SofTutor - Screencast LMS

Without SofTutor screencasts are just a lecture! SofTutor takes your screencast and makes it interactive. Learn 3x faster and have more fun learning. SofTutor

Check out my videos at ScreenCastWizard on Youtube.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Camtasia Studio - Mac

Wow Camtasia studio mac came out today, although a friend told me they have been talking about it for quite a while. So I jumped right on it and downloaded it. Keep in mind I have more pc's than macs so I'm probably pc biased.

Installation on the mac is kind of confusing for pc users. Install requires manual steps and reading ... actual work! Had to drag and drop stuff to the application folder and reboot the computer for a 3rd party audio driver, the mac is unix why reboot just restart the drivers doh!

I have an imac dual core 2.0 ghz (recommended system).

First impression, running the program only wants to record the full screen, video from the mac camera and your audio. Not sure why I want a 1680x1050 video to start with. But it did a great job recording my video. I can toggle on or off video image of me but it defaults to me.

But how do I stop the video from being recorded (there is a little red button on the top of the screen to click).

There are a good deal of nice video editing options including the ability to zoom up and pan on the video which you'll need to do as the default video when you save the file is 1/4 the size of the original and you'll get some distortion.

For $99 it's a good value for first generation product but it needs some work on the capture screen size and exporting options ... but knowing techsmith the upgrade will probably be $149 when v2 comes out. I'll play around with it a little more and post some videos to screencastwizard on later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Collaborative Learning and Knowledge Sharing with Screencasts

If you are nervous making screencasts invite a friend to help. If you have good chemistry you'll make a great screencast and have a lot of fun as well. For this blog I've put several collaboration screencasts on youtube. I have about 25 screencasting related videos on youtube at .

Also you can get to my blog from or

Collaborate and have fun learning!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Quality of Knowledge - Overcoming your Fears!

Every now and then I talk to someone who gets frustrated with screencasting and does not have the confidence that they are any good.

In 1994, I started a company New Vision Software, Incorporated our goal was to teach people faster using screen videos (way before the time they were called screencasts) but we did something different. We taught from the heart, we taught as subject matter experts. We made mistakes, got errors and left them in the videos to show users how to overcome problems they might find. We did edit out some of the coughs, phone calls, Darth Vader audio but all in all our content was from the heart not scripted.

The value of from the heart is two fold it makes you sound like a human to your student. I don't know about you but I want to be taught by a teacher, not the marketing department or some actor. And it greatly reduces the time it takes to make content.

A few years ago we met with an office manager of a bank who teaches people how to use the system. I asked her to teach me how to use the teller machine, I turned on the mic and screen recording software, she talked for about 15 minutes and walked me through the whole process. I told her we were recording and showed the training she made she was blown away, we cloned her took her 15 minutes and used it to teach all tellers in their 11 offices when ever they started at the bank. I love using a microphone and recording more than one person at a time its like learning in radio talkshow format, its a fun way to learn, if you want to try it I like the Blue Snowball.

( A few days ago while working with a colleague over the internet I saw something cool with google docs that I grabbed the snowball, put my colleague on speaker phone and turned on the wme screen recorder and made a quick screencast to show others how cool this was. I'll post these on my youtube account. Screencasts can be a lot of fun! )

Anyways we started selling our semi professional, we use to call it blue collar training in the office (we'd roll up our sleeves and get it done) it was training for the rest of us!

When we started selling it we were amazed out of hundreds of thousands of users over the year SofTutor (our screencast player) which made our screen casts interactive and we encouraged our users to follow along with them. I would expect the 99.9% might be lower if you cannot keep the users attention or keep them involved in doing something (learning) while you teach.

Oddly enough, we tried a scripted version once and we had a lot of complaints everyone said it sounded canned, like someone was reading to them. Just be yourself! Although, I would say if you are looking for a presales marketing demo then you might want to use a higher end voice over person. Also, if your training is going worldwide, don't expect more than 60% of your users to like it, with all of the different languages, inflections and dialects around the world people like someone who sounds local when they learn.

