While developing a recent Camtasia project, I needed to split a large video into multiple segments. The video I was given included mouse movement and plenty of screen clicks. Between all of those clicks, I needed to freeze the screen background for 5-10 seconds so I could explain a concept via callouts.
One way to accomplish the task is to export a specific part of the video as an image, import the image into Camtasia, and add it to the Timeline.
To begin, position the Playhead on the Timeline at the exact moment in time that you need to use as an image.
In the image below you can see the part of the video that I need to essentially freeze for a few seconds.
Choose File > Produce Special > Export frame as.
Name the file, select a File type (you can save as a bitmap, GIF, JPEG, or PNG), pick a save destination, and then click the Save button.
And that's it. The exported frame is an image and can easily be added to the Clip Bin and then the Timeline. There won't be any visible difference between the frame you exported and the video itself, except you'll have more timing controls over the image than the video.
When developing eLearning, one important goal is to ensure consistency from object to object. In addition, unless you're a top-notch designer you should use just a few fonts and a limited color palette. (Lest you run the risk of creating an eLearning lesson that, despite your good intentions, is visually overwhelming to your learners.)
This week I want to show you an easy way to ensure objects used in a project are formatted consistently. The key to project-wide Camtasia consistency lies in the use of multiple tracks.
When I develop in Camtasia, I create several tracks and add similar objects to those tracks. For instance, I might add alert callouts to one track, speech callouts to another.
In the image below, notice that there are two tracks. The formatting of the callouts in Track 2 are identical so they're fine. Unfortunately, the callouts in Track 1 are a mess. Notice that each of the callouts is formatted differently.
The first step to consistency bliss is to lock the track that you don't want to alter. Since the callouts in Track 2 are fine, I locked the track via the lock icon to the left of the Track (the icon is shown below in its locked state).
A locked track is easily identifiable on the Timeline thanks to the diagonal lines (as shown in the image below).
I then selected all of the callouts in Track 1 by pressing [ctrl] [a]. (I could have also selected objects via [shift]-click (to select contiguous objects) or [ctrl]-click (to select non-contiguous objects). In the image below, all of the callouts in Track 1 are selected. It is worth noting that because I locked Track 2, pressing [ctrl] [a] did not select any of the callouts in Track 2.
On the Callouts panel, I changed the color of the selected callouts to Purple.
Still working on the Callouts panel, I then changed the shape of the callouts to a Filled Rounded Rectangle.
You can see the results in the image below. All of the callouts in Track 1 are now formatted consistently.
The big trick here was working with multiple tracks, combined with the ability to easily lock a track (eliminating the possibility of changing anything about objects in the locked track).
While producing a Camtasia project, assets such as videos, images, and audio clips can be imported from your hard drive, a network drive, or other external resource.
During the development process, I always encourage my students to backup the project as often as possible (I backup at least once a day). Backing up a project can be as simple as dragging the project folder from your local drive to a network drive. However, if the assets you imported into the project are not in the project folder at the time you back up the project, those assets are not backed up and will be missing. If there are missing, moved, or renamed assets you'll get an alert box asking you to locate them when you attempt to open the backup project.
If you cannot locate (or update) the assets from other sources, you're in a heap of trouble because missing assets won't appear on the Clip Bin or the Timeline--nor will they preview or publish.
To ensure that all of the project assets are backed up (therefore avoiding the missing assets alert), you can create a zipped version of the project that contains everything (even linked assets).
The zipping process is simple: choose File > Export project as zip. Ensure you select Include all files from Clip Bin in zip. (This option is selected by default.) Select a network drive as your save destination. When backing up your project, a network drive would be preferable to a local drive... if your local drive goes down you've lost both your project and the zipped backup.
Down the road, if you need to access the backup project simply create a new, blank project and choose File > Import zipped project.
All of the Clip Bin assets will be imported and those assets automatically added to the Timeline.
During a recent Camtasia class, a student asked about providing the captions in other languages than English (she was asked to create versions of her project in a dozen languages).
Localization of an eLearning project can present a tough challenge to any developer. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to convert Camtasia captions to different languages. Here's how.
In the image below, notice that I've already added the closed captions to my project.
After adding the captions, I ensured the captions and the voiceover audio were synced via the Timeline.
At the bottom of the Callouts panel, I clicked Export captions.
I gave my caption file a name and, from the Save as type drop-down menu, I selected SRT. (There are two choices: SRT and SMI. They are basically the same type of Caption File except SRT files do not retain font formatting; SMI files do.)
