In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to record a digital whiteboard video where you’ll record yourself writing or drawing on screen.
Including digital whiteboard techniques in your video is a great way to make your videos more interesting and control the users attention. You can draw on a blank white background, include a custom branded whiteboard, or annotate images in order to demonstrate something.
The workflow basically looks like this:
- You need some sort of device to record pen gestures.
- You need a program that you can draw onto.
- You need a screen capture program to record the screen while you draw.
- You need a video editing package to edit the video in post production.
Watch the video below, then continue reading.
Setting up your drawing tablet
The best way to create these types of videos is to use a digital pen tablet like the Wacom Intuos Pen Small Tablet (CTL480), but I’ve always wondered if there were any way to create a whiteboard video using a smartphone or tablet. Most people have these devices already, and they’re packed with some pretty incredible touch screen technology, I did try out a couple of solutions, but honestly, they were very cumbersome, or the quality wasn’t that great.
But if you wanted to check them out yourself, I used RemoteMouse to make my phone control my computer mouse, and I also tried the Teamviewer Quicksupport app to share my tablet screen with my computer (The framerate and quality were too low to use in video). You’ll probably want to get a stylus for your phone or tablet in order to write on the screen instead of using your finger. I’m sure after you try it you’ll agree that it’s definitely worth getting a digital pen tablet.
There are also some apps that let you record your tablet screen, but most of the apps require your device to be rooted, and I didn’t like how you had to record it onto the tablet, then transfer the file to the computer afterwards.
A pen tablet is essentially a “super powered” mouse device that is controlled by a special pen. When you press the pen to the surface it acts as a “left-click”, but it also senses the position of the pen just by hovering over the surface. So, it tends to feel really natural when you’re using it. These pen tablets also have pressure sensitivity built into them, so depending upon how hard you press the pen to the surface, the darker the line will show up. The pen has a couple of buttons on the side that you can assign to different actions as well. I have the Wacom Bamboo CL-460, which is now discontinued, but has been replaced by the Wacom Intuos Pen Small Tablet (CTL480).
So once you have your tablet installed, you’ll want to open the settings. Yours might be a little different, but you’ll probably find it in the Control Panel, or in your task bar. These settings are really important because you want to set it up to make it feel as natural as possible to write, or else you’re going to get really frustrated at the results, and you’ll feel like you have to re-learn how to draw. (I’m no artist, so for the longest time I thought I was just terrible at using a pen tablet, but then I realized I was using the wrong settings.)
Open up the settings, and look for Pen & Mouse settings. The difference between Pen and Mouse mode is that Pen mode maps out the tablet area to a specific area on your screen, it could be your entire desktop, just one monitor, or a specific user defined area on the screen. There is a direct relationship between the area on the tablet, and the area on the screen.
With Mouse mode, you can pick up the pen and move it to a new location in order to access a different area of the screen, much like a computer mouse. So there is an indirect relationship between the pen tablet area and the screen area. My initial preference was to use Mouse mode, because I have dual monitors, I have a large area to cover, so I didn’t want to restrict my drawing to a small portion of the screen, but I’ve found the results to be very jittery and hard to control.
I’m the first to admit that my penmanship is lacking, but hopefully you can see the point I’m trying to illustrate. It just seems like there’s something with the Mouse mode “acceleration” that adds a level of jitter to the movement, even with speed and acceleration turned down.
- Mouse Mode is intended for general navigation
- Pen Mode is intended for drawing
So, the trick to getting the most natural looking and feeling handwriting is to use Pen mode, but make sure you click on mapping in order to define an area on your screen where your tablet will work. Make sure Force Proportions is enabled, so your gestures aren’t skewed. If you have dual monitors, you want to set it to a single monitor, or select a portion of your screen to use.
Once your tablet is set up, you’ll need a drawing program.
You can use nearly any program that allows you to manually draw in it. Photoshop, Paint, Gimp, Powerpoint, are all programs I’ve used to do this. But my new favorite is SketchBook. SketchBook is a professional drawing program built specifically to be used with drawing tablets. It has a very easy to use interface, and it looks great. The basic version is free! (That’s what I use) You can download it at https://www.sketchbook.com/desktop (They also have a mobile version which is pretty fun to play around with too!)
Once you have SketchBook installed and opened, you can pick a brush to use. For digital whiteboards, I like to use the felt tip pen at a size of about 5. I like the balance between heavy lineweight and soft edges that combination has.
You also have the ability to import images onto the canvas. This is great if you have a custom background you want to draw on, or if you want to annotate a specific image in order to demonstrate something. Just go to File -> Add Image. Then, tap ESC to close the Move tooltip.
This is your “whiteboard”, where you’ll be drawing on your screen, now you’ll need to record your screen. It’s really important to make sure your canvas is zoomed to actual size, to prevent any pixelation in your screen capture. Right-click and drag on the canvas to select the Actual size reset button.
To record your screen, you’ll need a screencapture software. I use Camtasia, which not only includes screen capture software, but also comes with a full video editing studio as well. But, there are many free options as well, such as Tinytake, or Jing, or if you’re on a Mac, you can use the built-in screen recorder inside Quicktime.
There are many things I like about Camtasia, including the fact that you can choose a preset aspect ratio in the recording software. If you’re going to be uploading this to YouTube, you want to make sure you record in a widescreen aspect ratio, and depending upon the resolution of your monitor, you may or may not have enough “room” on your screen to record in 1080p. You want to at least go with 1280×720 as a bare minimum.
