Windows Movie Maker…here all along

Name: Windows Movie Maker (2010)
Cost: Free (only for Windows users)
Type: Software
Rating: 2/5

Movie Maker logo

This may be news to some Windows users, but you have access to video editing software already loaded on your computer, as long as you have Windows 10, 8, or 7. Movie Maker is not really well advertised, as compared to iMovie (which is the free software on Macs), but that might be because Movie Maker is not as comprehensive and professional looking as iMovie. Nonetheless, when looking for a video editing tool, why not rely on the one that’s already on your PC? I am always anxious about downloading new software, so it’s great that my operating system actually provides useful software for “free” (if you define “free” as, “rolled into the costs of the operating system”). I had started using Movie Maker over 10 years ago, but then promptly stopped once I got access to Camtasia. Movie Maker is easy to use, which made it a good introduction to the concepts and skills needed to piece together short video clips that have photos, screen captures or other video files, and audio clips. It has the MS Office feel with the menu tabs and options, so it may not feel foreign to users already relying on PowerPoint for visual creations.

Goal: Rely on a free, easy to use video editing tool to create short videos (mostly graphics and text)

Benefits:

  • Drag and drop ability for adding media to the timeline.
  • Very simple looking workspace. Sometimes a long timeline along the bottom of the workspace can be intimidating to new users, so Movie Maker has more of a graphic approach that downplays the look of a timeline.

    Movie Maker workspace

    As you can see, this is a pretty simple workspace, with a drag and drop option to add movie clips, audio, or graphics.

  • There are some tutorials and guides available on the Microsoft site so that you don’t have to rely on YouTube and other non-Microsoft support sites.
  • As mentioned above, it has a similar look and functionality as Word or PowerPoint, so there isn’t much to learn about navigating the software.
  • The transitions options are interesting, especially when adding some overlays (e.g., sparkling lights around the corners). These might work well if you’re creating a photo montage for an anniversary party or wedding reception, where dozens of photos are projected on a screen in video format.
  • There is the ability to type (or paste) in captions. So, if you have a transcript, you can add it to the video. The trick, though, is timing the captions with the audio so the audience is hearing the content when it appears on screen.

    Movie Maker transition options

    This is the menu bar with the most “feature” options for the software. It is a variety of transitions and slide animations you can apply to each graphic or video clip.

Movie Maker timing tools

I spend the most time with these tools when working on editing a video based on PowerPoint slides and audio narration. I have to adjust the timing so the audience has enough time to read the graphic and/or hear the audio narration before transitioning to the next graphic/video clip.

Drawbacks:

  • Syncing up audio and video can be a little tedious, though this is true for most video editors. One change in transitions or video clips and the audio syncing needs to be redone (the extent of the revising depends on how close to the start of the video the change was made). Students who have used the software have reported similar frustrations with adding audio. I try to add audio only after I’m pretty sure the video is what I want it to be.
  • Although this is true for most video editors (except for Camtasia), video clips created with Jing cannot be added/edited to Movie Maker for further editing or combination with other file types. So, if I want to add a screen capture video to my video, then I need to . Microsoft Support provides a list of accepted files, which is extensive, but .swf for a Jing video is not on the list. To get a Jing video in the right file format, I have to use Camtasia to save it as an MP4. Do not despair, though. My favorite screen capture tool create MP4 files: Screencast-O-Matic.

    Movie Maker error message

    This is the error I got when trying to add an MP4 file I downloaded from Pixabay. The “help” links didn’t provide further insights. So, if I want to use these movie clips in future videos, I’ll have to go with different software.