In the image below, I've opened the SRT file in Notepad. Then I replaced the English text with Chinese. (I used Google Translate for this test so if you speak Chinese, please forgive any errors.) When replacing the text, I was careful not to mess around with the numbers above each caption.
Back in Camtasia, all that was left to do was to click Import captions and open the SRT file I had translated.
And in an instant, all of the captions were translated to Chinese.
Perhaps more important, the synching work I had done on the Timeline was retained.
If you'd like to watch a video that demonstrates the process of localizing Camtasia callouts and importing/exporting, here you go.
Closed captioning (CC) allows you to provide descriptive information in your published eLearning project that typically matches the voiceover audio contained in your Camtasia project.
There are a couple of ways you can add closed captions to your project. During this post I'm going to show you how you can add the captions manually (by typing or copying/pasting from an existing script), and how to have Camtasia transcribe the voiceover audio using the Speech-to-text feature.
In the image below I've opened a project that already has audio on the Timeline.
To add closed captions, select the Captions tool. (Closed captions aren't the same as Callouts.)
If you'd like to listen to the audio and transcribe what you hear, click the Add caption media button.
You can then press [enter] to listen to the voiceover audio and type what you hear. When finished, press [tab] and [enter] to create another caption.
Personally, I'm not a fan of typing/transcribing. In an ideal world, you would have a voiceover script (perhaps a Word document). In that case, typing and pasting between Camtasia and Word makes the process of adding the captions a painless process. (If you've never created a voiceover script, check out our voiceover script-writing class and learn how.)
If you don't have the voiceover script and you're not a fan of typing, check out Camtasia's Speech-to-text feature. To begin, bring up the Captions panel as if you were going to add the captions manually and then click Speech-to-text.
The Tips for Generating Accurate Speech-to-text Captionsscreen offers some awesome tips on making the process as smooth as possible.
Click the Continue button and Camtasia will scan your project and transcribe the audio for you.
While I found the Speech-to-text feature to be awesome, it was a bit hit or miss. For example, the first caption you see below ("The if the if the left half the") was actually background music. I have no idea why Camtasia attempted to transcribe it, but the results were just a tad off the mark considering there were no lyrics at all. The second caption was a fair attempt, but there were several typos. The third caption was actually quite good.
Getting rid of the unwanted caption is no problem. Simply right-click and choose Delete caption text.
In the images below, you can see the significant edits I needed to make to the second caption. Nevertheless, I found it faster to edit the caption as opposed to typing it manually.
And in the following two images, you can see how little editing was required to get the caption ready to go.
And in the image below you can see how the second caption appears in my produced eLearning lesson as a closed caption.
If you're like to see a video of the process of manually adding closed captions to a Camtasia project, check this out.
To maximize the effectiveness of your Camtasia Studio projects, you can add interactivity via a hotspot. The hotspots can allow your learners to jump to specific markers within a video, add hyperlinks to websites, and more.
To begin, open the Markers panel via View > Show Marker View. Position the Playhead on the Timeline where you would like a marker and either press the letter M on your keyboard or choose Edit > Markers > Add a Timeline Marker. Once the marker appears, you can name it (I've named the two markers below Home and Lesson 1: Creating New Folders).
Select a callout already on the Timeline and, on the Callouts panel, click Make hotspot. Alternatively, on the Callout panel, add a hotspot manually by clicking Transparent Hotspot.
On the Callouts panel, click the Hotspot properties button to open the Hotspot properties dialog box.
You'll find the following options on the dialog box:
Pause at end of callout: Once clicked, the video stops based on the callout's end time on the Timeline.
Click to continue: The learner must click the callout to continue viewing the video.
Go to frame at time: The video jumps to a specific frame. You can enter the destination in hours, minutes, seconds, or frames.
Go to marker: The video jumps to a specific Timeline marker.
Jump to URL: Opens a web page (enable the Open URL in a new browser window option to open the web page in a separate window).
Because my goal was to create a branching scenario where the learner decides which part of the lesson to take, I chose one of my markers from the Go to marker drop-down menu and then clicked the OK button.
And that's it! To test a hotspot choose File > Produce and Share and select an output that includes the Smart Player.
Two of my major beefs with Camtasia over the years has been 1) the snail-like pace of rendering a video (it would take so long I would frequently drink a few cups of coffee during the rendering process because I certainly couldn't do anything else in Camtasia while a project is rendering); 2) the inability to test a hotspot without first uploading the video to a web server.
