I received a note from fellow Captivate developer Jack Landau that had me scratching my head. Jack had recorded an AVI movie with his digital camera, intending to import the movie into Captivate.
After transferring the movie to his computer, Jack was anxious to import it into a Captivate project. His technique was perfect: He opened a Captivate slide and chose Insert > Animation. He browsed to the folder containing the AVI file. But after opening the AVI file, Jack was greeted with the following message: "This AVI file cannot be converted to an Adobe Flash File. Conversion aborted." Huh?
I am not an animation expert. I don't record my own videos for Captivate projects because, quite honestly, if I used my own videos they'd look like... my recordings. Since I wouldn't want to subject anyone to my videographer "skills," I always rely on video experts to provide the video for my Captivate projects. Since those videos have ALWAYS imported into my Captivate projects without issue, I've never given the process a second thought.
Given my admitted lack of expertise dealing with AVI files (other than importing them into Captivate), I was surprised to discover that, like WAV audio files, not all AVI files are created equal.
A quick Google search of AVI formats yielded several hits. One of the more useful but rather old (Windows 95 era) Web pages I found had an article by Douglas Dixon: AVI Video File Formats: Resolution, Pixels, Colors and Compression.
In the article, Douglas says "...an AVI file is just a wrapper, a package that contains some audio/visual stuff, but with no guarantees about what's inside. Microsoft created the AVI format for packaging A/V data, but it's just a specification for sticking A/V data in a file, along with some control information about what's inside. It's sort of like having rules for putting boxes together ("insert flap A in slot B"), and rules for labeling the box, but anybody can put any sort of stuff in a box, in any language. You can make sense of the contents of a box only if you have the right translation kit, otherwise it's all Greek to you (and to Windows)." Douglas goes on to say "Each developer of a new A/V format is responsible for writing the translation kits that permit your Windows system to understand that flavor of AVI. These kits are called "codecs," for compressor-decompressor, because the video and audio formats usually perform some form of compression to reduce the amount of data in the file. Windows comes with some basic codecs built-in (and with additional ones in more recent versions). If you buy video capture hardware like a USB camera or a PCI board, it will include the codecs needed to understand the formats produced by the hardware. If you buy a video editing program, it will often include additional codecs to support a wider variety of video formats. However, this means you now have a license to create files that other people can't play. Unless they have the same codec, the file is useless to them." So what's a developer to do when an AVI file won't import into Captivate? Read on...
Option 1: Flash to Flash Video to Captivate I took Jack's original AVI file into Adobe Flash (it imported into Flash without any problems). Then I published the Flash file as a Flash Video. The process took just a few minutes and the Flash Video easily imported into Captivate.
Problem solved... sort of. Jack pointed out that it would be easy enough to follow my steps if he actually owned Adobe Flash and knew how to use it. Jack neither owned Flash nor did he want to invest several hundred dollars in buying the program--I can't say I blame him.
Option 2: Jack...
So Jack snooped around the Web, looking for inexpensive applications that would convert AVI files into formats that would import into Captivate. Here's what he found:
MOVAVI Video Converter ~ $30 personal use/$60 business use.
- Relevant output format is FLV (also supports output in MPEG, AVI, QuickTime, and various other formats)
- FLV output format works efficiently and properly with Captivate 3
- Good features for video cropping, video editing, and individual image save (e.g. as JPG file)
AVS4YOU Video Converter ~ $29 per year
- Relevant output formats are SWF or AVI
- SWF output format doesn't work at all with Captivate 3
- AVI output format sort of works with Captivate, but results are screwy: Captivate required around 10 minutes to process a 3-second AVI file
- SWF output format doesn't work properly with Captivate 3
- FLV output is OK with Captivate
- No video cropping option
- No individual image save feature
- Video edit function is weak and hard to use
Douglas Dixon is an independent technology consultant, editor, author, and speaker specializing in digital media. He has worked in the "Video Valley" of Princeton, N.J. for over twenty-five years, at the bleeding edge where advanced consumer video applications meet personal computers.
Jack Landau is the Product Information and Training Manager for Anritsu Corporation Measurement Group Globalization Center, and has worked in product marketing in the computer communications industry for over 25 years. Jack's goal is to help Anritsu's service managers learn how to use Captivate to merge PowerPoint slides, still images, and short motion video sequences to create training material about product repair techniques for service center staff around the world.
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