Screencast-O-Matic: Review and Features
By Seth Daugherty
Screencast-O-Matic is a free screen recording and webcam recording software for Mac, PC, or Chromebook that allows you to effortlessly create explainer and instructional videos. Instructors like it because the free version is straightforward and simple to use and the paid versions give you a lot of value for your money.
To get started, go to
https://screencast-o-matic.com/screen-recorder and select Start Recording for Free. This will download a piece of software called Screen Recorder Launcher Setup. Once you install the free setup software you will need to go to the Screencast-O-Matic Website each time you want to record. Once you are there you'll select Launch Free Recorder. If you opt for the Solo Deluxe ($1.50/mo) or the Solo Premier ($4/mo) versions you'll select Start Recorder from the Screencast-O-Matic account page after you login.
When you select Launch Free Recorder from the homepage a black and white border frames the area. This is the area of the screen that will be recorded. The Record Menu opens as well. In this menu you can choose to record only the screen, the webcam, or both, change the size of the produced video from 480p, 720p, active window (you control the size of the screen), or full screen (1080p), change the microphone settings, and add computer audio if you have the Solo Deluxe or Solo Premier versions. Below these options is an additional Preference Menu which gives you a range of hotkey options, countdown options before recording begins, control bar positions, webcam preview and more.
At the very bottom of the Record Menu is a big red Rec button to begin recording, a widget which opens and closes the Record Menu, and a cancel button. The interface is simple without unnecessary distractions.
As I've mentioned, to begin recording go to
https://screencast-o-matic.com/screen-recorder and select Launch Free Recorder. From there, select from the Record Menu options and then select the Rec button at the bottom left corner. I like to record the screen at 720p, as 480p is too small an area and 1080p takes up the entire screen which can be distracting for students. It's also worth noting that the area that records the screen can be repositioned during the recording which is useful if you want to demonstrate something off-screen in the middle of a recording.
Once you click the record button the screen will begin recording after a 3-second countdown. When you're done, simply select the pause button. When you are completely done with all your recordings for that video select Done. This brings up the editing screen.
Editing Your Video:
In the free version of the editing screen you can only edit the beginning and end times of the video, add music, and of course add closed captioning but only with a captions file previously created. There are two other closed captioning options, text-to-speech and blank captions, but these are only available on the Solo Deluxe and Solo Premier versions. Once you're happy with the video you can save the video file locally in MP4 format, upload the video to your Screencast-O-Matic site, or upload to YouTube.
Although the options in the free version of Screencast-O-Matic are nice for quick and dirty screencasts, they definitely leave something to be desired. For one thing you can only record up to 15-minutes in the free version. This is probably fine for most instructors but if you plan to record longer sessions you'll need to pay for the Solo Premier version ($4/mo). For another thing, you miss out on all the great editing features available in the full video editing suite. This can be really important if, like me, you do retakes in the middle of a screencast and don't want to continually start over each time you make a mistake. Other features available with the premium features include uploading to Google Drive, Dropbox, and Vimeo, drawing while recording, zoom in while recording, removing the watermark, taking screenshots, and the closed captioning options previously mentioned. There are arguably a lot of useful features available to those that purchase the Solo Deluxe ($1.50/mo) option. The only additional features the Solo Premier option provides ($4/mo) are ad-free playback pages, the ability to use your brand and domain on video pages, the ability to upload videos longer than 15 minutes, and 100gb of bandwidth/month to upload to Screencast-O-Matic servers. The Solo Deluxe and free version offer 2gb which is arguably enough for most instructors.
Screencast-O-Matic is arguably the best screen-casting software on the market. It's lightweight, and the features are well thought out. Although the free version doesn't provide enough options for editing, the Solo Deluxe upgrade ($1.50/mo) adds a number of desirable features and won't break the bank. Overall, Screencast-O-Matic will fit the needs of most instructors with its intuitive interface and feature-rich editor available in the Solo Deluxe and Solo Premier versions.