  • The video is saved as .wmv, so the audience needs the Windows or you need to upload it to a site like YouTube. Mac users won’t have access to Windows Media Player, which will play the .wmv file. So, if you just want to email the file or share it (e.g., Google Drive or Dropbox), then Mac users will need to download a comparable media player (e.g., Free WMV Player, which I haven’t tried so use at your own risk).
  • I like to add background video clips from Pixabay, where there might be a train going by or an abstract figure in motion, and then overlay text to emphasize any points made in the audio narration. Unfortunately, every time I tried to add the MP4 file from Pixabay, it came back with an error. When I tried to use the help function, it wasn’t very helpful beyond explaining that the file was not compatible with Movie Maker even though it’s in MP4 format. I’m not sure if this is a user error or software limitation, but since I’ve used the Pixabay files in other video editing tools, I’m guessing it’s a software limitation.

Continue reading

Wideo….going for a W (in video) [UPDATED]

Name: Wideo [UPDATED: This is the new link]
Cost: Free for 45 second videos [UPDATED: no free version available]
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 4/5

Wideo logoAs mentioned often on this blog, there are many more options than PowerPoint when presenting text and graphics (and audio) in a video format. To be honest, if I am pressed for time, I still go old-school with PowerPoint and Camtasia to create videos based on slides saved as graphics and transitioned together. This is especially useful for longer videos since most other tools require subscriptions for videos over a minute or so. Wideo provides templates so that I don’t have to put thought into the overall design or animation/transitions when creating videos. I am forced to keep my stunning and enthralling messages to 45 seconds (for the free version), which is probably appreciated by my students.

UPDATE: Ugh! Wideo is no longer available free. Which is disappointing, but even more so that the videos I created are now gone unless I pay for the subscription option. So, my review hasn’t changed except that it is no longer is as accessible for those of us who rely on free versions of software. Considering there are other options that are partially free on the internet, I’d suggest playing around with a free option than investing in Wideo unless you have a budget you need to spend. I’ve edited some of the review content to reflect the change.

Wideo pricing options

Since the free version is no longer available, I thought I’d provide the list of prices and features.

Wideo pricing options for education

For those of you who can prove you’re in education (teacher or student), there are cheaper options. Again, I’m not a big enough fan of this tool to even pay the cheaper prices.

Goal: Create videos with some text (not much) and visual interest that look (almost) professionally designed.

Wideo workspace view 1

This is what the workspace looks like when using a template.

Benefits:

  • Blog and newsletter provide tutorials and insights.
  • Templates are provided to get you started. They seem to be within the 45 second (free) time frame.
  • Templates have guides built in (e.g., Insert Image Here)
  • Provides photo editing tools, including special effects, frames, lighting, resizing, touch-ups, stickers, and meme.
  • Guidelines appear when moving textboxes so that you can line things up.
  • Upload your own voice over files or choose from three background music options.

Drawbacks:

  • Limited to 45 second videos, which might actually be a benefit if you’re like me and tend to cram too much information into one presentation.
  • Wideo.co watermark appears throughout video
  • Editing can be a bit tricky. You have to slide the marker on the time line to see all the items in a template slide. So, if five items are animated on the slide, you may only see the first three when editing, but you can reveal the next two by adjusting the timeline.
  • Without watching any tutorial videos, I can’t readily figure out how to animate graphics I add to the video. They appear in place (rather than flying in like the template’s text).
  • Cannot download the completed project in the free version. This means the video is shared on the web (can be reused and seen by the public).
  • Cannot change the color of objects from the icon library (e.g., a light bulb icon only appears in black outline).

Continue reading

TinyTake…unless you have a big screen

Name: TinyTake
Cost: Free (pay versions available)
Type: Software download
Rating: 2/5

TinyTake_logo

Although I’m a technical writer, and able to explain steps in a process through text, I value the “let me show you” ability that screen capture software provides, either with still-shots or video capture. This type of software helps the audience compare their actions and outcomes to those described in the tutorial or instructions. I can only imagine how this software would have changed my approach to training when I first started out as a technical writer. Instead of long training sessions, brief videos could capture what the documentation reinforced. For anyone who has sat through a three-hour PowerPoint training class, you’ll understand the value of videos you can watch at your leisure. As for screen shots in documentation created 15 years ago, I used the Prt Scr keyboard button of Windows, and then edited it in Paint. Actually, TinyTake is not too far off from the options in Paint, though it includes the screen capture feature that Paint does not. If TinyTake was the only screen capture software I was given when abandoned on a desert island, I would probably last about a week before pitching my laptop into the ocean. It isn’t bad software, but it’s just not very dynamic. That said it would work well for anyone who likes to use a simplified version of Paint (if you can get more simple than Paint).

