Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: July 2007 (page 2 of 4)

My Theory on How to Workaround the Camtasia Zoom Problem

The central problem is that Camtasia’s zoom-n-pan editor can’t handle multiple image proportions. I’m pretty sure the central issue is size, not proportions (but I’ll be testing this right now, so stay tuned…). It wants to make every image the same proportions even if they’re not.

So, my solution is to get all the images to the proportions of my final video. For me, this will be 4:3.

So, obviously, this only presents a problem for portrait-orientation and odd-sized pictures. So, before dragging anything into Camtasia, I’m going to go through all the images and perform this simple triage:

  1. Is it something other than a 4:3?
  2. Can I simply crop it down to a 4:3 and keep all the important stuff? (pretty unlikely — why would you have taken it as a portrait?)
  3. …if not, then drag it into a photoeditor and “outcrop” or place onto a black background layer that is the proportions needed and that is larger than the limits of the image.

So, for example, if I have a 1536 x 2048 image, then I need a background layer that will expand the entire image to a width of 1.33333 (because 4 is 1.3333… times larger than 3) times 2048, which is 2730.6666… pixels.

Obviously I can’t use partial pixels, so let’s go up to the size where both numbers are divisible by four: 2736 x 2052.

The way to do this in Photoshop would be as follows: in the Editor mode go to Image: Resize: Canvas. Then just enter the dimensions you need. I’m entering 2736 x 2052 and I’m going to make the canvas black just in case I ever want to include it in a screen shot.

I’m actually using Photoshop Elements for this and was unable to find a batch method for multiple photos. So this is pretty time-consuming for more than a couple of photos.

Now I just pull my new, bigger pictures into Camtasia and I’m ready to use the drag & drop functionality!

After testing: yes, it worked, but the drag & drop method is slow and tedious, like real video editing. I’m going to try to avoid needing to use it.

Test of Camtasia’s Recommended Workaround for the “Zoom Problem”

Here is my attempt to execute Camtasia’s workaround.

First, some details that you need to know:

  • My system: Windows XP w/ SP2, a Pentium M processor at 1.6Ghz, and 1GB of RAM
  • The picture sizes are 2048 x 1536 for landscape and 1536 x 2048 for portrait. These are very reasonable image sizes given the need to zoom in on portions of the picture and still maintain good resolution for a final movie that will be around 480 x 360.
  • My video is about four minutes long.

So, as recommended, I took my .camrec file and had it write an AVI using the “recommended” production settings on the wizard.

My system took 6 minutes to create the AVI and it was 143 megabytes. That’s 36mb per min, compared to about 1mb per min for the FLV on my 480×360 final video. In other words, this workaround is a massive memory hog.

The AVI played fine on my system, so I created a new .camrec in Camtasia in order to add the zooms/pans/callouts. I was able to pull the AVI into the Clip Bin and it appeared that I was able to drag it onto the timeline successfully.

That was where my success ended. When I tried to play sections of the video in the preview player, I got nothing. After a minute of searching around with the progress bar, I was able to get the audio to play.

But I never got any video or even a still image in the preview player. When I tried to zoom the first frame of the AVI, I couldn’t get an image to appear in the zoom-n-pan window. I even tried capturing an image of the video using Ctrl + F. This was also fruitless. It appeared to execute the procedure but no image would ever appear in the destination folder.

Camtasia Video Creation: Drag/Drop vs Screen Capture

Strengths of Screen Capture:

  • quicker
  • better call-outs (?)

Strengths of Drag/Drop: (maybe I should do a video showing what I mean by this?)

  • organize pics = organize thoughts
  • better flow and concentration to the narration

Camtasia Zoom Problem and Solutions

Update on 7sept07:

I’ve decided the “zoom problem” (described in detail in the links at right) is insoluble and have instead changed my video-generation process to work around this glitch by just using the “capture” method rather than the “drag and drop”, which I prefer.

If you are aware of a fix or of a bona fide competitor for Camtasia Studio, please leave a note at the bottom of this page. Thanks.

Articles I still need to write:

  • Document the problem with pics and video
  • Include my dialogue with Camtasia support
  • Report on my experience attempting to do the workaround suggested by Camtasia support
  • Compare the two ways of creating a video using Camtasia: screen capture and drag & drop
  • Best practice for making a screen capture video, start to finish
    • perpare pics, ordered and sized for best capture in ??
    • narrate/zoom/annotate with lots of pauses
    • pull to camproj and touch up
  • Best practice for making a drag/drop video, start to finish
    • pre-edit pics to deal with camtasia zoom problem?
    • dump pics into camtasia, drag onto timeline in order
    • narrate audio
    • adjust frame timing
    • if you’re doing the camtasia-recommended fix:
      • write to avi
      • pull avi into a new file
      • add title/close/zooms
      • if you want to cut in pictures later, repeat these steps

test for screencast embed

Screencast’s Embed fuction is definitely still in beta even though they sent out a big announcement this week making it sound like they were all ready to go. Their embed function consists of an image with links back to their site. The image…

My note to them:

I just tried the “embed” function. It was a bit disappointing.

First, it doesn’t actually show a screenshot of any of the videos (a la youtube).

Second, it just links them to your site rather than having the player embedded locally.

Hopefully I’ll be notified when they make these upgrades.

So, of what use is Screencast at this point?

