What is a screencast?

Screencasts are short video clips which demonstrate visually how to do a specific task.

Isn't a text how-to guide good enough?

Many people find they learn better by seeing how something looks than by reading a text description.

Adding screenshots to a how-to guide should be enough?

A video can often show a lot more detail than a series of screenshots. It isn't easy to demonstrate for example a conversation on IRC, dragging and dropping, or 3D desktop effects with screenshots alone.

Screencast project

Why are you doing this?

The prevalence and popularity of Google Video and YouTube (and others) have made it possible to quickly and easily distribute video content. Whilst a large number of those videos are funny clips, interviews, movie trailers and video podcasts there is a gap for educational videos which can be filled with screencasts. A huge number of people have never seen Ubuntu or even heard of it. Having this content out there is a great marketing opportunity, enabling people to see for themselves what Ubuntu is capable of.

Many screencasts already exist, but are often low quality, illegible with litte/poor or no audio track. This project seeks to put out screencasts of a consistent high quality to show off the best of Ubuntu.

In addition this project is not only for new users who have never seen Ubuntu, but for existing users who want to learn more.

Why don't you just use something like Istanbul or Recordmydesktop?

Most screencast / screen recording applications on Linux (including those mentioned) record directly to OGG/Vorbis/Theora. This isn't a problem if you only ever want to spready those videos to other Linux users. However for conversion to other formats, having the "master" video in OGG format isn't helpful. Editing of MPEG, and further conversion from MPEG to other formats (including OGG) is much easier on any platform (Linux included) than it is to start with an OGG and try to edit/mix/convert that. As one of the goal of this project is to make screencasts accessible to as many people on as many different platforms as possible (not just Linux) it makes sense to use a master which can be easily converted later.

What license are the screencasts released under?

Originally the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license was used, however this was deemed too restrictive, and as such all the content was re-licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. The screencasts have not been edited and re-uploaded to indicate this however. Future screencasts will have the correct license information.

Can I take the screencasts and re-dub them in another language?


How can I help with this project?

Firstly, join the Ubuntu Screencasts launchpad team. That way we know you want to help.

Tasks that currently need addressing:-

  • Specifications need to be written for yet-to-be-recorded screencasts. These can be found on the ScreencastTeam/Requests page.

  • Run through the process of creating a screencast using our ScreencastTeam/RecordingScreencasts procedure.

  • Let us know if it works or not for you. Feedback about problems with that procedure will help us to make the process of creating screencasts simpler.
  • Design a new method for producing the introduction (and end) slide or video. We are currently using an OpenOffice.org presentation which you can http://screencasts.ubuntu.com/videos/ubuntu-uk-titles.odp download. Ten seconds of the first slide make up the introduction and five seconds of the second slide make up the end.

    • A new presentation could be developed
    • A static ten second MPEG video could be created which we could attach to the video in post-production
    • However the disadvantage to this is that it would not be dynamic - the title of the video would be missing if we re-used the same title sequence. Possibly a combination of a slick ten second intro video followed by a simple slide with the name of the video on it?
    • Another method to create a title sequence in MPEG format dynamically could be devised?
  • Any further input on how we can make these better, whether it's the process or anything about the video, let us know. It's only by getting feedback that we have any idea whether we're doing the right thing.

What are the team guidelines for creating screencasts?

Some arbitrary decisions I made early on in the process:-

  • Videos created should be made available in multiple formats (mpeg, ogg, mp4 etc) to make them accessible for any platform. All videos should be available in OGG/Vorbis/Theora with other formats being secondary priority.
  • Videos should be stream-able using flash. Whilst flash is closed and is therefore evil it is deployed on a high proportion of Linux and non-Linux desktops. This means that the downloadable formats are the highest priority. Flash is a secondary "nice to have".
  • In the future the videos should be distributable via CDROM and/or DVD. Ideally DVDs should play in a standard domestic DVD player.
  • Recordings should be full-screen 1024x768 showing the entire desktop so everything is visible without having to resize or move windows.
  • Duration should be only long enough to cover the demo and include minimal additional "fluff". An arbitrary target of 5 minutes for short videos, 10 minutes for more detailed procedures, and 20 minutes for advanced topics.
  • Demonstrations should include a clear voice-over to explain everything that happens in the video.
  • Videos should be freely downloadable and distributed via an open creative commons license such as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5

