This article was a byproduct of a training manual I was putting together for a new video editor I was hiring to edit for my brands. I figured that I could kill two birds with one stone and just turn it into a public post you could all access.
I am no Steven Spielberg. When it comes to traditional video shooting and editing, I am average on a great day. However, I am elite at creating one type of video: the screen recording.
I've filmed and edited more of these than I can count over the years for my YouTube channels and online courses. Most of the content I've made over the years has been tutorial based and involved online programs.
Editing them is often totally overlooked or done as an afterthought. If you want to level up your editing skills for screen recordings, you're going to enjoy this article. I'm going to show you the core edits that will benefit your viewers and, in turn, your business or career.
Note: The tool I use is for Mac and is called Screenflow 10, but you can do these same things with just about any video editing software you choose.
Cutting Out Footage
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it best. "Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away."
Part of getting more from a video is providing less of it. Great editors know what to remove and what to keep.
We don't want to improve on parts of the recording that shouldn't be there!
Here's what a 5 minute selection of one of my videos looks like...
I love making cuts!
So, be sure to “trim the fat” of your videos. This fat could include…
- Long gaps in speech. Don't make your viewers sit in silence with you. Even when this feels more natural, it's usually better to just keep the pace of the video. If viewers want a break, they can click pause.
- Ums, ahs, and filler words. We do this if it doesn’t make the video seem robotic or jumpy.
- Mistakes. If we said something that was incorrect or could be misleading, reshoot it or remove it if it doesn't affect the value of the video negatively.
- Redundancies. Sometimes we say the same thing multiple times and we don’t need to.
- Background noises. Dogs barking, text message alerts, etc.
Anything that doesn’t aid in the video or connection with the viewer should be up for removal consideration.
Tips for Cutting Out Footage
#1 You Will Usually Reshoot a Few Things
It sucks, but many times you will need to reshoot a part that you need to delete. Understand the difference between removing something to improve the video and removing something so you can replace it with a better take. If you get lazy and cut everything that isn't perfect, your video will not have the same value you initially intended.
#2 Keep Spacing
It's no secret that people remove pieces of their videos, and we don't need to hide the fact that something has been cut. However, we need to work to bridge the gap left by deleted content. Try to give a small amount of space between narration, so that your audio doesn't seem choppy.
Speed Up Footage
Often with screen recordings, we find ourselves waiting for things on screen to load. This is a great way to lose viewers.
We have two good options to fix this.
First, we can cut the wait out and add a transition to let the viewer know time has passed.
Transitions are great when moving between ideas or through time. They give the same sense that a break has been taken or that a process has moved forward.
These work best when the entire screen changes, but they don't have to be limited to that.
Second, we can choose to shorten up the duration of a clip (speed it up) to let the viewer know what is happening.
It’s usually obvious that it’s sped up, but we can also add effects like a fast forward sound, waiting music (think the Jeopardy song or elevator music), a fast forward icon, and some filters to make it clear we are fast forwarding.
Should You Show Your Face or Not?
When you think of a screen recording video, the first thing that comes to mind might be a video game streamer on YouTube.
Guys like DanTDM do this in almost all of their videos.
Maybe this is unique to me since I have 4 kids...
But do you need your face in the videos? Unless people are watching for your reactions and personality, probably not.
I found some opinions on the "face or not" debate while reading through this thread on Quora.
I saw several valid comments like, "people always like to know who is talking," or "showing your face builds trust and a connection with your viewer." These are true statements.
To fix the problem of being impersonal, I structure my YouTube videos like this (as of 2022).
I open and close the video with my face like a typical video, but I don't use my face in the screen recording part of the video.
In my online courses, I rarely show my face at all. Everyone watching those videos is there to learn. They don't need to bond with me or any of that mushy stuff.
The goal is clarity. Period. My face being on the page is mostly a distraction and often covers up parts of the page I want the reader to see.
Having a face in the shot can also increase the amount of editing issues you run into. So, unless you need to, I suggest you leave it out.
Screen recordings often have a lot of information on one page.
In many of my tutorials, there are a lot of different text elements that the viewer sees. So, when I discuss them, it’s helpful to use call-outs to bring them into focus.
Call-outs can …
- Make areas of the screen larger without zooming in on the entire page.
- Change the opacity of all other elements so the focus elements appear lighter and more visible.
- Add shadows to an area of focus.
These are my favorite tools for adding clarity to my screen recordings.
Arrows work well on their own or in combination with call-outs. These are much more straightforward.
I like to give these some animations as well.
Whenever possible, I'll keep the arrow on the timeline and just add movement to it if I'm highlighting multiple things in succession.
If I flip to a different window or page while the arrow is on the screen, I will add an animation to make it fully transparent. Once I go back to the original page, I will adjust it back to full visibility, like this.
Tips for Using Arrows
#1 Keep the Arrow on the Timeline
When you don't want the arrow to be visible, just turn the opacity to 0% or navigate it off the screen. This is unnecessary, but I've found it to be a timesaver.
#2 Use Templates
Most video editing tools let you create presets and templates. I have a template design for my arrows. This gives my videos some consistency, and I don't have to edit them from scratch each time I need one.
Sometimes we will want to hide elements from a screen share.
This could be for several reasons, such as hiding…
- Personal address
- License keys
- Billing information
The key here is to ensure that elements are blurred completely from the first moment they appear to the last moment they are visible.
If you use a blur effect, do NOT ease it in unless it is completed before the private elements are visible. If you have things like billing information that someone wants, they can easily slow down the video and see the sensitive information if you don’t blur it perfectly and completely.
Err on the side of blurring the information too soon rather than timing it perfectly.
I’m a huge fan of showing important things twice. To do this, I’ll just copy a clip and play it twice. We will want to make sure that the audio narration says something like “This merits a second look,”… followed by a rewind effect (similar to the ones we just discussed above when discussing fast forwarding)
Adding text is a great way to highlight or reiterate the most important points of your video.
Every video editing software has a text option. I like to give my text some animations to make them stand out.
Tips for Using Text
#1 Use Templates
You shouldn't need to recreate your text every time you use it.
#2 Make Sure it Contrasts
Use light text on dark backgrounds and dark text on light backgrounds.
How Much Editing Is "Enough"
My opinion is that most people don't edit their screen recordings enough. How much you choose to edit yours is totally your call. If you're selling an online course, you might want to edit your videos much more than if you're just creating a quick non-monetized tutorial about Microsoft Excel.
Here is what a typical screen recording video for an online course looks like for me.
Every line break or blue shaded area was some sort of edit.
If something can be made clearer, I will do it. Sometimes this is a lot of edits, and other times it is significantly less.
The experience level of your viewer should also be taken into consideration. If they are very familiar with the basics of a software I'm showcasing, for example, I won't feel as compelled to make quite as many edits.
Focus on clarity and not the raw number of edits made.
There you have it. Just remember, no one has ever complained that something was too easy to follow. The only real question is how much time are you willing to spend on editing your videos for clarity? Take your time and don't cut corners. Your viewers will thank you.
If you want to learn more about creating these types of edits with Screenflow, check out the video below.