I'm happy to report that TechSmith has removed my beefs and lowered my coffee consumption. Rendering speeds seem to be at least 50% faster in Studio 8.6 then previous versions; and you can now test a hotspot locally (no need to upload to a web server). If you find that you are unable to test without getting an error message or your production speeds are slow, ensure you're using the latest and greatest version of Camtasia (you can check for free updates via the Help menu).
You can see in the image below that the callout containing the number 1 is interactive. If clicked, it will take the learner to the marker I specified in the steps above.
If you attend my introduction to TechSmith Camtasia mini course, you learn how to use the Camtasia Recorder tool to create a software demonstration pretty early. During the recording process you will, of course, capture every click you make with your mouse. Later, in the Studio, you can elect to hide the mouse completely, or add some nifty cursor effects that can enhance the learner experience.
To add Cursor Effects, record a video using the Recorder and add it to a Camtasia Studio project. (Don't forget to also add the video to the Timeline.)
Double-click the video you added to the Timeline to move the Playhead to the beginning of the video and then Preview.
As the video plays, pay particular attention to the mouse cursor. It's moving around the screen just fine, but you can't hear or see any visual mouse clicks.
To add a click sound and visual effect, on the Timeline, double-click the video object again to move the Playhead back to the beginning of the video. Then choose Tools > Cursor Effects.
The Cursor Properties appear. From here you can hide the Mouse cursor or add effects. For instance, from the Left-click effect drop-down menu, choose Rings.
Preview the video. And just like that, Camtasia adds a nifty effect every time the mouse was clicked during the recording process. How cool is that?
You can add click sound effects to the cursor just as easily. From the Cursor effects panel (Tools > Cursor effects), click the arrow to the left of Click sound effect to expand the options. From the Left click drop-down menu, choose Mouse click.
You can click the yellow speaker icon at the right to hear the sound effect. And as with the visual effects, you can preview the video to hear the mouse click sound you just added.
You know that saying that the cobbler's kids have the worst shoes? Or perhaps the one where the doctor's kids are always the sickest... something like that anyway. It's sort of the same thing for trainers... there's never time to attend training. When it comes to software, we're often on our own and have to learn via the "click and a prayer" methodology.
When I first started using Camtasia, I "clicked and prayed" as I tried to figure how things worked. (Mind you that this was long before I'd figured things out and written several books on Camtasia.)
I was like any new user--I was developing eLearning content with zero training. Nevertheless, what I lacked in training I made up for with an abundance of energy and hope (hope that I was doing things correctly and the button I was about to click wasn't going to delete my project).
At one point, I wanted to delete part of an audio clip on the Timeline. I'd figured how to make a selection by dragging the green and red Playhead ports. (Shown below. The green icon is known as the "in-port" (or "in-point"), the red icon is known as the "out-port" (or "out-point").
Once I had a segment selected, I clicked the Cut tool on the Timeline and successfully deleted the segment.
It certainly seemed like all that praying had paid off, and I went on and did about a million other things to the project.
It wasn't until much later that I realized, much to my horror, that while I had deleted the selected audio as intended, I'd also deleted video segments, images, and other parts of my project. Apparently, when you make a selection on the Timeline, items above and below the selection are also selected... in every track.
Because I had saved several times (I'm a very efficient saver) and closed and reopened my project, the Undo command wasn't a viable option. Sadly, I had pretty much trashed much of my work.
Lesson learned! If you need to delete part of segment on the Camtasia Timeline, make a selection using the ports on the Playhead. But prior to clicking Cut, lock the tracks you don't want to alter prior to using the Cut tool.
Once a track is locked, it will gain diagonal lines across the entire track. While you can still use the ports to seemingly select part of a locked track, clicking the Cut tool won't harm the track. Crisis averted!
I spent more than 15 years as an Adobe trainer, teaching people the latest features of new products. One of the things I have learned from this experience is that people don't just want to learn what's new in an application... they need guidance on incorporating the application into their workflow. They need to see the entire development process that will enable them to get their jobs done. With this in mind, the article focuses on the workflow I use when I create my eLearning courses.
From Paper to Adobe Illustrator
My eLearning courses begin life on paper (where I've sketched some ideas). I am a designer at heart, so Adobe Illustrator is a natural starting point for me. I use Illustrator to lay out the basic look and feel of my eLearning course, choose colors and fonts, and solve my design dilemmas.
I start with the client's brand guidelines (or style guide), an important part of the design process. If you want to keep a client for the long term, respecting their brand is key. I work within the brand guidelines for colors, fonts, general look and feel, logo placement rules, etc.
