Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I've already had a fair amount of experience with iMovie HD and iDVD, given the work that I have done recently for Emory's Writing Center (although I still haven't gotten to the bottom of the awful 34506 error). So the first piece of software that I've tackled from my list is Camtasia. Camtasia essentially allows you to record everything you do on your computer's screen. You can then use the tools within the software to edit the recording, to add zooming, highlights, and other effects (noticeable feature lack: star wipes). You can also add voice narration, captions, and quizzes. It's more or less intuitive when you sit down with it (although the tutorial videos DID teach me a few new tricks). You can use the software to create a tutorial for different tasks or you can use it to turn a PowerPoint presentation into a self-contained movie (with narration, again).

To learn something about the software, I decided to film myself building some of the Google Earth tools I used in my talk last week. I did this ex post facto, but it cemented some of what I had already learned about Google Earth. I then produced a movie and threw in as many of the tools as I could. You can watch it here.

I learned a couple of things in doing this. First, there is a limit to how long you can record within Camtasia. And if you don't stop before this time elapses, the recording will stop and you will lose everything that you've done. This happened when I filmed a 15 minute or so segment of playing with Google Earth. There's a chance that I missed something, but I've yet to see it made explicit how long you can record nor what determines this recording length. Second, even though I tried to go through the motions of building my maps rather slowly, it was still too fast when I sat down to record the narration for the video. It seems, for this reason, that if you really want to create a tutorial, you should aim for step by step instructions and perhaps create a different movie for each one. It's much easier to work with five 30-second segments than with a 2.5-minute segment. The whole thing would have gone smoother as well if I'd had a script planned out ahead of time for both my motion and for the narration. This will allow you to time things better. However, the newest version of the software, which ECIT will get soon, has additional features that help you get around moments when you find you are talking longer than you thought you would in a particular segment.

What's the pedagogical application for Camtasia? Well, you can create tutorials for your class if you need them to learn how to use software and would like to post refresher videos online for them to review. You could use it for review materials for your class (slapping together some PowerPoint presentations or a new one) and even include assessments (quizzes), so students can see if they really know the information. Other uses? I'm going to have to keep thinking about it. But the results you can get for either of these two goals are really impressive.

P.S. Now that I have finally finished producing the project, it looks like not all of the elements synced up in quite the right way. The zoom and the video seem to be in sync. However, the captions are ahead of the narration, and the yellow highlighted box (what Camtasia calls a "call out") is late from where it should be in the video. The call out is, however, synced with the vocals as I compare the project in Camtasia and in the flash file that I've posted here. The quiz seems to show up at the right time in the narration and in the video, which seems strange.

In any case, watching it right now gives me a slightly queasy feeling. It's all off slightly. Wayne and I tried exporting it to .wmv instead of flash (.flv), but that didn't seem to fix anything. (In fact, there was no sound and the frame rates were badly off.) So I'll continue to fiddle with this. It's obviously not a good tool if you can't get all its elements to line up with one another.

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