How to record a screencast video for free on Mac OS X

It’s hard to find any detailed information on the web about how to record a screen video without buying expensive software. I found out how to do it, so here I’m going to explain what I did for the benefit of anyone else who’s trying to do the same.

I did this on Mac OS X 10.7 ‘Lion’, but I’ve been told it works on 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’ too. The basic technique still works on 10.8 ‘Mountain Lion’, though sadly the trick for recording the application’s audio doesn’t work any more.

Taking a screen video is very easy, once you know where the feature is hidden. The QuickTime Player application has an option to record a screen video:

When you choose New Screen Recording from the menu, a small black window appears:

The little triangle reveals a menu that allows you to add an audio track from a microphone, and change a couple of other settings:

This works very nicely, and you can record a voiceover using an internal or external mic. The only trouble is the video doesn’t include the sounds made by the app itself. In some cases that probably doesn’t matter much, but it’s a real problem if you’re trying to demonstrate an app whose audio matters, like a game.

The next part does not work any more on 10.8. Sorry.

Fortunately there is a clever little app called Jack OS X that you can use to fix it.1 So download and install Jack 0.89 or later.2 Right now it’s still in beta, so you’ll have to look at the mailing list messages to find a link to the latest beta release. Make sure you have beta 20 or later. (Jack 0.89 should be released pretty soon, then this part will be easier.)

Open JackPilot. The first time you run it, the Preferences window will open. Make sure the option “Auto-Connect with physical ports” is ticked, and press Save. Then you’ll see a little window like this. Click Start.

Now open System Preferences >; Sound:

and change the sound output device to JackRouter.

Next open QuickTime Player and choose New Screen Recording from the File menu. Using the dropdown menu in the Screen Recording window, choose JackRouter as the microphone. Then open the app you want to record.

Go back to JackPilot, and click Routing. Select QuickTime Player in the middle column (the column labelled Receive Ports). In the left-hand “Send Ports” column, double-click on the name of the app you want to record. If you’re planning to record a live voiceover, double-click system as well. After you double-click these items, they’ll turn red, so it should look something like this:

Finally you can go to QuickTime Player and click the red button to start recording.

When you’ve finished recording your video, you should connect the QuickTime Player Send Port to the system Receive Port using JackRouter, or else you won’t hear the audio when you play it back.

If you have any trouble with this, post a comment below.

Footnotes:

1. Some blogs recommend using an app called SoundFlower for this. However, there are reports of SoundFlower causing serious problems on Lion (examples: one, two), as well as distorting the sound. The SoundFlower code has not been updated for more than a year, so these problems seem unlikely to be resolved soon. At the moment it does not look like a good choice for Lion users.

2. The released version of Jack didn’t quite work for me when I tried, so I emailed the project mailing list and Stéphane Letz fixed it the very same day. Open source development at its best.

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38 Responses to How to record a screencast video for free on Mac OS X

  1. Duncan Clark says:

    Thanks, this is brilliant! I was thinking about shelling out for screen grab software this week no less. Remind me that I owe you a pint.

    • Ah, I’m glad it was useful to someone. I look forward to seeing what you come up with. If you have any trouble, let me know & I’ll try to improve the instructions.

  2. Octavio Gutiérrez says:

    Thanks, so useful. I use Snowleopard and are the same steps.

  3. kriket says:

    After following above steps I see the QuickTime Player only in sender ports not in receiver ports. I made sure that the jackpilot is selected as mic input for quick time. Can you please help me on this.

    Thanks

  4. Guy Serle says:

    Do you think this might also work for a DAW program like GarageBand or Logic Pro? Currently I do a podcast (the MyMac.com Podcast) with a friend in the UK (I’m in the US). We talk via Skype and I use Ambrosia’s WireTap Anywhere to route my Microphone, Skype, and Ambrosia’s Soundboard program into seperate tracks in GB (post editing with music, ads, and bumpers on seperate tracks too). This worked great in 10.6, but Apple did something in 10.7 that killed the process and it doesn’t look like Ambrosia is going to fix it anytime soon. I currently have to reboot into Snow Leopard to record which leaves me without some regular tools. I’m on a Mac Pro so I have the disk space, but I’d rather be able to start and finish with 10.7. Not to mention that eventually Apple will stop updating 10.6 so I need to figure out how to go forward in the future.

  5. Guy Serle says:

    Forgot to add one more thing. I also need to route my microphone and SoundBoard audio to Skype so that my UK partner can also hear me and the sound clips from SoundBoard

  6. Annamarie says:

    Thanks for this. Just starting researching apps and discover I already have it. Yeah Apple!