I would like to thank one of my technical writing students (Britt Wells) for bringing this tool to my attention!

TinyTake workspace

This is the whole tool. You can select an image capture, video capture, upload documents to share, or access your YouTube account to share videos you’ve uploaded.

Goal: create video or static photo of my computer screen through screen capture software

Benefits:

  • There is a blog associated with the tool, but at the time I wrote this post, there were only seven articles and none were dated, so they could be a few years old. (I’m becoming such a blog-snob, as I want companies to continually update their blogs with fresh ideas and insights.)
  • There are undo and redo buttons. As someone who is prone to playing around with software until it breaks, I like the option to go back to a pre-broken state.
  • There is an effect to “pixelate,” which threw me off at first because I’m always trying to make graphics clearer rather than more obscure. But, then it dawned on me that sometimes you need to obscure personal information and the like.
  • You can add arrows to point out areas in the graphic. There are options to change the color of the arrow, though that’s about it. It’s also easy to add an arrow and textbox.
  • There are a few different options to save/share: save to computer or to TinyTake cloud; copy to clipboard; email; or print.
  • When uploading videos to YouTube, you can preset all the videos to use the same privacy setting (e.g., Unlisted).
  • MangoApps, the company that created TinyTake, claims their cloud storage is very secure. This is helpful when storing screen shots of proprietary software or personal information.
  • If you like the ability to add text, arrows, and other simple graphics (e.g., circle, square, etc.) to your own photos, you can open graphic files with TinyTake. I’d probably stick with one of the more “fun” photo/graphic editing options, such as PicMonkey, BeFunky, or Canva. You can also import a video you’ve recorded with other software.
  • You can record the audio from your speakers, which is convenient if you’re recording a Google Hangout session. But, you only have five minutes of recording time on the free version, so it needs to be a very short meeting.
  • You can share more than the TinyTake screens/videos on their cloud; in other words, you can share documents and your other YouTube videos you’ve created and want to show others in your group/class.

    TinyTake workspace 2

    After capturing an image, this is what you’ll see as far as the workspace. The “annotating” tools are at the top of the screen.

Drawbacks:

  • Requires software download. This isn’t a big deal, but some people can’t make changes to the PC/laptop they’re using (e.g., school lab, work laptop).
  • Required login to use the software. It’s best to set up the account prior to download because you have to receive and respond to the confirmation email.
  • No click and drag resizing before opening the editing window. Jing, for example, selects the area and allows me to drag the borders to capture more/less in situations where I missed the mark I was aiming for.
  • There’s a “drag me” indicator at the bottom of the screen that makes it seem like more features are available, yet it actually implies you can click and drag your graphic right into another application (e.g., email). I was hoping for something more fun (like Alice in Wonderland‘s “drink me” bottle to change sizes).
  • The pixalation squares for the pixelate effect are really big, so they seem more decorative and the audience may not realize that you intentionally obscured information. I think I would prefer a blurring effect that can be gained in a photo editing tool.
  • There are few formatting options for the textbox text. The border color is the same as the text color; so, you can’t have a green border and black text, for example.
  • The free-draw option (as compared to drawing a box, circle, or line) is pretty basic. I tried to draw a star and I think that I was able to draw better looking stars when I was in kindergarten.
  • The free version does not allow for annotating the video.
  • If you click the main Save and Share button, it goes right to the TinyTake cloud; you have to click the little arrow on the right side of the button to open the other save options.