Position your screen capture area to within the boundaries of your drawing canvas, so none of the controls in SketchBook are visible. You should only see a blank, white canvas (Or your background image if you have one) You might have to adjust your canvas size in SketchBook by going to File -> Page Setup, to choose a larger canvas.
There are a few different scenarios you might find yourself recording digital whiteboard. A common misconception is that you must record your digital whiteboard along with your audio in real time. But in most cases, you’ll find it easier to record them separately.
One important thing to remember is that your digital whiteboard should have minimal effect on the speed and flow of your dialog! If you are dragging through a video while spelling out each word in real time while saying “Thhhhhhiiiiiisssss iiiiiiiiiiissssss…….. uuuuuuhhhhh…….. Tuuuuuuuuutooooorrrriiiiaaaalllll ………..Uuuuuuhhhhhbbbooooooooooooouuuuutttt……..” you are missing the whole point of doing a digital whiteboard. Your digital whiteboard should enhance your videos, not inhibit them.
1. Real-time recording of audio and whiteboard
Recording your audio and screencast at the same time might seem like the most logical and straight-forward solution for creating a whiteboard presentation. After all, that’s how all of our teachers in school used to do it, right? They would draw on the board during the presentation of the days’ lesson.
Many of the videos at Khan Academy take this approach, and they do a good job of it. But, in my personal experience, I find myself shying away from this approach (especially when I first started out) for a few reasons:
- Writing on screen is hard! It takes a lot of practice to get it right, and recording everything in real time can be stressful, especially if you’re brand new to it.
- Writing on screen takes time. Meaning, you may be well finished with your statement, but you’re still scribbling away trying to catch up with your writing. This dead space can sometimes make people lose interest. This is especially true if you are going to be drawing or illustrating.
- Sometimes, I just feel like I’m struggling to do two things at the same time, and in the end my message suffers. I lose my train of thought, or I misspell words.
If you find yourself overwhelmed while trying to record audio and draw at the same time, don’t worry, there are some other methods you can use to make it less stressful.
2. Recording audio and whiteboard separately
In most situations, you don’t need to record your whiteboard at the same time you record the audio. The pace of speaking and writing rarely match up, and you’ll almost always need to transition between new canvases to illustrate new points, which requires post production editing anyways. For instance, when I recorded my tutorial on setting up a WordPress site, I recorded video and audio of me talking, while sitting at my desk. Next, I used Adobe Premiere to edit the video and cut out the junk in order to make a complete, concise tutorial. I essentially completed all the post production on this video before even thinking about digital whiteboard.
At that point, I reviewed the video again and identified some areas where I thought I could use digital whiteboard in order to illustrate my point a little better. One example was when I was describing how exactly hosting works, I wanted to illustrate some servers, and how they deliver your site all around the world. So I wanted to draw some files, then some arrows pointing to a server, then have some more arrows point to the earth, then have an arrow wrap around the earth as if to show that your web site is accessible all over the world.
Once I had this idea in my head, I started recording the digital whiteboard. I didn’t worry about timing, or pace. I just drew what I wanted to draw. If I messed up, I hit undo. All of this is going to be edited in the video editing software (Cut out the mistakes, increase the speed to match the audio), so there’s no need to stress out about getting it right the first time, or drawing really fast to get it done at the right pace. Take your time, enjoy it, and have fun!
3. HYBRID – Recording audio and whiteboard in sequence
A hybrid approach to recording whiteboard is to record your audio and your whiteboard simultaneously, but leaving silence as needed in order to give yourself enough time to finish drawing. Then, in your video editing software, you can take the silent part of the clip (where you’re finishing up a drawing), and increase the playback speed to reduce the amount of dead space in the final video.
When you’re recording audio and whiteboard at the same time, make sure you give yourself enough time between phrases to finish writing. Don’t feel like you need to talk while you’re writing just to fill in dead space. Just finish writing/drawing, and you can speed up that clip of video in post production.
The biggest challenge with this approach is keeping your train of thought in between the silences, and maintaining the same vocal intensity and rhythm throughout.
- Don’t feel like you have to show the animation of every single word or illustration you make. It’s ok to cut to the completed version of the drawing at times when you need to save time.
- You can create transparent overlays by using a chroma key effect inside your video editing program, in order to overlay your writing on top of videos.
- Here’s a good example of the digital whiteboard in use
- Here’s another example. Not digital, but a really good example of how drawing captures attention,
- Using a slideshow program like Powerpoint allows you to attach your annotations to each slide, so when you go to a new slide, the annotations will disappear.
- Camtasia has a built-in feature called ScreenDraw, which lets you draw on the screen, over the top of anything that’s on your screen.
- In most video production software, you have the ability to export a single frame as an image. Bring that image into your drawing program, and line up your screen capture window with it and draw on top of it. Import it back into your video and place the clip right where you exported the frame. It will create a “freeze frame” effect and show you drawing on top of it.
- Don’t be afraid of using regular text on the screen. You don’t have to draw everything by hand. (Especially if you have poor handwriting like me)
- In Camtasia, you can disable the tooltip, so you don’t see the mouse hovering on the screen.
- Don’t leave your pen tablet stylus sitting on top of the tablet, even though it’s not touching the tablet, it will still control the mouse position, making it impossible to use your regular mouse. If you notice your cursor not moving, that’s probably the reason.