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.

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.


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