Show, don’t tell? Recording captivating demos
A few weeks ago, I had reason to record one of my sort of standard demos of OpenType features, for internal use. Today’s post is about why and how I did it, using Captivate.
The problem with educational material on OpenType is that it’s all very well to explain in words, but you really want to show people, and it’s best if you can do that live or with video/animation so they can see how things change. So ideally you want video and sound, and preferably you want to record stuff right off your application (in my case, InDesign) as if you were projecting the presentation for an audience and speaking about it as you went along.
One of my colleagues who was involved in requesting this told me, “It’s easy, just record it in Captivate.” To which I replied, “Okay, sure, will do. Ummm… what’s Captivate?”
Of course, it would be one of our own products. It’s kind of embarrassing, even though it is a fairly new 1.0 version, but since the Macromedia merger/acquisition, we now just have Too Many Products For One Person to Know Them All. Still, given what it does, I can’t believe I haven’t heard more about Captivate already. There’s even a brand new Adobe blog about it right here.
I hope you’ll pardon me for borrowing two sentences of explanation from the Adobe.com site as to what Captivate is and what it does: Macromedia Captivate (formerly RoboDemo) automatically records all onscreen actions and instantly creates an interactive Flash simulation. Point and click to add text captions, narration, and e-learning interactions without any programming knowledge.
So, how was it? I just stuck on a borrowed head-set with a microphone built-in, got my InDesign demo files all ready, told Captivate to start recording my screen, and away I went. I did the entire thing in one evening, including learning the software and taking three runs at my 40-minute demo. Captivate did a blissfully easy job of recording stuff, creating storyboards based on when I actually scrolled pages as opposed to doing stuff on them, and laying my voice track over top. After the fact it was easy to edit out entire sections and clean up audio (including shortening certain bits and eliminating pauses). You can even edit mouse pointer movement paths if you want.
At the end, I exported the SWF (Flash) file. I was impressed that my talk came out at only 80 MB. Sure, that’s big, but this was a 40-minute presentation recorded at 1024×768 screen resolution – I was expecting something like 150-200 MB.
Anyway, I really think Captivate is the cat’s meow for recording computer-based demos, including typographic training of the sort I was up to. it does some really powerful stuff and makes its features easy and accessible to somebody who’s just picked it up. Now I just need to finish cleaning up the presentation some more, and maybe I can post it to this blog.
(Of course, to do that, I’ll need to be able to boot my laptop again, but that’s another story. Oh well, in a worst case scenario I’ll be restoring my backup to a new drive.)