September 11, 2008

Ambient News: The Movie

A few weeks ago, I made my first screencast—a pitch for Ambient News on the Mozilla Labs Concept Series:

The screencast was recorded with Vara Software’s ScreenFlow; the title cards were composed in Adobe Photoshop CS3 and typeset in Helvetica Neue light.

I thought I’d write a few notes about some of the thoughts and experiences that went into the making of this.

I intentionally gave this video a target run-time of 45 seconds. In part, this was influenced by the practice of one of my favorite Philosophy professors at Kenyon, whereby the length of any paper we wrote was limited to be no more than 2 pages. This forced us to make extremely concise arguments. The word is analogous to the second in video and audio, and limiting the run-time of my screencast to 45 seconds was my way of forcing myself to treat every moment of the viewer’s attention as the precious resource that it is.

It took me about 3 hours to make this screencast, in part because I’d never used ScreenFlow before, and in part because the video had to be ready in time to be included on the New Tab Concepts post on the Labs blog that would go live later the same day. I believe I gave myself 3 takes to get the recording right, and I wish I was able to give myself more—there’s a number of intonation changes in my voice that I dislike, and a few unplanned things going on in the video that are a bit distracting and confusing. At the same time, though, I like the fact that I didn’t have gobs of time to spend on obsessively perfecting this (a practice which I am wont to do). Being comfortable with making something that has rough edges is probably a healthy thing, and as such I’m reasonably pleased with the final result.

© Atul Varma 2020