Creating Training Videos, Part 2

24 Jun, 2008 By: Robert Green

Making your own training videos may seem daunting at first, but if you try it, you'll likely find it rewarding and fun.

In the last issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I showed you how to get started making your own training videos and gave you some pointers on the configuration of the Camtasia program I use to create videos. I hope you were able to download the trial version and give it a try.

In this installment I will finish the discussion of making training videos by giving you some more technical pointers and some recommendations for how to create better presentations in general. Here goes.

Presentation Tips
For any presentation, whether video or otherwise, to work well you'll need to alter your presentation technique to convey maximum comprehension. Therefore I'll start with some concepts that often get missed in video presentations and explain each briefly.

Show the end product. Before you begin a lesson, tell the users what the outcome will be and show them what the output will look like when finished. When the users know what you're trying to achieve, it will be much easier for them to follow along.

State the approach. After showing the end result, give a quick, high-level description of what the lesson will contain. Again, when the users know the approach you're going to use, it is much more likely that they'll understand.

Start at the absolute beginning. Even if you think your audience already knows a concept, it is wise to briefly state it. There's nothing worse than not understanding a presentation because a simple step up front wasn't explained.

Move at a calm pace. Don't be to slow but be sure not to be too fast. If you move too fast, somebody will get lost.

Talk as you go. Explain everything as you go along and reference the stated approach you gave at the beginning of the presentation. Use action phrases like "I'll move the mouse" and "I'll click this dialog" so that everyone knows what's going on. By talking as you go you'll also avoid "dead air" in which the user is only left to guess what you're doing.

Make sure they see the cursor. Sometimes experienced users zap through mouse movements so fast that the person watching can't see the cursor. Slow down your mouse movements so they can be seen.

Click, double-click, right-click. Make sure to explain when you are clicking and when you are double-clicking and when you are right-clicking on the mouse. Remember that the person watching can't see you work the mouse, so you must state what operation is happening.

In order to use the tips I gave for showing the end state and explaining your approach, you need to prepare your lesson and have example files ready to go so your video can be recorded.

Take a few extra minutes to create a story board — a rough draft of your presentation — so that you'll have a good idea of exactly how you'll run through your presentation. I typically compose a storyboard for any videos I do, then run through a rehearsal to make sure the storyboard is solid. Then I can proceed to recording the video.

Setting Video Recording Parameters
In my last newsletter I acquainted you with the Camtasia application and showed you the Camtasia Recorder dialog to set up your video and audio capture parameters (see graphics below to review).


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


The Audio Options setting allows detailed microphone configuration.

Now that you've defined the area that you'll record and have your microphone configured, we'll turn our attention to the Effects Dialog (note drop-down menu in graphic) 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 appearance in the menu.

First the ability to hear mouse clicks:


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.

Next making the mouse and click activities clearly visible via highlighting:


This option lets the viewer see mouse movements much more easily by having your mouse pointer highlighted. The click highlights present a circular mark of differing colors around the mouse pointer when clicks, double-clicks, or right-clicks are used. (More on this shortly)

Finally, set the options for optimal performance. First the sound parameters:


Use the default sound files but take care to reduce the volume to a low level. The idea is to hear mouse clicks subtly in a way that complements your speaking without being annoying or overpowering.

Now the cursor effects:


Use the default curser settings with a conventional mouse pointer and you'll get great results. Now when the users see a red set of circles around the cursor they know it was a left-click; blue circles denote right-clicks. I can't stress this enough because it allows users to clearly understand the mouse actions involved.

Make Some Recordings
Now it's show time! Time to use the settings you have configured and run through a sample training presentation in recording mode. Try something simple to start and then replay it to evaluate sound levels, cursor effects, pacing, everything!

Keep tweaking your settings until you like what you see and then record some real training sessions. Now you're making videos! That wasn't so bad, was it?

Produce Your Work
The final step is to turn your recordings into finished sessions for playback by your users. While Camtasia is a full-featured editing system, you'll probably just want to produce the video captures as they are for now. Here are a few hints for doing this:

Produce at full size. This will usually mean 1024 x 768. Camtasia gives you a quick way to do this via the Production Wizard's customer production settings control seen here:


This dialog allows you to set up your own production values, which you can reuse later.

Now set up your production for Windows Media (WMV) format as shown in the dialog below. I always use this format simply because everyone with a Windows-based computer already has the player application, so I don't have to worry about software, drivers, or audio problems.


When you select WMV, all audio values and encoding parameters are set automatically, leaving less to worry about.

Now set the audio/video quality for your production by using the existing profiles for the Windows Media (WMV) format as shown here:


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 balance between quality and file size available.

Now select a name for your WMV file, and Camtasia will do the rest. After the production is complete, your video will start up in Windows Media Player for your final review.

Wrapping Up
I realize that creating training videos is new for many of you and may not seem comfortable at first, but I highly recommend that you try it out. I believe video-based training is going to be the default training mode in the coming years anyway, so why not get acquainted with the concepts now?

Go ahead and download the trial Camtasia software and give it a try. You may find out that you like the process and can add it to your bag of CAD management tricks faster than you think. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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