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Linux Screencasting with Kazam!

As I get more and more involved in evangelizing open source and the options and freedom it provides, I have found that I need to be able to take detailed video of my desktop as I go through various topics. That used to mean running your Linux flavor in a virtual machine and using Windows and any number of (expensive) solutions for recording your desktop (and then hoping it had the options and codecs you needed to succeed). Not anymore, there are a number of high quality screencasting solutions that work perfectly fine in Linux – from VLC Media Player (stream and encode option), Istanbul and RecordMyDesktop to a relatively new (at least in terms of stability) entry and today’s candidate – Kazam!

Power Word ‘Easy’!
Kazam is now available (as of Ubuntu 12.04) in the ‘stable’ repositories, and the Kazam Launchpad Site makes it available for other distributions. In our case, a simple:
sudo apt-get install kazam

Will hook us up with the application and library ideo codec dependencies (if we need them). Starting ‘kazam’ will show you a very unintimidating frontend for your screencasting goodness like this:

Kazam! Pow! Blam!

Power in Simplicity
So let’s take a moment to appreciate both the simplicity and power of this application. Although we can accomplish what we want at the command line using ‘ffmpeg’ utility and its myriad of powerful (but complex and easy to misunderstand) extensions. We can also use VLC as a cross platform capture device, but the sound input is less flexible than I would like.

Here, we can easily select to record the entire desktop, or very easily, the content of only one of the multiple monitors that make up that desktop. Right there, it just saved me an hour of reading. Additionally, we have not one but TWO audio input streams we can grab from. This is great in the event you want to record an interactive demo that has multiple participants. Finally, the encoding can be an ‘ogg’ container or a more standard high definition MP4 video (I say more standard since I can drop it anywhere without additional recoding and 90% of the browsers around will be able to play it).

Now, we just have to set our ‘Countdown Timer’ (the number of seconds I give myself to stage everything before it will start recording, and the framerate for my video and we are set (15 seems to be more than enough for desktop screencasting while encoding a full movie – that you legally shot yourself – with sound works best at 30fps).

What Does it Produce?
Click this image below to download a very short (less than 10 second) high definition full HD sample of my desktop running a terminal and OpenGL accelerated dock:

Wait Til They Get A Load of Me!

Final Thoughts
Although as we mentioned earlier, we have a number of options (including the vaunted command line and all the complexity and flexibility it offers), Kazam is a great tool when you want to get to the business of screencasting. The ease of use and the variety of common options that it provides has allowed me to create entire tracks of videos for open source training (shameless plug: I am a Linux instructor in my spare time at our sister site Linux Academy – my courses cover some of the more advanced topics like Samba and Security, please check them out, I would love your feedback!).

Terrence T. Cox

A veteran of twenty years in Information Technology in a variety of roles. He has worked in development, security and infrastructure well before they merged into what we now call DevOps. He provides training in Linux, VMWare, DevOps (Ansible, Jenkins, etc) as well as containers and AWS topics.

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