Recording a Screen Reader Demo

This is the second post in a series on Capturing and Captioning a Screen Reader Demo.

Recording the demo means capturing the video on the screen as well as the audio from the screen reader and my verbal explanations. Since I am using the JAWS screen reader I will be working in Windows 7 via a virtual machine on my MacBook Pro. The first challenge is finding a screen recorder. I used the free BB Flashback Express 5 product from Blueberry software which works on Windows.

Many people use Camtasia from Tech Smith and it has the advantage of having versions for both Windows and OS X (although you need to purchase each separately). I tried demo versions of both software and preferred BB Flashback Express – your mileage may vary depending upon your needs. I was a bit remiss as an accessibility advocate as I did not evaluate either for the accessibility of the product itself.

I provide just a brief explanation of my recording experience as this post is not meant to be a detailed explanation of using BB Flashback Express. I’ve tried to capture the important recording choices that you should be able to apply to other recorders.

I did modify the record settings in BB Flashback Express Recorder. I elected to record just the window containing the Firefox browser where I was running my Web application, the open source EPUB cloud reader. I wanted to record sound so I selected the source as the PC speakers. The second source is the microphone of the USB headset I use with my computer. This allows me to capture JAWS speaking as well as my voice providing explanations. Here is a capture of the record screen showing my selections to record the window and sound. :

Screen shot of BB Flashback Express record screen.
Screen shot of BB Flashback Express record screen.

Be forwarned that once you enter the land of media recording you can become easily overwhelmed with formats and settings and CODECs – oh my! I generally used the default recording settings. The recording process itself was pretty simple. I pressed the Record button, selected the window, and ran through the demo. When I stopped the recording accepted the option to save. The resulting video is 7 minutes long.

BB Flashback Express saves the recoding in its own .fbr format but the companion BB Flashback Player offers the option to export to .swf (flash) or .avi. Since I dislike Flash and it is harder to find free conversion software that accepts flash, I converted to avi. There are many settings to select when converting. On the options panel I used the default Microsoft Video1 codec. I selected this because it is the default and I know it worked for me in other recordings. I claim to know nothing of value about codecs! I also selected a key frame every 25 frames but I can’t remember why. Here is a screen shot with those options selected.
screen shot of codec screen explained in text.

Pressing the OK button brings up another screen with more options. The only change I made was on the frame rate tab where I changed from the default of Full frame Rate (10fps) to ½ frame rate (5ps). I did this based on experience. The free file conversion tool I use later has a size limit. If I did not lower the frame rate my videos were greater than the 100 MB size limit of the free tool. The quality at 5 frames per second was sufficient for my demos.

WARNING – IE 11 in Windows 7 can not play .mp4 videos with a height greater than 1088 pixels! This tripped me up in the first video I recorded – it would not play in IE 11 and I had no idea why. Thankfully I found this post, html5 video in IE 11 – size does matter! You can resize the video later but it is easier to just record at a size that is acceptable to IE.

So, I have a 7 minute recording of running a Web application in Firefox with JAWS. It is saved in .avi format. Now what? The next step is converting this file to a format I can use to add and edit captions and display on the Web. See Converting File Formats.

About Becka11y

Web Accessibility Consultant with 30+ years in the software industry and 12+ years of direct accessibility innovation.


  1. I’m not sure what solution you are referring to? I was able to record my videos and publish them on the web and work through the issues. I covered all of the steps via multiple posts. I have recently created other videos and have purchased Camtasia. I got both the Windows 10 and Mac OS versions for the same price. With Camtasia I also don’t need to worry about converting formats. It takes a bit of getting used to, but there are plenty of videos and help for getting started with and using Camtasia.

  2. Hi, Becky. I’ve learned to record videos, but not how to edit, add text, such as my website so as to invite customers there, or add other niceties, such as music. I think if I could make a reasonably competitive video, one that most sighted people would find engaging, with some music, my web address in the text boxes provided by the annotation tabs, I would feel I’ve accomplished something.
    As it is, my videos are just me. I would sure like to find tutorials that didn’t deal exclusively with the mouse. “Click on the red button” and such help file advice isn’t helpful. I’d like a step by step file on adding text boxes or images to the videos, text directions on how to delete unwanted bits, etc. I have 2 trial days left; after that, I’d have to buy the standard or pro version. I don’t think the Express version has a text box available, for me to write my web site into.

  3. Sorry, I didn’t evaluate the screen recording tools for accessibility. But, you have sparked my curiosity so I will try to do some research and post the results.

  4. Hi, Becky. I just downloaded the trial version of BB Flashback, and I found no labeled buttons.
    I could not tell if I was recording or not. I am totally blind, and would like to find something totally accessible, pipe dream though that may be. I don’t have sighted help for labeling graphics. Do you know of a screenreader friendly video recorder for creating YouTube videos?
    I’m sorry to say I don’t care for Firefox. Every time I turn around, some video hijacks my browser. I realize that may not be a Firefox thing. I may have adware on that browser. But I don’t have such problems on IE. If IE came out with a captcha reader, I wouldn’t use Firefox at all. Still, I’m wondering if there’s a screenreader friendly software to create YouTube videos.

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