Record Your Own CAD Training Videos14 Aug, 2013 By: Robert Green
Learn the correct software settings that will allow you to create clear, easy-to-follow tutorials for your users.
In the previous issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I showed you how to prepare for making your own training videos. If you haven't had a chance to read that background information, you may wish to do so before proceeding further.
In this issue, I'll show you how I set up my Camtasia recording software when I make my own training videos. These tips should save you hours of trial and error, and speed you along the path to making your own videos. Here goes.
Your studio is all set up, your CAD application is running, you know what you want to say, and now it is time to record. Based on my recommendations about screen resolutions (detailed in the previous article), I'll show you how to start recording for an HD 720 video.
First, access the video area capture settings from Camtasia's Recorder dialog.
Next, set your record area to capture your CAD application window.
Clicking on the CAD application window tells Camtasia which application you wish to record. Make sure to set your CAD application window size at 1280 x 720 (for HD720 format), so your recording resolution will be correct.
For audio settings, the trick is to find a compromise. You'll need to choose a quality level that people using headphones will enjoy, while not capturing excess detail that most people won't even notice. Higher audio quality results in larger files, so the question becomes, Where's the sweet spot?
Access the audio settings from Camtasia's Tools Options control. Set your microphone values via the Inputs tab.
Setting audio to 22.050 kHz and 16-bit mono resolution yields great speech quality recording while keeping file sizes compact. This setting sounds great to listeners using in-ear headphones!
Highlight Mouse Actions
Now that you've defined the area you'll record and have your microphone configured, we'll turn our attention to the Effects Dialog so you can create custom controls that illustrate mouse movements and click actions. Here are the key settings you'll want to activate, in order of their appearance in the menu.
Mouse clicks. Select Effects > Options, then click on the Sound tab.
This option lets the viewer hear an audible click whenever you use a mouse button. I've found this setting to be invaluable in conveying when mouse clicks occur during use of a software product.
Note: Use the default sound files, but take care to reduce the volume to a low level. The idea is to convey mouse clicks subtly, in a way that complements your speech without being annoying or overpowering.
Cursor options. Next, make the mouse and click activities clearly visible via highlighting, using the settings shown below.
These options let the viewer see mouse movements much more easily, since your mouse pointer will be highlighted.
Use the default cursor settings with a conventional mouse pointer and you'll get great results. When the user sees a red set of circles around the cursor, they'll know you clicked the left mouse button; blue circles denote right-clicks. I can't recommend this enough, because users can now clearly understand the mouse actions involved.
Note: Once you have these options set, you should click the "Make cursor effects editable in Camtasia Studio" checkbox at the top of the screen. This approach will give you the best of both worlds by setting the visual options properly, yet giving you the option to adjust your choices during video production later. Otherwise, you'll be stuck with the same option settings for the life of the recording.
If you'd like to have Camtasia convert your spoken words into text (to generate scripts, for example), you can use the Speech Recognition functionality to do so. Access the Speech Properties dialog via the Tools > Speech menu.
Before you begin, you'll need to go through an extensive training process (see circled Train Profile button) to teach the program how you sound. To get speech recognition started, you'll need to configure your microphone for the optimal level (see circled Configure Microphone button).
Note: I've only experienced average results with speech recognition so far, and I don't rely on it too much. I leave it to you if you want to try using it.
Take It for a Spin
Now go ahead and try a few quick practice runs. When you're done, come back and read the rest of this article.
Tweak the Audio
The final step is to turn your recordings into finished sessions for playback by your users. Although Camtasia is a full-featured editing system, you'll probably just want to produce the video captures as they are for now. In order to do this, here are a few hints:
Access the Audio Tools screen by selecting the Tools > Audio menu.
Enable volume leveling to smooth out peaks in speech levels. Enable noise removal to eliminate background hiss and ambient noise (similar to noise-cancelling headphones). Enable advanced noise removal to fine-tune noise removal based on your actual recordings (a process of trial and error).
Select Video Output
As you see here, a variety of preset production settings are available for you to use. However, I recommend using custom settings (which can be saved as a preset) to get everything exactly the way you want it.
For example, I find that creating videos in the Windows Media format (WMV) allows me to support the greatest number of users. Everyone with a Windows-based computer already has the player application, so I don't have to worry about software codecs, drivers, or audio problems.
Now set up your production for Windows Media (WMV) format as shown in this dialog.
Note: If you have to stream your videos over slow wide-area network (WAN) connections, Flash (the first option in the screen above) may be your best bet, but make sure you'll be able to install the required Flash components at the remote site without creating a big IT hassle!
When you select WMV, all audio values and encoding parameters are set automatically. Now set the audio/video quality for your production by using the existing profiles for the WMV format.
Use the Best Quality and File Size option to render at the same size you recorded with optimal audio/video compression. This achieves the best available balance between quality and file size.
Now simply give the WMV file any name you'd like, and Camtasia will do the rest. After the production is complete, your video will start up in Windows Media Player for your final review.
Try it Again
You can now try another practice recording and generate final-quality output using the settings described above. Remember that practice really does make perfect, so you'll likely run through a bunch of practice sessions before you get everything set just the way you like it.
Still not convinced? Download the free Camtasia software trial and give it a try. You may find that you like the process and can add it to your bag of CAD management tricks sooner than you expected.
In the next edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll be providing some tips for generating training lesson plans that have maximum impact, whether they are in video or classroom formats. It is my hope that you'll find the video and training topics useful in your day-to-day quest to make your users more productive. Until next time.
Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!