Adding a screenshot or screen recording (GIF and video)

Note: This guide presumes macOS.

TL;DR

  • Favor capturing only the part of the screen that’s required
  • Keep GIFs 15 seconds or less
  • GIFs are typically great for short “check this out” recordings, where videos are better at “how-to” or promotional style content
  • Keep GIF and images as small as possible with no retina sizes (ratio of image size to intended display size is 1:1)
  • If doing a full-screen recording, 1280x720 (720p) will produce easy to read results at default settings
  • If you’re producing visual content regularly, invest in paid apps (you can expense them too):
    • Chose Cleanshot if just doing screenshots and GIFs.
    • Add ScreenFlow to your list if you plan on doing videos frequently, as you will appreciate editing and clip speed-up capabilities.

Adding a screenshot

Screenshot apps

Whether you need a dedicated screenshot application or not depends on how often you plan to contribute visual content, and if you need things like annotations. Sourcegraph always encourages you to purchase the software you need to be successful, and this certainly applies to screenshots and screen recordings. Here is a brief overview of screenshot tools:

  • Native macOS
    Great for simple screenshots

  • Snagit
    Great annotation tools

  • Cleanshot
    Nice workflow, great screenshot annotations (also does basic GIF and video recordings)

Screenshot tips

  • Only capture the part of the screen that is necessary
  • Maximum width should be 750px
  • Do not use retina sizes as screenshots look fine at 1x (ratio of image size to intended display size is 1:1)
  • If needed, use screenshot annotations to further contextualize visual elements
  • Consider adding a caption below the image for additional context and information
  • Export as a PNG if the color palette is limited, else JPEG compression at 70-80% quality
  • The total file size should be less than 100Kb (faster loading time = better UX). If larger, it should be uploaded to sourcegraph-assets on Google Cloud storage and linked to

Adding a screen recording (screencast)

A screen recording (screencast) is a great way to see a feature or flow in action, and we want everyone at Sourcegraph to feel capable of creating GIFs and/or videos. This doesn’t mean though that you’re on your own, so if you need assistance of any kind, including something created entirely for you, just reach out to your mates on the marketing team and we’ll help you get it sorted!

Screen recording apps

The reason to use a paid tool is more settings, export quality controls, and a nicer workflow for producing assets. If you’re planning on doing this more than once, it’s worth investing in a professional tool.

  • Cleanshot
    Export screen recordings to GIF or video and nice features such as hiding desktop icons and notifications during recordings automatically. It does not have any editing or annotation tools for screen recordings though.

  • Quicktime (videos only)
    Can capture a window, a selection of, or the entire screen, and in conjunction with the “Split Clip” functionality makes trimming the start and end easy. It’s a great tool that’s free on macOS.

  • ScreenFlow
    Simply the best screen recording, editing, and production tool available. Designed primarily for video work (e.g. editing) but can export to GIF.

Screen recording tips

Recording a great screencast is a large topic, but here are some essentials to keep in mind:

  • Ensure it has an easy to demonstrate and clear purpose, e.g. show smart search field autocomplete, syntax highlighting, and error handling
  • Make it as short and simple as possible, but enough to show what you’re demonstrating
  • Only capture the part of the screen that is necessary. If the output is video, then aim for 16:9 ratio for YouTube
  • If the entire screen needs to be captured, then your resolution should be 1280x720 (720p), as that will make on-screen elements easy to read
  • Decide whether it should be standalone, or if it only makes sense when embedded with content
  • Ideally, GIFs should less than 15-20 seconds in length, otherwise, it’s most likely better as a video
  • Invest in learning a tool such as ScreenFlow if you need to annotate and/or edit your recordings
  • Does your GIF or video make sense without an accompanying explanation? If not, then a voice-over or text annotations can help a lot

Like most things, practice makes perfect, but if you’re wanting to get some advice before taking the plunge, Ryan, Thorsten, and Quinn (sqs), have all created screencasts and can help you get started, so just reach out on Slack.