  1. possibly they could save money for “power users” (compared to self-hosting), especially those who can use their Premium, add-on and rollover plan.
  2. maybe under some circumstances (like on the homepage) it would be cool to have a playlist of recent vids people could go through, but it needs to be a true embed.
  3. It appears that they are going to host flash video as true, interactive flash, so that could be a major difference with all the other players.

Swimming with My Toddler – the Little Swimr Vest


The Little Swimr vest arrived a few days ago, and we’ve only been able to swim once briefly since then. It is supposed to fit 2-3 year olds, but it is too roomy for Doodle. Still, he was able to swim with it on. Continue reading

Carman’s Summer Camp Challenge

Click the title above to go to the video. Continue reading


“In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated.”

— Margaret Halsey

Rock-a-Bye Baby


I have a clever and creative husband. Here is one of his latest creations — a tree swing for our wee one. When we all head outside in the evenings, Rosebud comes along in her carseat which gets suspended by a rope in our backyard tree. She loves swinging while the rest of us are running around or playing games. She often falls asleep. – milkmaid

Captivate vs Camtasia: Deciding

Excellent summary:

They’re actually quite different. If you ignore all the extras both programs add and focus only on the core feature (screen recording) they’re strikingly different. Captivate only records the logical screen changes and smoothes your mouse movements. This almost always results in a smaller file. However, because Camtasia is lossless it can record everything that appears on screen—for example a video or animation. (Captivate has options to manually or automatically switch into fullmotion recording—but Camtasia is still better.)

In general, Captivate excels when you want to create a simulation including lots of interactivity. If you need full motion and accurate timing (especially if you don’t want do a post recording edit) then Camtasia is a better choice.


In favor of…

Camtasia – price

Captivate – it’s very clear how you control the pixel capture size of a video right from the very beginning, because it’s part of the dialog/wizard when you set up a project. I never figured out how to do this on Camtasia.

Camtasia? – (assuming it can import video) What’s the deal with Captivate? First they tell me (all of this is from the forums, where the only tidbits of helpful info are to be found, although they hide behind the “it’s not official” line) that only AVI videos can be uploaded to Captivate. Then I found out that even that doesn’t really work. You have to buy some other program to convert everything into Flash first. Huh? I didn’t actually test Camtasia on this but surely it can do better! i know that it can import its’ own AVI files with no problem. More on the Captivate issues here:

You can either import or insert video directly into Captivate. To insert the video choose Insert > Animation. AVI and SWF are the two video formats supported here.

However, as my colleague CatBandit pointed out in a previous post…


If I were you I would use a video converter to convert the AVI to a SWF (or
FLV), then insert that into your Captivate project. There are a number of good
converters out there, for instance “Flash Video Studio”, Adobe “Flash 8”,
GeoVid’s “Video to Flash Encoder” and Sorensen’s “Squeeze v4” (the best in many minds) – to name just very few.If you have a serious interest in video, I suggest you consider streaming
video with FLV (Flash video format). Tom Green has an excellent article on how
to do this if you are interested – http://www.tomontheweb2.ca/CaptivateVideo/.A much simpler method (because it doesn’t require as much software like Flash and Squeeze) is to convert the video to SWF and just chunk that in – as I
mentioned above. The problem with using the SWF (or the AVI) is that it is
not by design a “streaming” file, so there will be a longer “load” time. An
example of using a SWF converted from a video file

Camtasia? – the Adobe folks don’t seem to get support. They don’t want to answer questions for those doing a trial and they don’t help solve problems in the forum. Sounds like a publically-traded company to me. But I didn’t have enough experience with Camtasia to be sure they’ll do any better.

Captivate – I’m beginning to see that captivate is really not designed for “video” per se. Its’ forte is doing complex operations with “slides” or, at the most, short video clips. So, for a step-by-step approach, captivate rules.

Camtasia – if you’re looking to go for more video with less interactivity, then Camtasia seems better.

Camtasia – based on the desperate (and mostly unanswered) questions at the Adobe forum, it seems that both Captivate v1 and v2 have some major bug issues. Perhaps Camtasia’s age is a good thing.

Camtasia — can output an FLV. Captivate only does SWF

Questions/Notes about Captivate:

  • Captivate’s core feature is recording your screen while you demonstrate how to use another
    piece of software to perform a specific task. It’s REALLY good at this narrow task, buthis is not what I’m after.
  • Captivate strategically only records significant screen changes which keeps the file small.
  • Important Captivate work-arounds at http://mxdj.sys-con.com/read/100864_1.htm
  • Captivate does not capture a windows media video from the screen.
  • Can I import video that is in formats like mp4 and mov?
    • A: Sorry, but AVI is “it”, if you are working only with Captivate. On the bright side, AVI is a good solid video standard, and it’s easy to find applications that convert all the different “video” formats from one to the other – including SWF.My personal preference is Sorensen’s “Squeeze 4.3”, but I’ve had good luck with others too, some free and some for sale but still pretty inexpensive (Sorensen’s Squeeze is not inexpensive, running in the $300 – 400 range as I remember.

Questions about Camtasia:

  • How to really pan with full control
  • How to control video pixel size when not starting with a capture
  • how to pull in another video when one finishes
  • How much “under the hood” programmability is there?

Other Notes:

  • 10 seconds of AVI video from my video camera uses 45mb!

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