Continue reading

Screencast-o-Matic…automatically a success

Type: Internet tool (download version available)
Rating: 5/5

 

Screencast-o-matic logoGetting an audience to see what you’re seeing is ideal for photographers, videographers, trainers/instructors, and technical communicators. This is especially true for a society that has a “just show me” response to learning new things, as compared to “just explain it to me.” Screen capture software can take different forms, whether it’s capturing a static screen shot or recording movements (e.g., clicking, typing) and audio being performed on a computer. Jing has been my go-to screen capture software for many years, and for static screen captures, it’s still my favorite. But, Screencast-o-Matic is my new love for video recordings of my screen. Jing, Camtasia, and Snag-It all have quality issues with recordings; the text is sometime blurry or pixelated, which is frustrating for an audience who isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be seeing. For the record, this post is not my first encounter with Screencast-o-matic. I had looked at it several years ago and found it lacking, though functional, but dismissed it for Jing/Camtasia. Screencast-o-matic’s “new” look and functionality is a great improvement.

Screecast-o-matic start screen

This is the home page, and access to the tool. Very simple.

Goal: quality screen recordings for longer than five minutes

Benefits:

  • No need to sign up or login to start recording your screen. At this point, I haven’t see the value of signing up since I won’t store my videos to their site.
  • Records the computer screen or webcam view and microphone recording; for the pay version, you can record audio from the computer speakers, which makes it a good option for recording Google Hangout sessions or other video conferencing that doesn’t include a recording option.
  • 15-minute recording length, as compared the the five-minute limit for Jing. You can record longer versions with the Pro Recorder (pay), but you’re limited to 15-minutes if you’re uploading it to their cloud.
  • Recording can be downloaded to PC, or uploaded to YouTube of Sceencast-o-Matic cloud (i.e., hosting).
  • Clear (video) screen captures, even when the screen is moving.
  • Tutorials are available, though I didn’t review any of them since you can pretty much figure out what to do for simple screen captures
  • Unless you download the software, it runs from your Internet browser, yet records to your computer. There are two benefits here. 1) You have access to the most recent version of the software without further downloads/updates. 2) Your video is not saved to a cloud unless you want to; so, there isn’t public access to the recording unless you upload it yourself to a public area.
  • A yellow circle rings the mouse pointer so that it’s easier to follow when watching the recording. (See first sample below.)
Screecast-o-matic video options

This is the pop-up screen you’ll see after finishing the recording. You can make changes to the file type, filename, where it’s stored, whether the cursor is highlighted in your final version, and whether captions should be included.

Drawbacks:

  • If you don’t catch the enable/allow Java screen quick enough, the recorder won’t launch and you’ll see the link to download the software instead. If you catch the Java accept screen, though, you can click the box to not ask for permission in the future. I think that if you have a Mac, you’ll need to download the software as the Internet version wont’ work.
  • “Screencast-o-matic” sounds like something Calvin and Hobbes would think up. Okay, not really a bad thing, but it’s difficult to sell the concept to peers and managers with a straight face.
  • When making several recordings, and exiting the recorder each time, you have to click back the the website’s Home page to find the Record Screen button again. Again, not a big deal.
  • There is a watermark on all the recordings done with the free recorder. That said, it’s not obnoxious, as I’ve seen with other free software.
  • If you upload the video to their cloud, then there will be ads on the screen. Since I can save the file and upload it to YouTube, then I don’t have an issue with this. The free hosting plan is limited to a 15-minute upload, so even if you have the Pro Recorder (pay) version of the software, you’d need to invest in their Basic hosting plan for $96/year to get 2-hour recordings uploaded to their cloud.
  • No screenshot option for the free version.
  • No video editing abilities for the free version; you would need to save the video file and use a different tool to edit the video (e.g., Camtasia, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Movie Maker, etc.)
Java screen

This is the Java screen you’ll need to accept (or use the download version of the tool)

Continue reading

Adobe Premiere Elements…not quite iMovie

Name: Adobe Premiere Elements (version 13)
Cost: $99 (approximately…there are deals you can search for)
Type: Software
Rating: 3/5

