Making desktop recordings with recordmydesktop (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 12 May 2009

Making desktop recordings with recordmydesktop

Apress asked me to make some short screencast videos illustrating GIMP tips, to help advertise the second edition of Beginning GIMP.

I've never made videos (except for putting a digital camera in video mode) so it's been an interesting learning experience, and I was surprised at how easy it was in the end.

My Apress contact suggested XVidCap and Wink as possible options. XVidCap looked quite interesting but didn't seem to work in its Ubuntu incarnation. Wink worked very nicely and produced flash videos that worked in a browser with no extra fiddling ... but unfortunately when I tried plugging in a microphone, Wink didn't seem able to read it. And it seemed to slow down all my cursor movements, rather than following my actions in real-time.

But while working with those two, I stumbled across recordmydesktop. It records mouse movements in real-time and it handles the microphone too. It has several front ends available (such as gtk-recordmydesktop) but I found the basic command-line version easiest to use.

To make a video in the upper left 1024x768 section of my screen:
recordmydesktop -width 1024 -height 768 -o layermask.ogv

Since I need to make sure all the action happens within that rectangle, I made a special desktop background that has a nice, not too distracting image in just that 1024x768 rectangle. Any other windows I'm using in that desktop (such the terminal window I'm using to control recordmydesktop) stay outside that area.

recordmydesktop starts recording right away. I run through my tutorial steps, narrating as I go, and when I'm done, I move the mouse back to the terminal window where I started the recording and hit Ctrl-C, and recordmydesktop stops recording and encodes the video (which takes a while).

It saves to ogg format, .ogv. Of course, most web surfers can't view that, and youtube doesn't accept it either (at least, ogg isn't on its list of allowed formats) so I needed to translate it into something else. Youtube suggests mpeg4, so that's what I used. Luckily, I already had a mencoder incantation that some helpful person gave me a long time ago:
mencoder movie.ogv -oac pcm -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vqmin=2:vlelim=-4:vcelim=9:lumi_mask=0.05:dark_mask=0.01:vhq -o movie.mp4

Only one problem: the audio came out very faint and difficult to hear. I'm sure that's a problem with the microphone I'm using, a cheap OEM model that came with some computer or other many years ago -- it's been sitting in a box since I normally have no use for a microphone. But it turns out mencoder can amplify the volume, with -af volume=X where X is decibels. A little experimentation with mplayer -af volume=X on the original ogg suggested a value around 15 or 20, so the final encoding was:
mencoder movie.ogv -af volume=19 -oac pcm -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vqmin=2:vlelim=-4:vcelim=9:lumi_mask=0.05:dark_mask=0.01:vhq -o movie.mp4

But Apress tells me that their Windows boxen had trouble with the mp4 and they had to run it through something called "Handbrake", so maybe some other format would have worked better. Here are two other mencoder incantations I know (without the sound amplification):
mencoder movie.ogv -oac pcm -ovc lavc -o movie.divx (divx -- Windows sometimes has trouble with this too)
mencoder movie.ogv -oac pcm -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg1video -o movie.mpeg (mpeg1)

It's not great cinema, but the end result is up on the Apress page for the GIMP book.

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[ 10:14 May 12, 2009    More linux | permalink to this entry ]