  7. monkeybuddha says:

    Thank you for posting this. I recently hit the Soundflower corruption bug on my MacPro 10.6.8 which made audio work impossible. Jack has had zero issues and I have been running for over 10 hours.

  8. Mark says:

    Robin! You’re a legend, saved my bacon :)

  9. Thank dude!! its a hidden gem.

  10. Athena says:

    Ya know, if you just have your laptop or desktop in a quiet place you can set the Quicktime microphone to ‘built-in microphone…,’ turn up the volume; start Quicktime screen recording; then start the movie playback that you’re recording — and you won’t need Jack OS X. Granted, if you want to make noise while you’re making the screen recording you’ll have to use Jack OS X or something else. But, if you use the internal mic in Quicktime when you play your recorded screenshot the audio is there too.

  11. Jim says:

    Thanks Robin. Your instructions worked. I had spent a couple of frustrating hours before I found your blog. Jim

  12. Maddie says:

    I think you just saved my project!! THANKYOU!!!

  13. Deepti says:

    Hey thanks alot dude. It really helped.

  14. phil says:

    I’m trying to record a webnair, so trying to record it through a browser and so it doesn’t seem that the browser appears in the send ports column – or am i missing something? thanks in advance

    • If the web page is playing the audio using a plugin, it might show up in JackPilot as PluginProcess rather than the name of the browser itself. Is that it? If not, and the browser still doesn’t show up, you could enable System port monitoring in the JackPilot preferences, and then route the monitor channels to QuickTime Player.

      But there does seem to be a more serious problem. Apparently in OS X 10.8, Jack doesn’t work with QuickTime Player at all! See the note from the Jack OS X developer here: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jackosx/message/3902

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. This was a useful trick, while it worked… *sigh* Having said that, if you haven’t yet upgraded to 10.8 then my suggestions above may help.

    • I’ve just updated the post to explain that the Jack trick won’t work on Mountain Lion. What a bore! Thanks again for drawing it to my attention.

  15. Alex says:

    Thanks this is really helpful! However I followed the steps to setting up Jack OS X but it does not show up in the list of my inputs and outputs in preferences. Would you know why?

  16. Aaron says:

    Very handy! I had no idea. Thanks, Robin!

  17. cris says:

    have this app installed for a while now and finally understood, what it’s good for. works well with my usb interface.
    thanks a lot!

  18. cyann says:

    For those on Mountain Lion (or any other OS X version really): you can simply use a male-to-male audio cable to connect your headphone out to your line in. Similar to recording through the built-in microphone which someone else mentioned, but this doesn’t require you to remain quiet while recording.

    You may have to tweak your line-in and headphone-out levels a bit to get the volume right, but it worked perfectly for me just now…

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  20. Rick Thomas says:

    Hi – Just found your blog…thank you for the info! I downloaded the JackPilot and followed all the steps however I can’t seem to get the playback sound. I am screencasting a PowerPoint presentation with an embedded audio file. I can email a screen shot of the JackPilot dialogue box to show you what settings I’ve selected as you suggested to ensure playback audio. Not sure what I’m doing wrong.
    Thanks for your help!
    Rick

  21. Eliana C. says:

    Thanks for this !! Amazing very helpful

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  23. Pingback: Recording a Screencast in OS X

  24. Reblogged this on Mr. Hooper's blog and commented:
    I couldn’t figure out how to use a powerpoint and add my audio over it on my mac. With Imovie you have to get the images from you camera or Iphoto. This trick allowed me to open a powerpoint and just record my voice over the existing slides. Very easy and useful for out assignment and if you are going to make these videos in the future.

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  26. Navid says:

    Hi Everyone – we built a free native screencasting tool this past week for Mac. It’s super super fast / perfect for short screencasts.

    Give it a try please

    http://recordit.co

    I’d love to hear any feedback as well. Thanks

  27. jaketown says:

    Why can’t I use a quicktime screen recording in “add media” on my WP blog?

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  30. I agree with crystalized – a summary desk or conclusion would have been nice for these not wanting to read every page.

  31. vast says:

    Using OSX 10.10.5 I’m able to record both video and audio using Quicktime – and upload video to YouTube with video and sound intact.

  32. bechbabe says:

    its awsome to try
    my signature lol

  33. jeffcard1978 says:

    Very informative! Thanks for showing clearly how to make screencast videos. I used to do that with acethinker screen recorder, free and works quite well. It is a web-based tool that lets you record your screen right from your browser. It doesn’t require you to install any additional plug-ins or add-ons. Share it here as an alternative.

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