Premiere Logo

I’m not here to argue Mac vs. PC. I have a PC. I’ve always had a PC, but I’ve worked on a Mac from time to time. I suspect that if Macs were more affordable and I had the time to learn a new environment, I’d be cool and make the change. But, I have a PC. This means I don’t have access to iMovie. The only reason I know how cool iMovie can be is because I took a 90-minute course at my local library to learn the basics. I loved this software in that 90-minutes, but not enough to make the switch to Mac. Adobe Premiere Pro is the comparable software that will work on a PC. As noted in previous posts, I’m not one of those college professors who makes enough money to afford leasing Adobe products through the Creative Cloud option. Don’t cry for me yet. Being a student and professor allows me to take advantage of software discounts, so I purchased Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements (combo pack) for Students/Teachers.

Goal: find a video creation tool with more features than Camtasia (i.e., iMovie for a PC)

Premiere eLive view

You can easily access recent tutorial videos on common video editing tasks. The eLive list of videos is not exhaustive, and I still end up searching the Internet for other options. But, I do find the videos inspirational in that I don’t consider the options until seen in the tutorial.

Benefits:

  • It has professional editing features such as 3D transitions, pan/zoom (so I can show a photo, and zoom), or graphics that can be added to the video (e.g., a heart that moves across the screen).
  • The Project Assets list has all the clips, graphics, and audio that you identified to add to your video. I like that there is a “used” notation in the list so that I know I’ve already added certain media clips to my video.
  • Like Photoshop Elements, access to training videos is provided in the software under the eLive tab. If you don’t have time for training videos, try the Quick or Guided tabs for help doing common tasks in the software.
  • You can fast-forward when previewing the video. I like to check my transitions and other features in my video, but I dislike having to watch the video (over and over), so I can watch a sped up version (where I sound like a chipmunk).
  • The are “snap lines” when inserting media. So, when I want to match up the start of narration with the end of the previous transition, there is a line that appears to emphasize the beginning/end in the timeline.
  • .AVI is an accepted video file format to insert into my video. This is the file format used when doing screen captures through Camtasia or SnagIt. (See related Drawback below)
    Premiere Guided viiew

    When in either Quick or Expert edit modes, you can access Guided, which gives you some tutorial options for common tasks.

    Premiere workspace view 1

    Here is a view of the workspace with several options open.

Drawbacks:

  • This is not the software’s fault, but within weeks of my purchase, Premiere 14 was released. Argh! This is what happens when you don’t lease your software through CC. (There is a list of the differences between 13 and 14.)
  • The workspace can get cluttered, even on my not-so-small monitor. With experience, I figured out how to open/close what I needed to reduce clutter, but a large monitor is certainly helpful. I can’t imagine do this on a laptop.
  • I’m a little bit old school in that I like printed books to help me with software that has many features. There are few book choices for this software, and of that few, none seem to be outstanding in what is offered in way of explanations and insights.
  • While .AVI files can be used, they render quite awful, as you’ll see in my sample. To fix this, I had to convert the AVI files to Mp4 files and use those versions during the editing process. (Camtasia doesn’t require this extra step and the AVI files will render fine.)
  • The zoom/pan feature is tedious (not my first word for describing, but appropriate). I ran out of patience when trying to zoom out of a graphic to add visual interest to the graphic as it appeared on the screen. I didn’t like the way it was showing up with the zoom/pan, but I couldn’t get it out of the video without just clicking “undo” until it was (hopefully) gone. Adding text to overlay the video was just as tedious. For those with more patience, there is a tutorial video from Lynda.com that might provide insights: Pan/Zoom tutorial.
  • Initial start up takes a while. I suspect it’s checking for updates, but I just want to get to work when I click the Premiere icon.
  • While in use, the software froze for no apparent reason. (I was almost done with the video, and it stopped working. I had to shut it down and lost everything since the previous save, which wasn’t recent. It could be a Windows 10 issue or something not related to Premiere.)
  • The “freeze frame” option only exports as .bmp file type, which YouTube doesn’t accept when trying to upload it as the Video Thumbnail. I had to convert the file to .jpg.

