last week Smile :) which was nice

< zorglu_> QUESTION: have you experimented doing screencast 'automatically' ? i know some people do screenshoot automatically to avoid the burden of redoing at every release.

  • i have not, if you find a way, i would love to hear it!

< davmor2> popey: can't do that in qemu though can you

  • sadly not, no. but could install a clean install of ubuntu and just install the screencasting app and beryl, then demo?

< jayteeuk> popey: I was thinking specifically for when determining whether an out-of-date screencast should be killed or re-done for the new release.

  • there are people still using dapper, I am sure there are people still using breezy, i guess we need to take a call when we run out of space Smile :)

< zorglu_> popey_: publishing those popularity results would allow people to know which kind of screencast is the most usefull for the users

  • ok, I will gather stats and publish on the site however there are only like 7 screencasts on there. most important thing from my point of view is to make more of them Smile :) if I remember rightly the two most popular are the installing dual boot, and burning ISOS

17:00:06 <@popey> right, i think we are out of time?
17:00:11 <@popey> thanks everyone!

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