Technical Screencast Considerations

I have received a significant amount of feedback on the content in the Summer of NHibernate screencast series that I have been producing and let me say a quick ‘thank you’ to everyone for offering your input — its great to hear what people are thinking about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and what their thoughts are about the relative merit of my efforts here.

But instead of being about content, this post is about the technical merits of what I’m doing (and how I’m going about doing it).  I’ve now received enough feedback on this stuff that I feel like I can adequately organize it into a few repeating themes and I wanted to get some thoughts from the consumers of the screencasts about them before I consider making any changes…

Video Resolution

I have received a number of comments that my choice of 1280×1024 is ‘needlessly high-res’ for the content.  Perhaps the most public of this criticism comes from Scott Hanselman in this post where he’s kind enough to help publicize the work I’m doing with these (thanks again for the PR, Scott — my viewership/downloads have increased substantially since you and others have mentioned my efforts over here and that’s really great to see) but also mentions that he is suggesting that I reduce the resolution of these to either 1024×768 or even (gasp! smile_sniff ) 800×600.

Now, its not at all clear to me that anyone can effectively use Visual Studio at anything as low-res as 1024×768 even with the ‘side-panel’ areas unpinned,  but what does everyone think about whether the videos could be recorded at this resolution?  My feeling is that there would be way too much scrolling going on for this to be effective.  This is my chief complaint with the otherwise valuable dot-net-rocks-TV stuff — that the huge amount of constant scrolling (both horiz and vert) in that series makes it very difficult to really follow what’s going on when the speaker is typing.  Scott, I think one of my recommendations to you would be to stop recording things at 800×600! smile_wink  But reducing the resolution would help reduce the size of the downloads to be sure.

The other problem that I have with this is that I really am creating this content for internal distribution and reuse so if making it more download-friendly reduces its effectiveness for its internal purposes too far then I’m going to have to so ‘no’ to any change that does that of course.

But another comment I did receive was that "I have to play these on a high-res monitor".  So that I’m not a hardware snob (I have a pair of 24-inch flat-panel displays @ home), I don’t want to intentionally limit anyone from being able to view this content, but in today’s day and age is it unreasonable to assume that any serious developer would have a larger-than-SVGA-display at their disposal…?


Video File Format

Another recurring theme is that people are asking for wmv (Windows Media – Video) format files instead of avi (Audio-Video Interleaved) files so that they can play them at 2x (1.5x ?) speed in Windows Media Player.  Apparently wmv files can be played at different speeds than recorded whereas avi files cannot.

I have to confess that until recently I never even knew you could play media @ 2x speed in Windows Media Player, so this never crossed my mind when choosing AVI as the file format.  I guess that playing screeencasts or podcasts at 2x speed must the the rich-media equivalent of speed-reading and although I don’t want to draw conclusions about what someone gets out of this kind of stuff @ 2x speed, I’m inclined to believe that its the A/V equivalent of Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid? hypothesis smile_embaressed.

None-the-less, if this is something that people are interested in, I suppose I could do it; what are the overall opinions on this?

I look forward to everyone’s input as always.