Continue reading

Kizoa…means “sweep” in Swahili(?)

Name: Kizoa
Cost: Free
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 3/5

Kizoa logoAlthough I’m an novice photographer, I’m not really big on using slide shows to share my photos, even though I’m quite proud of some of them. I guess I’m not sure who my audience for a digital media slide show might be since I print/frame my photos that I like, and torture friends/family by posting them individually to Facebook (I also force students to view my photos by including them in PPT slides or as my screensaver). Nonetheless, there are many many Internet tools to create these types of slide shows. Kizoa is one option, and judging from its templates, the tool is meant for those who want to share photos from a holiday or special event via a photo video. While this option is obviously better than inviting everyone to your house to watch a slide projector version (which you have to get on Ebay because they have been discontinued), I am still thinking about how educators might use this tool effectively. Perhaps it can be used for digital storytelling assignments as long as students are warned about distracting the audience with too many effects, animations, stickers, or blocks of text.

Kizoa workspace 1

This is what the workspace looks like after selecting a template and adding your photos.

Goal: find a digital media tool to create text + graphic videos with professional looking templates and transitions

Benefits:

  • It’s really easy to select the order you want to show the photos in. You just start clicking the uploaded photos one after another, in the order they should appear in the video.
  • When in “collage edit” mode, you can add clipart, animations, and the like to each slide, along with your photos.
  • You can see the website in a variety of languages.

Drawbacks:

  • It takes a minute or so to upload your photos, depending on how many you choose from your computer and the file sizes. (But, there is a progress page so you can see how things are going as you wait.)
  • Without taking the time to personalize the video, the tool will center the photos in the template’s layout, which may not be exactly what you want.
  • The edit mode isn’t always intuitive. I had to click around to figure things out. (If you’re paying attention, unlike me, then you may catch the prompts that suggest next steps.)
  • Every time you modify a collage (slide), it takes several seconds to save before you can move ahead. You have to click “validate” for every change, which adds more seconds to the process.
  • The template transitions are not always good options. The first template I worked with overlapped photos before fully revealing the first photo for the slide (so it was obscured immediately). When editing the collage, look at the timeline under the slide, click and drag the colored line that coordinates with the photo that is coming in too soon; dragging the line to the right will delay its transition.
  • The free version has some limitations: cannot remove Kizoa logo; cannot hide sharing options; cannot set the number of loops (times the video repeats); cannot download finished project. The only one that bugs me is the sharing option, but Prezi and other free tools have the same restriction.
  • The “guide” is all in the form of YouTube videos…I prefer a text version for the simple tasks.
  • The editing features are quirky in Firefox, where the audio catches and lags when reviewing one frame/slide, or the screens flashes and freezes.
  • An embed code is provided, but when I embed it in my blog, clicking on the video will take you to the Kizoa home page, not my video. I have tried editing the code to no avail.

Continue reading

Not-So-Free: JibJab

As I dig through the Internet for digital media tools and the like, I often come across tools that seem free, but are not. Sometimes I don’t figure out that they aren’t free until I’ve already downloaded software or tried to save my final product. All of the reviews on my blog will indicate how “free” the tools are, but there are tools that are deceptively not free, which I find frustrating. So, here is a head’s up about a not-free tool.

JibJab logoThis website is hysterical! The premise is to use headshot photos of yourself or others you want to include in the video and insert the photos into an ecard (video) where the characters will dance and perform other silly acts. For a classroom setting, I can imagine this being a good icebreaker to show students you have a sense of humor. On a personal level, these ecards are likely to garner many “likes” on Facebook, especially if you don’t have the permission of friends/family to use their photos in the ecard.

JibJab Roller Disco sample

Yep, this is me as a Roller Disco (Fabulously Dressed) woman. As you can see, getting a photo without any of my hair would be a better option for this tool. (In the original, I was outside, so the lighting is way off for this scene.)

