Monday, June 16, 2008

SLA 2008: Create your Screencast in a Flash

I made it to Seattle yesterday, after a delayed train trip from Kelso. After getting settled and catching up with some colleagues, I enjoyed a most interesting evening around and about, ranging from the top of the Space Needle down to the EMP and finally back to the conference's main hotel.

A nights sleep and a cup of real coffee (and an apple fritter!) has me ready to dive into my first day of courses. Below are my transcripts from the sessions I attended.

Create your Screencast in a Flash: Adobe Captivate, presented by Edward Metz, Systems Librarian at USACGSC.

The first question addressed by Edward was why, with so many options, his library choose Adobe Captivate. Since he works for a military, freeware cannot be installed, ruling out solutions like Wink. Secondly, Captivate provides an interface very similar to Powerpoint, diminishing the learning curve.

The basic steps for creating a screencast were outlined thus:
  1. Write a script on a subject that can easily be covered in a 4-7 minute video.
  2. Rehearse
  3. Record the video
  4. Add extra captions, highlights and other enhancements
  5. Record the audio
  6. Synchronize
  7. Publish
Some general tips learned from experience:
  • Keep it short, and within standard browser resolution
  • Drop browser and OS-specific bars to give a more universal flavour
  • Disable popups (from email, IM and other unpredictable distractions)
  • Pre-process images for size and speed
  • Beware of scrolling, as it adds a lot of size. You can record, then delete the slide containing the scrolling animation. Perhaps add a transition instead.
  • Keep in mind you'll need to update, so keep data as separate and organized as possible
  • Use screencasting where it needs to be used. Not all situations are appropriate.
  • Know your audience and what they'll need to see to 'get it'
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

To begin a new project, open Captivate and pick which running program you wish to record. The system can then 'snap to fit' the window, allowing you to drop junk you don't need. Be sure to choose 'demo mode' from Options. When recording audio, adjust your quality to balance file size ("FM quality" recommended). To start, hit the Record button, and go. Stop it by END key (when do we ever use that?)

The cursor is recorded in a separate layer, and can be moved around in post-production. You can also add bullets, highlighting, etc. Each slide has a film strip timeline at the top for individual objects in the slide. Insert option adds all sorts of cool stuff.

When you're ready for audio, get good voice talent, rehearse multiple times, and leave a second or two of silence at the end of each section. A $20 microphone is good enough for most purposes. Maintain constant distance while speaking into it, usually 4-6 inches. You can add the narration notes into the slide for the narrator to read.

After recording your audio, you will probably desynchronize from your mouse movements. Not to fear, you can move those objects around the timeline as you need to time everything out just right. The Preview button will show you how its going to look.

For ADA compliance, you can add captions (separate from slide notes), make text screen-readable for the visually impaired, and click 508 Compliance in Preferences for navigation (different place for this option in 3.0).

The full PPT is available on

Personally, I'd love to have call to use this software for work, but I'm not sure its going to be within my scope. I certainly can't justify spending $699 for it, and only have it work on my Windows machine (there are no Mac or Linux versions). There is also come question about whether one can mix together multiple Captivate recordings, which may be handy for making tutorials on network issues. All in all, a very good session, but I'll probably share this knowledge more than I'll utilize it myself.

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