Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Editing screencasts using a Mac – Part 2 of Creating screencasts using a Mac

In a previous blog post, I described the process of recording my first screencast using only tools that are free with the Mac. The screencast captured audio and video as I narrated what I did on screen.

Contents of my screencast

I recorded the screencast as a series of eight clips. In it, I demonstrated certain tools that are free with every Mac that translators and other writers can use to work more efficiently:

  1. Introduction
  2. Three ways to use the Mac
  3. Adding resources to the Mac
  4. Typing non-English letters
  5. Hearing text read out loud (text to speech)
  6. Dictating to the Mac
  7. Configuring the macOS spell checker
  8. Conclusion (and software development idea)

After the recording

At that point, I still needed to do some more work. I had to put all the clips into one project that I could export as one 21-minute video. I also needed to create on-screen captions, or titles in iMovie-speak. As you might guess, I used iMovie to finalize the project.

Why iMovie?

Better, more capable video editing software is available. I own a licence to an old version of Camtasia, the software my course instructor recommended. (This video presentation was my term project for a course that’s part of the accelerated B.A. in translation – French to English – that I’m pursuing.)

People at the Apple Store tell me Final Cut Pro is much more capable than iMovie. It also costs $400 (Canadian pricing), and I’m cheap (but don’t tell anybody that).

Maybe it’s more politic to say that I didn’t want to spend $400 on software I might only use once. Of course, I could have used trial versions of either Camtasia or Final Cut. (You do need to take extra steps to prevent a watermark from showing in video you create and edit using Camtasia.)

Expense aside, the real reason for using iMovie was to extend the theme of my presentation to the tools I used to create said presentation. The theme: exploring translation and writing productivity tools that are free with every Mac. So I decided to create my screencast using – you guessed it – productivity tools that are free with every Mac.

My iMovie editing experience

Recording the videos using QuickTime was straightforward enough. Editing was where iMovie’s strengths and weaknesses appeared.

Learning iMovie

I’m no video pro, so I checked out Apple’s documentation. To get started, I visited an Apple Store iMovie workshop. Then, to get several questions answered, I visited Apple Store Studio hours. To Apple’s credit, all the documentation and support are highly professional and free.

Adding titles

Titles proved easy enough to add. For the most part, I stuck with one style of title that appeared along the bottom of the screen, white letters against a translucent black background.

In one case, I used a title in the middle of the screen so the title would not cover the feature I wanted to describe. Middle-of-the-screen titles don’t have black backgrounds, and most colours result in letters that are illegible depending on where the screen background changes. I used the default macOS High Sierra background. It’s beautiful, but not a great background for legibility. I went with a fuschia shade. It works, but it doesn’t look as professional as the other tools I used.

Inflexible titles templates (a mixed blessing)

iMovie does not offer much flexibility when creating titles on-screen. You get certain templates that you can’t change.

I wanted to do bullet lists on-screen. iMovie doesn’t offer bullet lists. But this limitation turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I chose a two-line bottom-of-the-screen template with a black background (called “Soft Bar – Black”) along the bottom of the screen and stuck with it throughout for consistency. I put the title of each list on the first line of my two-line title template. Then I put the items in the second line, so they appeared one at a time. The title quickly fades out and back in between list items since they are separate titles. I would have preferred that the title stay on screen and not fade out. But there doesn’t seem to be any way to add two titles to the screen at the same time in iMovie.

I also wanted to adjust the templates to my preferences. For example, I wanted an initial title template that contained the overall presentation title in the second line. Also, I wanted every title centred.

This is something else iMovie doesn’t allow. Default title templates can’t be changed, and you can’t create new ones. So I created one set of two initial titles – centered, presentation title on second line, set times for each – then copied them and pasted them to the beginning of the other seven clips.


I did one picture-in-picture edit.

Apple’s System Preferences offers videos of what different trackpad gestures look like. I recorded the three-finger tap and results from Trackpad preferences using QuickTime. That three-second clip went in the video right before I did my own three-finger tap.

Creating transitions

Transitions from one clip to the next were’t easy. That was my fault, though. I did not leave enough time at the beginning and end of each clip for “cutaways.”

I used the “Cube” transition, dragging it to all the spots between clips. I’ve always liked this transition. Apple uses it in macOS when you switch from one user ID to another. In this project, it proved to be the smoothest choice to go from one clip to the next.

Sharing the project

Sharing the final product with my class was easy enough. iMovie enables upload to several places online. I uploaded the video to my meagrely populated YouTube channel. The upload took a while, since the total video size was north of one GB.

The final product

Want to see how I did? You can check out the full-length video here.

What do you think of my first foray into technical screencasting? Would you do anything differently? Let me know in the comments below.