Adding audio or voice-overs

How to add a great voice-over is a huge topic that encompasses things such as:

  • Voice technique
  • Creating a compelling script and storytelling
  • Having a pleasant-sounding voice
  • Audio recording quality
  • Mixing voice-overs concerns such as equalization, compression, noise gates, and loudness metering

But to get you started, here are some essential tips:

  • Ensure you have a consistently quiet space. There’s nothing wrong with going into your closet to record your voice-over if you have to.
  • Speak like you would as if you just met someone in person and wanted to show them something.
  • Smile when you talk. It sounds ridiculous, but it works as it helps you relax.
  • If you don’t have a dedicated microphone, favor the one in your laptop over earbuds or headphones as they’re built with phone calls in mind.
  • Record your video first, then record your voice-over as you watch your video. But, try to narrate your video when you record it so you know if you need to pause for a few seconds to explain something.
  • Ensure your voice over is loud enough by comparing the audio level in your video against a professionally produced video on YouTube. You can adjust the microphone input level in System Preferences > Sound.
  • Research what makes a great voice-over and takes notes on videos you think have fantastic voice-overs.

More tips and recommendations are in our podcasting guide and you can also reach out to Ryan Blunden who would love to chat about all things voice-overs and audio, including who can provide voice-over coaching and mixing services.

Recording your voiceover

  • If using ScreenFlow 9, you can record audio using the narration feature which can be accessed from the menu bar: Insert > Narration
  • Use your phone to record your voice-over, then import the audio file into ScreenFlow (produces a better sounding result than using your laptop microphone)

Adding start/end screens to videos

We don’t typically use these but that doesn’t mean anything should stop you. Reach out in the #marketing channel if you need any graphics designed for your video.

Embedding GIFs

Using markdown for embedding images is sufficient in most circumstances, but if you need more control, you can embed using the element which then allows you to apply Bootstrap’s image, element display, and spacing utilities.

Provided your image is less than 100Kb, it can be added to the same repository to which the content belongs. Larger images and GIFs should be uploaded to the sourcegraph-assets on Google Cloud storage and linked to.

Uploading your video to YouTube

Before you go to upload your video, ensure someone from the marketing team has added you as an owner for the Sourcegraph brand account (shown below) as we want all Sourcegraph videos to be owned by the brand account.


Once you’ve been added as an owner, switch to the Sourcegraph user account.

Export your video in 16:9 ratio (should probably be 720p), then upload your video to YouTube:

  1. Click on the CREATE button
  2. Select your video to begin uploading
  3. Add a title that has key words someone is likely to use in a search
  4. Add a 1-2 sentence description of your video that contains a call-to-action for the user to learn more, activate the feature, or at least, install Sourcegraph. See other Sourcegraph videos that may have description content you can re-use
  5. For thumbnail, either select the best option presented or generate your own by viewing the video fullscreen, taking a screenshot, then uploading it
  6. Select “No, it’s not made for kids”
  7. Expand ‘MORE OPTIONS” to add the tags: “sourcegraph”, “codesearch”, “universalcodesearch”
  8. Click NEXT, then NEXT again
  9. Under Visibility, select Unlisted if the video only makes sense if embedded in content, or Public. If you think the video would benefit from approval first, leave set as Unlisted or Draft.
  10. Click SAVE

Then give the marketing team the heads-up that a new video has been published, letting them know what visibility state the video is currently in.

Embedding your YouTube video

Uses Bootstrap for responsive sizing and adequate whitespace between adjacent elements, and that only Sourcegraph videos are shown on the end screen.

<div class="container my-4 video-embed embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9">
    <iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/${YOUTUBE_ID}?autoplay=0&amp;cc_load_policy=0&amp;start=0&amp;end=0&amp;loop=0&amp;controls=1&amp;modestbranding=0&amp;rel=0" allowfullscreen="" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" frameborder="0"></iframe>
</div>