I then begin laying out the cover/transition slides for my courses and a sample content slide. The image below is an example of a recent project I did. I did not have brand guidelines to work with here so I had a lot of freedom. I created these two slides in Illustrator, using swatches from the Swatches library to choose harmonious colors. I work out headers and footers, if there are any, and start to think about the interactions I will be using.
The Swatches in Illustrator have amazing color combinations. My favorite Swatch library? Baroque! Look at these rich colors... they typically show up in all of my projects.
I export my Illustrator graphics as transparent high-resolution PNG files for easy import into Microsoft PowerPoint, Articulate Storyline, or Adobe Captivate. To create the transparent PNG's, build the graphic on a separate artboard and note the artboard number.
Next, choose File > Export, select the appropriate artboard, and then select PNG as the output.
Illustrator shows you a preview of the artboard, and here you set options. I change the Resolution to High 300 PPI and Background color to Transparent. These settings allow the image to import beautifully into just about any application.
When it comes to eLearning development, I use PowerPoint as my "heavy hitter." It's the place I gather all my graphics, content and interaction ideas.
Why PowerPoint for eLearning?
Most everyone has it--clients like to be able to make minor edits, so giving them something they can actually use is key
PowerPoint imports into Adobe Connect, Articulate Storyline, and Adobe Captivate easily
I can create custom colors using the Eyedropper tool
You are only limited by your imagination--think of PowerPoint as a "delivery tool," nothing more. My work doesn't LOOK like it was created in PowerPoint and yours doesn't have to either! (If you're looking to ensure your PowerPoint slides are optimized for eLearning, check out AJ's Optimizing PowerPoint Design for eLearning & Presentations class!)
Here's an example of how I grab colors from the artwork using the Eyedropper tool in PowerPoint.
Storyline is my preferred authoring tool for creating eLearning courses. My PowerPoint presentations import beautifully into Storyline which allows me to quickly get my courses up and running. Storyline recognizes PowerPoint's Master Slides, and every slide element comes in as a separate piece so I can quickly add transitions, set object timing, add Triggers, and a quiz in Storyline. Then I can quickly publish my content as HTML5 and I'm done!
Adding voiceover audio to eLearning enhances the learner experience. And before you spend thousands of dollars hiring voiceover talent to record your audio, you should know: your voice is fine (nobody likes their own voice so trust me on this, yours will do nicely). I've been creating eLearning for years (and years and years). I've found that the voiceover audio does not have to be highly produced to be effective. In fact, home-grown audio works fine provided the audio doesn't contain loud, annoying, distracting background noise, or the narrator has a very thick accent that hinders learner comprehension.
But when should you record your audio? If you're creating a software demonstration or interactive simulation, should the audio be recorded while you're recording the screen actions? Perhaps it's best to record the audio later (after the screen actions have been recorded)?
The answer to when it's best to record audio is... wait for it... it depends.
When I create video demos with Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, or TechSmith Camtasia Studio, I tend to record my voice at the same time that I'm recording the screen. I find that if I try to record my audio after-the-fact (in the tool itself or in an external program), it's more difficult to synchronize my audio with what's happening in the video.
I find that my "off-the-cuff" video demos sound more natural when I record my voice during the recording process... more informal. You can listen to samples of my audio in videos I've posted to the IconLogic YouTube channel. The audio on my YouTube videos isn't perfect... there's some flubs here and there. But perfect audio wasn't my goal. I was trying to create quick video demos to share with fellow eLearning developers. There wasn't time to go back over the audio or the videos again and again to make things perfect. The videos I've posted to YouTube are known as "just-in-time" videos. In other words, since there isn't time to make them perfect, I record the video, do some minor edits, and just get them out there.
So what about interactive software simulations or soft-skills learning? With those kinds of eLearning, when should the audio be created? Since simulations or soft skills lessons are typically produced slide-by-slide (in Captivate, Storyline, PowerPoint, or Presenter), I think it's best to record or import the audio directly onto the slide once the slide is done. All of the eLearning tools will let you record audio on-the-fly... it's really easy to do.
On the other hand, easy doesn't necessarily translate to quality. Because none of the off-the-shelf eLearning development tools are great at recording and editing audio files (they'll do the job of course, but they're lacking a lot of essential audio editing options that you'll find in more robust audio software), consider recording your audio externally in tools such as Audacity, a free and really powerful.
So what's your audio workflow? What tools do you use for audio? Is there a particular microphone you use? (I've recently picked up a Blue Yeti... it's awesome!) Please feel free to share your thoughts via comments or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.