Archive for screencasts

Why Screencasting?

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2011 by Lance Strzok

So, why do I spend time one this screencasting process and software?

First a word on what screencasting is – Basically, it is software that takes between 10 and 50 pictures of the screen per second while it records your voice as you demonstrate some activity on your computer. Then it can convert those pictures into something much like a movie with audio and you can share that movie with others. In general, it is a great way to explain and share how you do things with software or computers. Video in the form of a camcorder or phone video recorder generally requires more storage than screencasting software, but is usually better used for showing processes not involving a computer. You see a lot of Youtube videos that use actual video recordings to demonstrate how to do things with physical processes, and screencasts for things on computer screens. But as we do more and more with computers, it makes sense that screencasts will become more useful in this way.

I spend a fair amount of time sharing what I know with people I interact with. I like to help, and I like the look on people’s faces when the light bulb goes off and they see how they might want to use some particular piece of software for something they are working with, or alternatively, when they say that they have been trying to find something to do a certain task or make a process easier for them and I manage to show them something that meets their needs.

But I started to realize that sending me around to train everyone was not the answer, and that creating screencasts that demonstrate doing something and then sharing that screencast was repeatable, on demand, and frees up time for me to work on creating new content instead of spending all my time teaching the same processes and procedures over and over again. This expands to training in general. If it is done on a computer, than screencasting gets you a lot of bang for your buck.

Furthermore, if you have a help desk, or a place where people generally can ask for help or questions, you can post a link to the screencast that addresses that problem or question and you may have just averted a trouble call or spending man hours helping someone else understand a process that has already been documented and explained fairly well. Another really nice thing about screencasting out the functionality or process that some piece of software or several pieces of software can do is that even if I did happen to give the training to someone at some point in time, maybe they forgot, or needed a refresher. Also, it can be delivered on demand, from any time zone, without cutting into my time of creating more content and dicovering what else needs to be explained.

So it appeals to me in several ways, it captures an idea and makes it easy to share with lots of others, and it can be recalled on demand as well as freeing me up to do other meaningful work. It also fits the learning styles of a good number of people that are visual learners. People that like to see it done, and think about how they might use it to do something they need done. So over all, I think of  savings, time, and repeatability as good reasons to use this medium for software or computing activities that you want to share.

Enabling your workforce to create these videos and help each other learn how to do things that they do could prove to be an incredible force multiplier. Think of it as the “self help” desk. If you have one location where the videos are stored, and if you incentivise creating the videos by your employees, the ones that get voted up as most useful could be a real hit, and share best practices across the command. Not to mention you can categorize them and tag them so that when someone needs help with MS Excel, they can find the help they need in video form, or hit one of the chat rooms on the subject.

What do you need to make a sceencast? Well, a microphone and the software I posted about in my previous blog posts. Beyond that, you might want to make a screencast of how you use that software to allow your employees to come to understand it, although if you can create one that helps with the correct settings, beyond that it is fairly intuitive.

Like I mentioned earlier, after you enable them to create content, and a place to put it, then find a way to incentivise it a little so that people create content and share the things that make them so successful. If you hang the videos in an environment where people can vote and comment on videos, you could start to find the folks that really know how to convey knowledge and share. It also captures some of the corporate or tacit knowledge before it leaves the organization.

I have seen screencasting used to help launch software that you are going to start offering at work so that people can see it and comment on it before you actually launch it

Other common uses for screencasts are:

* Screencasts can help demonstrate and teach the use of software features

* Software developers can demonstrate their work

* Screencasts are helpful to submit along with reporting a bug  where the movie takes the place of a written explanation

* Show others how a task is accomplished in a specific software environment

Cost/Savings:

* Presentations can be captured and shared for those that could not attend the original lecture, saving the cost of travel and hotel costs and the time lost in getting too and from the event

*Considering the high cost of instructor, faculty led training, and most computer based training, screencasting is a good candidate for imparting high-quality knowledge at a low cost from a larger distribution of expertise across your organization

* Screencasts usually capture software better than a video being taken of the activity on a computer screen, and take up less storage as well as easier to stream and share later in a downloadable form

* Educators are embracing screencasts as another means of integrating technology into the curriculum as well as sharing what a student may have missed if they could not attend class, and it creates the potential for online courses on that topic or subject

Limitations:

* You can capture a screencast using hardware such as an RGB or DVI frame grabber card. This approach does not have the OpenGL limitations associated with several Microsoft based solutions

All in all, I see it as an effective and fairly inexpensive to provide a mechanism for creating and sharing process, content, and ideas on demand and with little overhead. That is the reason that I encourage any organization to enable their people with this software and hardware.

Cheers!

My Screencasting Settings and Software

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2011 by Lance Strzok

Basic Steps – Download and install the following software.

