Capturing the screencam

Preparing your Computer for Screencam Capture

You’ve finalized and recorded your script, and now you’re ready to capture your video. Let’s discuss some issues you should consider before pressing the big record button.

First is the screen resolution of your capture station. In most instances, it’s simplest if you configure your screen at the same resolution you’ll be capturing, which ensures that all dialog boxes will open within the capture window.

For example, suppose you capture a 1024x768 application within a 2560x1600 window, like the one I use on my wonderful HP LP3065 30” LCD panel. I find this approach more convenient than full-screen capture because it leaves plenty of room on the desktop for other stuff, such as file administration and playback, not to mention checking email or the latest baseball scores. However, some programs (such as Premiere Pro) will open dialog windows outside the application window if there’s screen space to spare.

Figure 2. Premiere Pro opens the flyout menu outside the program if there's space.

When this occurs, you can change your screen resolution to the target capture resolution, which forces Premiere Pro to open all windows inward within the capture window. Or, you could move the application and capture window to the extreme right edge of the desktop to force Premiere Pro to open the window within the capture area. Similarly, if the application extends a window below the application window, you can move the application and capture area to the bottom of the desktop.

The second consideration is to prepare your desktop for capture. In the past, this meant reducing color from 24-bit to 8-bit display, but in most instances this is no longer necessary. However, if the desktop will show at any point during the presentation, you should make it as simple as possible, deleting as many icons as possible and returning to a basic one-color scheme. That’s because at some point in the future, you may have to recapture some section of the video, and having a simple background makes it easy to duplicate.

Finally, close all programs that aren’t essential to your screencam, again for visual simplicity. Nothing’s worse than reshooting your video, adding it into Premiere Pro, and then noticing that the new video doesn’t match the old because you had Internet Explorer open the first time but not the second.

Develop Good Capture Habits

When it’s time to actually start capturing, consider the goals of the video presentation. First, you want to make it look like you captured it in one smooth capture session, even if it took four, five, or, more likely, 20 or 30. Second, you want all movements to be steady and sure, as if you knew exactly what you were doing each step of the way.

To accomplish these goals, you have to develop and use good capture habits. The toughest for me was to keep the mouse still until I knew my next destination. For example, suppose I was demonstrating how to use the Word Count function in Microsoft Word. I know it’s somewhere off the Tools menu, but don’t specifically remember which item it is.If you simply click Tools, then wander down till you get to the Word Count menu item, your movements look tentative, and you may even slide inadvertently past the menu item you want and then have to return to it. A better approach is to click Tools, hold the mouse steady until you spot the desired item, then scroll down directly to Word Count. During editing, it’s extremely easy to delete static segments in the video, but almost impossible to fix irregular and tentative motion.

To ensure that your mouse movements always have smooth path, even over multiple captures, use the F9 key in Camtasia 5 to pause your recording (rather than clicking Pause in the record window). Later, when you click F9 to start recording again, Camtasia will move the cursor position to the last capture location.

Figure 3. Use the F9 key to pause and resume capture and Camtasia will return the cursor to it's last location before starting recapture.

Most other items relate to simplifying the inevitable recaptures necessary to fix problems identified by the client or your own review. For example, don’t adjust the position of application windows and other moving interface elements as the program opens and closes them while you’re recording. Most programs open these windows in a default position that doesn’t take into account your adjustments, and if you have to recapture, it will be very time-consuming (and frustrating) to realign the window into the precise capture location. If the program offers the ability to save a workspace or window configuration, set up the windows as desired, save the workspace, and return to that workspace when you have to recapture.

If you do have to recapture segments of the video, open the segment that you’ll be attempting to match and scroll to the last usable frame. Observe the location of the mouse and which windows are active, which, in Windows, appears as a dark header bar. Otherwise, peruse all the details of the screen until it’s identical to the video you’re attempting to match. Attention to detail at this stage will save you the irritation of recording a 5-minute segment only to find that it’s unusable because it doesn’t precisely match the previous recording.

I try to capture the entire video in one sitting to minimize the risk of anything changing in the application or desktop. However, since I know I’ll be splitting the videos up into sections, I capture them a section at a time.

Again, I play the narration while I’m capturing to help synchronize the audio with the captured video. In general, I find it easier to record a short segment four or five times to get it perfect rather than attempting to record multiple takes and piecing them together during editing.

Comments (2)

Jakob Hyldahl
Said this on 08/22/2009 At 03:59 am
Jan, very nice tutorial indeed, great work! Only one thing confuses me: You capture in Camtasia at 1024x768 and you export video from Premiere as 1024x768. How come you choose the project setting in Premiere to be 800x600? I have read it a couple of times, but it doesn't make sence to me?

Said this on 09/12/2009 At 09:19 pm

Oops, you got me. Thanks for finding this error - I've corrected Figure 10.

Thanks again.


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