I wasn’t too sure I wanted my students to see this silly side of me, but I thought that I’d create something to post on Facebook (which students don’t generally have access to). I uploaded a headshot of myself after choosing a template to work with. You have to maneuver your headshot to make sure the eyes line up with the guideline (which gives the software a sense of where to place your face on the character when it’s moving around). It seems ideal to choose a photo where you’re looking at the camera straight on. (I also have long hair, so much of it was cut off to fit in the oval template.) You also have to indicate where your mouth is so that the chin can move up and down if there is a singing component to the video. I didn’t add other photos other than my own, so the characters performing around my character were generic.
I was really excited to see my face taking part in a holiday cartoon scene (which was a sled race). My character got to the top of the hill, got on her sled, started to race her opponent, and then stopped. Well, she kept going, but I couldn’t see the rest of the video unless I paid for it…$4.99 to download. Or, $18/year for ad free membership, though you still pay $1.99 to download your creation. I guess this isn’t too bad, but nonetheless, it isn’t free or worth my time if I don’t intend to pay.┬áNote that when you create an account, you’ll get emails from JibJab to entice you to subscribe to the pay version or finish what you started.
JibJab Sled Race sample

This is me ready for my sled race.

JibJab is all over Pinterest as the holiday approaches, so if you’re willing to invest money to have a funny ecard with your mug on it, then check it out. Otherwise, don’t fall prey to this not-so-free tool.

Camtasia…tentative steps into the world of movie making

Name: Camtasia (version 7)
Cost: $100+ (there is a student version for a reduced price); 30-day trial available
Type: Download (you might be able to purchase a CD version for student use)
Rating: 3/5

 

Camtasia logoThere is something addictive about the ability to create a movie (video). Perhaps it’s a generation thing, as I remember the early days of the Internet, prior to YouTube. I never delude myself in believing that I’ll make real movies/animations, with a moving or compelling storyline. But, I do like the power of mixing text, audio, graphics, and movement. I teach online, so I’m often teaching synchronous sessions with audio and slide presentations. This made it easy for me to transition into video making with Camtasia, where I could combine my slides with audio and transitions. Camtasia also allows for screen capture video recording, so I can record my screen actions (e.g., showing students how to upload their assignment) and add it to a longer presentation with other graphics, audio, and text. The screen capture feature has more clarity than Jing, but Jing is free. I use Audacity to first record my audio files, which can be added individually to the movie during the development process.

Goal: A robust tool to combine graphics (e.g., PPT slide JPG), screen capture videos, audio clips, and transitions. I also wanted to add overlays to the video content, such as an arrow cued up to sync with audio or other highlighting methods.

Camtasia workspace 1

This is the workspace that you’ll see before adding files to work with.

Benefits:

  • Does not require Internet access since it’s software on my PC, thus increasing software stability during editing
  • It is intuitive as long as you know how to work with a timeline when editing video content. Drag and drop to add content, with icons for other features of the tool
  • Provides all the necessary files for editing in Camtasia and then uploading to YouTube; it even creates a screen shot of the first moments of the video in case YouTube doesn’t get it right when choosing the video still image (i.e., what you see before clicking Play).
  • There are tutorial videos on the software’s website.
  • There are “stock” background music and other options to add to your presentation.

Drawbacks:

  • It can’t embed links that work on YouTube. If I upload the video to my Screencast account, which has limited free storage, the links will work; but, users need Silverlight loaded in order to view the video (which isn’t usually a problem, but YouTube is more accessible). I’ve tried work arounds, but they are messy. YouTube and Camtasia need to work out their compatibility issues, or I need to see if posting to a different website is the solution (e.g. Vimeo). Camtasia 8 has not addressed these issues.
  • The timeline can be a little quirky to work with when trying to edit video screen captures and audio. I cannot seem to break the screen capture video if I want to pause it or slow it down at a certain point. [The work around I use to to add the clip twice, cut/delete portions of the video, add a jpg (e.g., screenshot) between the cuts, and then edit the videos as needed. Without transitions, the clipped videos are seamless to the audience this way.]
  • I tried a stop-motion video with hundreds of photos and the software continually crashed, to the point I gave up. I tried researching the error message, but didn’t get satisfactory responses. After spending hours taking photos of “moving” letters, I was too frustrated to figure out the software any further.
  • Very limited shape animations (e.g., arrow) are available. I could get around this by recording my PPT as a video with animations, but editing the captured video is cumbersome, so I have to rely on the software’s stock animations (e.g., appearance of an arrow or box). Free Internet tools have significantly more options to “slide” graphics/text on to the screen.