CamStudio

CamStudio lossless codec

Freemake Video Converter

—-

Alternatively- Freemake Video Converter can be replaced with this older software –

Anyvideoconverter (old but good)

AVIdemux (old but good)

—-

Launch CamStudio and I recommend the settings I use below in this post.  Record a test section with voice and Save as an AVI file.

After capturing the screensession, I now recommend using Freemake Video Converter  which can do the conversion and is a nice editor.

open the file with Freemake Video Converter and save the file as an mp4 file.

Edit the screencast with the button on the right after you import the video.
Save the changes in the mp4 format

—-

In a little more detail, (thanks Karen),

On a computer, open the software tool called CamStudio. This tool allows the user to take a screen capture an estimated thirty frames per second and also captures audio.
Open the software that is going to be demonstrated or open the target software, such as Microsoft Excel 2007 or Microsoft Word 2007
In CamStudio, configure the settings for optimal capture of the software activities, as in this particular case, the steps in how to use Microsoft Excel 2007 or Microsoft Word 2007.
After the optimization, start the recording and begin the software demonstration. (As a side note, if a mistake is made, do not stop recording. Pause yourself and take a deep breath. Gather your thoughts and start again at a point just before you made the mistake.
When the demonstration is complete, press the stop button in CamStudio to stop the recording.
Save the file as it is as an AVI file.

Distribute the learning video to the appropriate site for others to view.

—-

In my initial post (most of it is above) – on the topic of screencasting I describe the software I use and provided links to them. In this post I will describe in greater detail the settings that give me a good compromise in size and quality of voice and quality of screen image.

For the CamStudio Version 2.0 part,

File – none

Region – Fixed Region (fixed region is a good choice, and I use 640×480 and if you keep that fixed region the same and use it for all of your recordings as well as leaving all your settings alone, then you can use AVIdemux to append files to one another. Add and intro, and extro to each recording if you want too. You do this by opening the intro file, then appending the body file and appending the extro file after that. Then you have one file from 3 files. Back to the settings.

Options – Video Options – Compressor – Camstudio Lossless Codec v1.4, Quality 100, Set Key frames every 30 frames, Configure  – LZO level 5, Framerates Capture frames every 50 milliseconds, Playback rate 20 frames / sec, Audio Adjust

Options – Cursor Options – Show Cursor, use actual cursor, Highlight cursor, circle, halfsize, color light blue

Options – Record Audio from Microphone

Options – Audio Options – Default input device, 22.05 kHz, stereo, 16-bit, compressed format MPEG layer 3, interleave every 100 milliseconds

Options – Enable Autopan

Options – Autopan, Autopan Speed 99

Options – Program Options – Save settings on exit, Capture translucent layered windows, Recording thread priority – Highest, Name of AVI – Ask for filename

View – Normal View
——

After creating a recording of the session with those settings, you will be asked to save it with a file name and a .avi extension.  Thenk it will take a moment to save the .avi file after the file is made, it will open in CamStudio software and be ready for you to play. For example, I made a settings screencast for this piece of software, and it was 20.1 MB in size as an avi file.

Now, according to my other post, we will open the file with AnyvideoConverter and save it as an MP4 file.

The latest version of Anyvideoconverter is 3.2.1 but I’ll read the settings off of the current version I have just in cast they do not transfer over with the update.

Customized MP4 Movie

Video Options – Video Codec Mpeg4, Frame Size 640 X 480, Video Bitrate 1024, Video framerate 10, Encode pass 1,

Audio Options – Audio codec AAC, Audio Bitrate 128, Sample rate 44100, Audio channel 1, A/V sync default.

After conversion, the file is now a 8.65 MB mp4 file, instead of a 20.1 MB avi file.

I then verified that it played in a media player like VLC media player (another free bit of software).

Now I open AVIdemux to edit the mp4 file into a smaller mp4 file.

—-

AVIdemux settings are as follows:

The defaults on the left menu are set to Video – Copy, Audio – Copy, and Format AVI which you will change to MP4 using the drop down menu. This will output an mp4 file format.

Editing is a little tricky, and unforgiving in that after you select a section using the brackets A-B, if you delete what is in between them,  then that section is gone. You want this, but you wan to be sure.

I eventually resorted to marking the frames, for each piece (stepping frame to frame) and then manually entering them and then when I am sure that is the selection, delete it.

Save the file with a file name and a .mp4 extension and it should be ready to go. The only other issues is if you edit a piece off the front, you may not start with a frame that has information in it about the rest of the file (keyframe), so you can navigate to a keyframe (I…) and edit off what is before that, or just not touch the front of the file.

As for distributing the file now, you can choose Youtube, or you can choose a similar service.

Also, email a link to the screencast to friends with the topic.

I will occasionally improve this post, or write a new one when the changes are significant.

I may also go back and move some of my suggestions to the how to post, and leave just the settings here.

If you have questions or comments on this process, please leave them in the comments below and I will try to help when I see questions.

Cheers!