  • Two-stage recording/encoding should be used if at all possible, that is the recording of the demonstration should be done, then after the recording is made the encoding should be done to convert the initial format to a more heavily compressed format.
  • Videos that show beginner-level tasks should be done on a basic install of Linux, not one that has already been heavily modified or has had additional software installed. This ensures that the user experience during the video will match that which the user is familiar with.
  • A title page should be shown at the start of the video depicting the title of the video, and an end page should also be shown, with a link to the home page.

Video Formats

Why do you record at a resolution of only 1024x768 / 1280x720?

Recording at any higher resolution would not gain us a tremendous amount of detail, but would dramatically increase the size of the videos.

Why do you record at such a high resolution as 1024x768 1280x720?

To ensure we get a desktop recording which has sufficient room to show standard windows, dialogs & panels without feeling cramped. Most displays these days can show 1024x768, and if they can't, downscaling during playback to 800x600 shouldn't loose too much detail.

On Linux, why does the video player crash when I play your high resolution screencasts?

On some machines there appears to be a bug in the video driver which causes it to be unable to play high resolution video content. Notably on Intel based computers using the "i810" driver this can be seen. We have noticed that changing to the "intel" driver (package xserver-xorg-video-intel) resolves this issue.

On Windows, how can I play the Ogg videos?

Oggs don't play "out of the box" on Windows. There is a codec you can install which will allow Ogg playback though. See the following website for details of how to install the Directshow filters for Ogg Vorbis (and other formats):- http://www.illiminable.com/ogg/

Why do you make the videos available in multiple formats?

Whilst Ogg/Theora/Vorbis videos generally work out of the box on most Linux distributions, that isn't the case for other platforms. Whilst one of our primary goals is to provide educational screencasts for existing Ubuntu users we should be mindful that many people are thinking of switching, or have never heard of Ubuntu. A screencast should therefore play on any platform to make them as accessible as possible.

A low barrier to entry for users to view videos is essential if we are going to convince people how great this product is. If they have to jump through technical hoops to watch these videos, many of them will give up. Some users (such as corporate desktops or internet cafe users) may not even be allowed to add additional software such as codecs and plugins onto the computer they are using.

These video files are huge, how can I watch them on a low-bandwidth connection?

All the videos made so far have also been uploaded to Google Video. They can be watched in the browser-based flash player. In the future it may be possible to order a CD or DVD containing some or all of the screencasts but at the moment that is not possible.

What video players should be used to watch these?

  • Totem Movie Player - This is installed by default in Ubuntu

  • VLC Movie Player - This is known to play almost every media format that exists on this planet.
  • MPlayer Movie Player - A Powerful Media Player.



Why are the screencasts hosted at Google Video in flash format?

Providing flash access means people can get instant gratification by watching the videos there and then. The videos are also freely downloadable, so you are not restricted to using the Google flash player to watch them. The fact is that most people have flash installed and so it's easy for them to watch the videos. Ease of use and a low barrier to entry are important to this project.

Using Flash

How can I play the flash streaming version under Ubuntu?

The Flash version of the videos (hosted at Google Video) requires the proprietary Adobe Flash Player. The https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/Flash page on the Ubuntu wiki details how to install it.

I can't read the text in the embedded flash player

Whilst the videos are resized down by Google which makes text difficult to read, all the other video formats are "full resolution" and even though they are compressed, text is perfectly legible.

ScreencastTeam/FAQ (last edited 2008-08-06 17:00:35 by localhost)