Continue reading

Animoto….putting my ideas in motion

Name: Animoto
Cost: Free (for 30-second videos)….Free “unlimited time” for educators!!
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 5/5

 

Animoto logoI’m a fan of trailers….not the mobile kind, but the movie kind. I like that the movie trailer breaks down the main concepts into very brief visual flashes set to music. Well made trailers capture your attention even more than the opening scene of the movie (and sometimes the trailer is the only good part of the movie). To me, Animoto, gives me the tools to create these brief presentations of information that are visually engaging. The tool provides a theme with an interesting background throughout the video, but then you add the graphics and text to interact with the theme. Like a movie trailer, I have to edit down my ideas to just the highlights, which is more of a challenge that using the tool itself.

Goal: create short, movie-trailer type of video that is visually engaging

Animoto themes

Here is a view of some of the available themes you can start with.

Benefits:

  • The tutorial makes it look pretty simple to get started, as long as your focus is on graphics (not text).
  • Free music is available; suggestions are provided based on the chosen theme
  • Educators get a FREE version that includes more templates and a longer video length

Drawbacks:

  • The preview of the templates does not give a clear indication of how text would work with the theme, as the preview is for a photo gallery presentation.
  • Each slide cannot have it’s own “time frame” (e.g., 5 second pause for one slide and 10 seconds for a different slide).

Continue reading

Emaze….not as amazing as I’d hoped

Name: Emaze
Cost: Free (pay version gets storage and more templates)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 2/5

Emaze logoPowerPoint? Been there–done that. Prezi? Tried it–liked it. I was ready for something new, and more dynamic, if possible. I also wanted to impress my students with my ability to show them “new” tools they could also use to be just as cool as me. Ultimately, the tool should rely on my existing PowerPoint content, allow me to add audio narration, and then up my cool factor by including video game like animations and transitions. Emaze seemed to be a good option, as it looked like PowerPoint and Prezi had a baby and called it Emaze. (There have been worse baby names by celebrities!) I took my PowerPoint slides and uploaded them, then had to significantly edit them to get them to fit the templates. I spent a few hours getting the look, transitions, and audio just right. I reviewed the final version and noticed a few glitches, but thought it was okay. Nope. EPIC FAIL. One of my students very politely told me that the presentation was “not working,” which was a nice way of saying: “Professor, the presentation is really screwy. The audio for different slides starts playing at the same time, and the content moves too quickly to understand. Going back to review previous slides sends you on a Dr. Who like journey where you won’t land where expected.”

Goal: Dynamic and engaging presentation that allows for transitions, audio, and embedded links

View of Emaze workspace

After setting up your account, this is what your initial workspace looks like.

Benefits:

  • Accepts PowerPoint files to base the presentation on
  • Several free templates with interesting graphics and backgrounds
  • A sort of 3D feel as the view swings around to the next slide, which my audience liked
  • Supports embedded links

Drawbacks:

  • Audio would not consistently sync with the slides. There were no audio controls during playback; in other words, I could not pause the audio for a slide once it started. The audio would overlap and play at the same time if the audience decided to go back one slide.
  • Firefox was quirky with this tool. For example, at one point it would only represent text in upper-case even though I didn’t have the Caps Lock set. I had to exit the browser and log in again.
  • No further dynamic features beyond transitions, such as animations that reveal or highlight information on the slide.
  • Some color themes are nice looking, but may be difficult to read for those with visual impairments

Continue reading