Creating Training Videos, Part 1

10 Jun, 2008 By: Robert Green

A few pieces of equipment and some software are all you need to capture your training sessions on video for repeated use.

In the last two issues of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I talked about creating CAD standards documentation and using video recordings to create training materials to enhance the use of your standards documents.

In the next two installments I want to give you some pointers for actually capturing training videos from your machine and publishing the results. For my illustration I'll refer to the Camtasia software that I use to create training videos as a guide. Here goes.

Hardware and Software Considerations
Before you start making training videos, you'll need to get your recording environment set up properly. Here are some general guidelines you can use to get a functional recording environment that yields high-quality results without going broke:

Computer. If your machine can run CAD applications efficiently, then it should be up to the task of capturing audio/video. I like to use my laptop as my recording platform simply because I can take it with me and easily record training sessions on site. I use a Vista-based, dual-core laptop with 2 GB of RAM, but an XP machine with a fast single core will also do nicely.

Software. I use Camtasia Studio as my recording application. Camtasia's strength is that it can produce videos in virtually any format (Windows Media, Real Media, QuickTime, Flash, etc.) and supports the widest variety of audio formats and interfaces as well. Although Camtasia isn't cheap at $299 (you can download a fully functional 30-day trial version to try it out), I find that the capabilities it provides are worth the cost.

Audio hardware. A big part of making training videos is the narration you provide, so the quality of audio you record is an integral piece. To capture the audio with the highest quality, you need to use a good microphone. I recommend USB interface microphones that bypass your computer's low-quality analog input jack in favor of a digital recording interface. And although getting the volume levels set on the USB microphone set requires a little tweaking, you'll be rewarded with much better sound.

As a starting point, check out this link to some USB microphones on

I've had good luck with the Logitech headset and desktop products as well as the Blue Snowball and Snowflake and MXL products. Headset units are great for presenters who want to stand up and move. The desk-based units provide better audio for those who are stationary at the keyboard. None of these units are very expensive, and all provide much better audio than a low-end analog mic.

Setting Video Recording Parameters
Even though your company may have superhigh-resolution graphics cards and monitors, you probably want to record your training videos using 1024 x 768 resolution simply because that seems to be the minimum standard size any user will have. If you record at higher resolutions, you run the risk of not being able to display the video on machines set at 1024 x 768. Finally, recording at lower resolutions will keep your video file sizes smaller and easier to move over networks.

Access the video area capture settings from Camtasia's Recorder dialog control as shown here:


The area to record button allows you to control how much of the screen will be recorded.

Now set your record area to capture your CAD application window as shown here:


Click for larger image Clicking on the CAD application window tells Camtasia which application you wish to record. Make sure to size your CAD application window at 1024 x 768 and your recording resolution will be correct. (Click image for larger version)

Setting Audio Recording Parameters
For audio settings you want to record at a quality level appropriate for the better microphone you've purchased, yet not go overboard by recording at CD quality. Remember that the higher quality audio you record, the bigger your video file sizes will be. Access the audio settings from Camtasia's Audio Options control as shown here:


The Audio Options setting allows detailed microphone configuration.

Now set your microphone values as shown here:


Setting audio to 22050 Hz and 16 Bit mono resolution yields great speech quality recording while keeping file sizes compact.

Try Some Sample Recordings
Now is your chance to take a few trial runs at recording and play back your results. You'll become more familiar with the Camtasia application as you work with it and you'll have the chance to get your microphone positioned and all your volume settings tweaked properly.

As you make your trial runs, take notes so you'll remember the settings you like best and let a few of your trusted power users look at and listen to the results to see what they think. The goal is simply to get a good 1024 x 768 recording with good-quality audio so that your future recordings will be easy to work with.

Wrapping Up
Now that you know the basics of getting set up, you'll be able to start recording your own training videos at minimal cost. Don't let the setup bother you, because once you get through the basics, you'll be off and running and wondering why you've never created your own training videos before.

In the next edition of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll give you some tips for using advanced annotations for mouse clicks, mouse trails, and audio clicks to make your videos more professional as well as some pointers for publishing your videos. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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