I use TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio to create screencasts, software demonstration and training videos. With it I can produce high-quality information artefacts. It is also relatively easy to learn. After only a couple of days use I was able to put together a proof-of-concept to show around the company, and it was very well received.
Some of the features can help you put together quality demonstration videos. I love the zoom and highlight features. You can focus the viewer on a single field or button if you need to. You can also build in questionnaires and turn your screencasts into mini training resources.
Almost immediately after publishing my proof-of-concept demonstration I was fielding calls from our training, compliance and HR departments wanting production estimates. Seems I had found a way to meet multiple needs.
The one area I have been struggling to get the results I want is with the audio. It’s not that Camtasia’s audio features are below par, just that I was originally trying to capture narrations in an open plan office using the microphone attached to my headphones. It did not take long for me to realise this was never going to work.
To improve on the audio we splashed out on a Yeti microphone (produced by Blue). These babies are awesome with crisp, clear sound pick up (I think they are the only high definition USB microphones on the market). The downside to the excellent sound pick up was just that, it picked up every bit of ambient (unwanted) noise. After recording a narration for a video I played back to hear laughter from a meeting room down the hall, a police siren and the sound of a door being slammed. Even in a quiet office the narration sounded ‘boomy’.
I realised I needed some kind of shielding. After a bit of surfing I happened upon Harlan Hogan’s Porta-Booth. This is a collapsible box lined with acoustic foam into which you place your microphone and it shields your mic from unwanted sound pollution. It also removes the ‘boomy’ sound you get when recording in large rooms. I was contemplating purchasing one but wondered if it’s a bit pricey for what it is. One afternoon, while servicing my bike in the garage, I looked up at the speakers I have plugged in there. Room enough for a microphone, built in pop guard….hmmmm. A quick visit to ebay and I ordered a slab of acoustic foam. Two days later I was busy pulling apart the speaker, cutting foam and building my own, sturdy voiceover booth.
Things I’ve learnt:
- The best implement to cut acoustic foam is a bread knife (the serrated blade goes through lovely and straight).
- If you plan to use the original screw-holes, and the speaker needs to stand a particular way up, double-check which end of the speaker casing you are drilling and cutting before you begin.
Things I’ve done since these pics were taken:
- Drilled a hole in the rear case of the speaker, feed the USB through and use the original screws to hold the back on.
- Attached some quick-release bolts. No more carrying around a screwdriver and quick-quick access to the mic.
- Broke my mic! New one on order.
The speaker / voiceover booth does a great job at improving the quality of the audio (removes ambient noises, kills the boomy sound in corporate offices). I do get a few comments when I’m wandering around the office with a speaker stuck under my arm but hey, it’s all part of the job.
I’ve noticed that many screencasters use Audacity for the audio side of the production. Do you have an opinion or tips for going this route? I think I’ll be trying Audacity out myself although without trying it I’m a bit unsure how adding another tool into the mix will help. Any advice would be, as ever, gratefully received.