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Wednesday
Jan052011

Screencast Dashboards: Leverage the Power of Dual Monitors

If you have two monitors available, you can take advantage of both monitors to be more productive with your screencasts. Using two monitors is a little more complicated at first but can simply your recordings.

The big advantage is that you can use a secondary monitor as a “control dashboard” for your screencast – keeping all the applications, tools, and information you need in your field of vision and easily accessible without having them show up in the screencast.

 

SCENARIOS

This method useful in scenarios where the screencast:

  • involves a series of intricate steps that are easy to forget or perform in the wrong order
  • requires you to type in a lot of text or enter text strings that are hard to remember or type
  • You need to keep a close watch on the duration of the screencast or of the audio is at the correct volume

 

SETTING UP DUAL MONITORS ON WINDOWS 7

If you aren’t already aware how to do get started with a dual monitor setup, the instructions are here:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Move-windows-between-multiple-monitors

 

A SUGGESTED CONFIGURATION

Below, you can see how I have configured this on my dual monitor system.

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CHOOSING THE MAIN DISPLAY

I will pick Display 1 as my main display for a simple reason – it is directly in front of my eyes physically, whereas Display 2 is offset to the right. It being the main display means that will have the Windows Start Menu and that’s the display we should be recording.

Now having picked the display to record, we need to adjust the resolution of the main display.

SELECTING DISPLAY RESOLUTIONS

Display 1 has a resolution of 1920x1200. Not obvious in the control panel: this is 24 inch monitor.

Display 2 has been set to a HD resolution: 1280x720. I don’t recommend higher than 1920x1080. Also not obvious is that this is a 30 inch monitor with a native display resolution of 2560x1600.

 

DISPLAY RESOLUTION VERSUS PHYSICAL SIZE

The physical size of the monitors is up to your personal preference. As long as the display resolution of your main display is set correctly then you are OK.

Notice that in my home office my PHYSICALLY LARGER 30” monitor (Display 2) has been set to a SMALLER RESOLUTION than my PHYSICALLY SMALLER 24” MONITOR (Display 1).

See for yourself below. The larger monitor below corresponds to the Display 2 in my Control Panel.

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WINDOW PLACEMENT ON THE DISPLAYS

Here’s a screenshot of my full extended desktop. The as you can see the desktop I will be recording is on the left, and the on the right is where one can place all the tools necessary for a screencast.

image

In this case I use the right monitor (Display 1) to store:

  • The Camtasia Recorder application. Keeping it off the right means it is easy for me to monitor how long the screencast has been going on and visually observe my audio levels.
  • A Script of the Screencast in notepad. Usually I increase the font in notepad so that don’t have to strain to see the text. Another use for notepad here is to keep text snippets around. Such snippets include URLs, source code, usernames, so that I don’t have to waste time in the screencast typing in a lot of text.
  • Miscellaneous tools – In this case I have all my screencast tools stored in a specific folder so that they are easy to access. These tools include content I programs such as ZoomIt or content such as PowerPoint presentations I use to show screencast titles.
  • Control Panel – to adjust settings such as display and microphone settings.

This leaves the left monitor (Display 2) clear for the content needed for the screencast.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR

  • One minor limitation of this method is that the tools that are visible on the non-recorded display (Display 1) still show up on the Windows Taskbar.
  • The Camtasia Recorder app will sometimes get confused if you place it on a monitor B which is not set as the main display and then go back to using only a single monitor where monitor A is the main display. What you might see is that the Camtasia Recorder application appears in the windows taskbar but is nowhere to be seen on the main display. This is an odd bug in Camtasia. Fortunately the workaround is simple – select the Camtasia recorder application on the Windows Taskbar. Once you click the recorder icon the application will be in the foreground but invisible as it is being “drawn off-screen”. To get it back on the screen you hold down the WINDOWS and ALT keys simultaneously and press the LEFT or RIGHT arrow button. This will cause the application to move between displays and thus it will move into the main display where you can see it again.

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