Just another comment about quality our worst product was a demo we made a proof of concept demo for Intergraph for their new Imagineer Technical product (now they call it SmartSketch). It was state of art pre-visio like drag and drop associative dimensioning way ahead of its time, kind of like sketchup but better. Anyways we did a proof of concept and spend 2 days on it the audio was horrible, the content was good, we brought it down to IGUG Intergraph Graphical Users Group to show at our booth. And for the first time ever we sold over 2,000 copies at the 3 day show, normally we'd get leads or maybe sell 30 to guys over seas but when the director of engineering at Proctor and Gamble saw our training and realized that the learning curve of this new cad software was about 2 hours (compared to 80+ in the industry) he bought a 2,000 user license of Imagineer Technical and SofTutor as is. Unreal!

A screencast with SofTutor is an awesome combination that reduces the learning curve of technology to next to nothing, our users called "SofTutor ... the end of the learning curve". Last month we reduced the learning curve of second life after 3 days work. We're re-engineering the product to try to get the learning curve to less than 10 minutes. Stay concise, to the point, just show the tasks people need to learn.

Got an idea see something cool you want to share, throw on your headphone, grab your notebook and show us! We don't care if there are kids, birds, cars, phones in the background we just want your knowledge! And we want to know its from you!

  1. Just roll up your sleeves and do it, something is always better than nothing! If you use a screencast management system like SofTutor, crank um out, then replace um later, switching updates takes a few seconds.
  2. Still nervous get a friend and podcast together in radio talk show format.

Happy screencasting!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't Listen to Her ... Size Does Matter!

Although in screencasting the smaller the better is the rule.

Size is two fold:

1. Size of the Video (dimensions - chose wisely if you recompress your video) also important if you use a video learning management system, like SofTutor (Rules! I'm big SofTutor fan can you tell!) Although SofTutor can resize your video on the fly, your system may not, in which case dimensions may matter.

2. Size of Video file itself which generally controls bandwidth although codecs (the way you compress videos) have the largest effect on size. I like wmv screen codec its super small 1/80th the size of Techsmith's standard video. swf, flv, mov, m4v are ok too but best for non streaming applications (another post, 99% of web video is not really streaming it's progressive download cheaper but less functionality if the website is "http" its not streaming!). Don't let techsmith scare you for some reason their videos are 80x larger than they should be (probably to get you to buy camtasia studio another good product), but with a little post processing they can be reduced down to almost nothing. Please don't upload a 80MB file without converting it to a 1MB file first!

I always say think of your least common denominator user. What will they have when they view your screencast maybe an old 15" screen running at 640x480 resolution with low color and bad speakers. Actually that is what I shoot for when I make a screencast. It works great with follow along learn by doing systems like SofTutor (plug #2) and keeps your video sizes smaller!

In windows or on the mac make a new user (I call mine "teacher") give them admin permissions, then log out and log back in as your new user.

On windows its right mouse button click on the desktop, chose properties (personalize vista), then display settings.

1. Clean up your desktop and remove or move any thing you don't need. I usually make a folder called desktop cleanup and drag all icons I don't need into the folder.

2. Chose a solid color background blue works good.

3. (Don't let this scare you it's a rule of thumb to keep your sizes smaller) Resize your screen to the lowest resolution and colors of your application. Easier said than done, but there are tricks we can use too! In post production when we talk about video/audio compression or it's less of a problem if you have a new faster computers (dual cores last 3 years) with good video cards (non stock video cards). My refurbished dells work great I have a dual core wide screen notebook from dell $550 that works great and a $550 quad core dell (for games) with a $99 video card. When I buy a notebook I chose one with a good video card first then dual core. Memory and disk space is really cheap and easy to put in 4GB < $50 or 500GB < $100. Keep in mind I've been making screencasts since windows 3.1 and made them successfully on an intel 386/66 and higher (15 years ago) so just about anything these days should blow your socks off. Love to hear from you if they work on the new atom chips!

