Record screencasts with VokoscreenNG

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Article from Issue 237/2020
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The VokoscreenNG screencast tool offers many options but is still surprisingly easy to use.

A screencast is a screenshot with moving pictures. Like a screenshot, a screencast opens up the possibility of explaining complex processes in a way that is more effective than words. Screencasts play an important role in explaining how to use programs in both professional and private contexts.

Several screenshot applications inhabit the Linux space, including RecordMyDesktop, SimpleScreenRecorder, and the not-necessarily-intuitive OBS Studio. One screencast tool that was popular in the past and is now making a comeback is Vokoscreen. Volker Kohaupt has been developing the Vokoscreen screencast app since 2013. In 2019, development slowly stopped; after the 2.5.8 release there were no further updates. But in 2020, VokoscreenNG 3.0 was released [1]. The "NG" stands for new generation, and the latest version of Vokoscreen does indeed include some innovations that should make it popular with a new generation of Linux users.

The developer completely rewrote the tool and gave it a modern interface based on the Qt framework. Instead of Ffmpeg, the Gstreamer [2] multimedia framework, which already supports use with Wayland, now runs in the background. This, in turn, makes VokoscreenNG fit for cooperation with the Pipewire [3] audio-video framework, which could eventually replace Gstreamer, Pulseaudio, and Jack.

VokoscreenNG is well suited for recording on-screen processes for demonstration purposes. It can also record audio and display webcam output in a separate window. The application is also useful for recording video conferences. The resulting recordings can be retroactively edited with an external video editor and uploaded to platforms such as YouTube.

Quickly Installed

Like previous versions, VokoscreenNG is available for both Linux and Windows. The repositories of many distributions currently contain both the old vokoscreen (version 2.5.x) and the new vokoscreen-ng (version 3.x). When installing via the package manager, make sure you choose the right name and version. The current version is 3.0.3.

On Debian and derivatives, you install VokoscreenNG with the command from the first line of Listing 1. Users with Fedora need the command from the second line. On openSUSE, use the command from Line 3; running the command from Line 4 installs a package in Snap format on your hard disk. An AppImage is already in development [4], but there is no Flatpak thus far.

Listing 1

Installing

$ sudo apt install vokoscreen-ng
$ sudo dnf install vokoscreenNG
$ sudo zypper install vokoscreenNG
$ sudo snap install vokoscreen-ng

Format Questions

Before you start, you should think about the formats in which you need the audio and video data for the intended purpose. When you launch VokoscreenNG for the first time, you will first want to click on the tab with the blue info icon on the right in the horizontal bar to see which formats the software supports (Figure 1).

Figure 1: A quick look at the audio and video formats supported by the system reveals whether any codecs are missing; you can then retroactively install them using Gstreamer plugins.

To be able to use as many formats as possible, you will want to install the gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad, gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly, and gstreamer1.0-plugins-libav libraries (for Debian: gstreamer1.0-libav) on your system. On Windows 10 you need a complete codec pack [5].

VokoscreenNG supports the MKV, WEBM, AVI, MP4, and MOV video formats with the x264 and VP8 codecs. Audio formats supported by the program include MP3, FLAC, OPUS, and Vorbis.

Seven Tabs

You can start configuring the settings for a recording in the first tab, in which you specify whether you want to record a full screen, a window, or a freely definable area (Figure 2). If there are several monitors connected to the computer, you can select one of them for full-screen recording. If required, you can also switch on a magnifying glass to highlight certain areas.

Figure 2: Using the tab with the monitor icon in the horizontal bar, you can specify whether you want to capture a window, an area, or the entire screen. In multiscreen environments, you can also specify the monitor you wish to capture.

In the tab to the right, you can select an optional webcam and, if needed, a microphone. In the third tab, set the refresh rate for the image, the format for the video, the codecs, and the video and audio data quality (Figure 3). In terms of frame rate, the program supports modern displays with up to 144Hz. Parameters such as the video format, codecs, and above all, the quality have a decisive influence on the size of the resulting video.

Figure 3: In the third horizontal tab, you define the format, codecs, repetition rate, and desired quality. This is also where you decide whether the mouse pointer can appear in the image.

In the fourth tab, you can define settings such as minimizing on startup or the behavior of the window during recording (Figure 4). The tab with the dial symbol offers a timer that starts and stops recording at predefined times. The last tab, which has the question mark, includes links to the homepage and source code, as well as the online help and other things.

Figure 4: The configuration tab lets you define settings such as the free disk space limit, and how the application behaves at startup time and during recording.

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