Ratios again we'll do a whole post on ratios but keep the ratio of your screen in a boundary that is divisible by 16 for now. The common ratios are 4:3 (old rectangular TV) 320x240, 640x480, 600x800 (exception 600 is not divisible by 16), 1024x768, 1280x1024 or (wide screen) 320x200, 640x400, 1280x800. There are other ratios that work as well and depending on the codec you use to compress and play the video there are a lot of options, although most codecs use 16x16 blocks so 16 is a good ratio to use to minimize distortion when you resize the video.

4. Test your application at the new color and resolution you have chosen, what is the minimum size and colors your application can run at? If the manufacture has a recommendation use their settings otherwise you can play around or if you.

Test your screen recorder and see how the video look. Also keep in mind if you have a newer flat screen LCD monitor, when you set the resolution below the manufacturers resolution the image may look fuzzy on your screen but its NOT being recorded fuzzy, the distortion you see is on your monitor not on the application. I.E. my monitor is 1600x1200 but when I record at 640x480 it looks really fuzzy, once I'm done and reset my monitor back to 1600x1200 to review my videos they are crystal clear.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Go For It! - Overcoming Screencast Fears!

Several people have told me that they don't like to make screencasts but like teaching stand up instead. I use to be in the same boat. In the 80s I taught a lot of stand up classes & conferences.

You've gotta keep in mind that you are the subject matter expert, you know more than those who you are teaching. They come to you for help and wisdom.

Do you still get nervous when you teach the first class of the year in stand up, everything takes a little warm up. I usually do a sound check.

Cool Techniques and Tips!

If you have an authoring product like imovie, camtasia studio, windows movie maker or other is to pause (stop speaking after you make a mistake wait 5 seconds or so, then start up again where you left off. When you edit the video later look for the audio to be flat, sure enough when you see flat audio you know that is where you started over. I recently recorded an advertisement and got it right the first time or in the first video take but I made 6 mistakes inside of the video which were easily edited out. The ad was 90 seconds and my video was about 300 seconds long. I edited it up and had a great final product in less than 15 minutes (including editing time.)

Another trick is to build a table of contents and stick with it, when I make training, I put together a table of contents then just record the easy stuff first 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 2.7 ... then I go back and learn how to do the tasks I don't know, practise them and fill in the toc later adding 1.2 etc. You'll get the hang of it. Also make sure you stop when you finished explaining the task. Don't continue on.

For those of you working on a marketing pitch, I would recommend scripting it out, then practicing the script several times until you get it down and add the right inflection, then record. Sometimes we use a product called serious magic visual communicator, which works like a teleprompter and scrolls on the screen while you talk. If you use it you'll need to set your screencast software to only record a portion of the screen (not recording the teleprompter).

And one last trick, practice a script, get it down, record it, then play it on an ear phone in your ear as you record a screen cast, even if you are off a little your audience will not know it. If you want to get really tricky you can even use a dictation audio player so you can control the speed of the playback with your feet, its a little complicated but really cool if you want to nail some high end marketing pieces.

Why to the models at the trade show wear ear pieces? So the nerds behind the mirror can feed them the answers to your questions!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Screencast - It's basically "Show & Tell"

Remember being a kid and getting to stand up in front of the class and talk about a vacation or something cool you did over the summer. You got to use props to explain what you did. It was so cool.

Now you can use screencasts to do the same thing, show people how to do things and share them with others. It's amazing to watch someone watching a screencast and its so simple to do.

A screencast is basically a video of the computer screen, if you have a mic handy you can talk while you explain things on the computer and just walk someone through a process.

Tip - It's good if you spend more time doing and less time talking. One of the things that can make screencasts really powerful is more showing and less lecturing. A lot of people tend to ramble and talk for minutes without showing anything, if you like to talk you may want to get a webcam (camera on your computer that takes a video of you). As screencasts get really boring when we cannot see you talk or any movement. Its also easy to blend a webcam video of yourself with a screencast of the screen but we'll cover that at a later time. For now try to focus on just showing more with the screencast.