Monday, April 02, 2007

Inky Dinky Parlez Vouz

My friend and colleague Larry DeBrock gave a nice talk last Friday at the OIM brownbag, where he showed many interesting uses of the Tablet PC, both for note taking at meetings and for lecturing. Near the end he showed a little demonstration movie he had made with Camtasia that he uploaded into Google Video. I know from private chats with Larry that he's not completely satisfied with this solution because Google Video compresses the screen capture and makes it appear smaller than it actually is. So in this post I'm going to demonstrate some alternative ways to do suggest that at least for Ink movies, there are better alternatives than Google Video, but for talking head, Google Video works quite well.

Let me begin with a little screen movie that I want to display well within this blog post. Note that the column with the blog is fairly narrow. So if you want to show a movie that way that is itself not compressed, you have to make the capture window fairly narrow to. In this case I used the following trip. I open up Excel so it would show Column F without resizing, but not show Column G. (Actually, as my demo below shows with the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom, it should be even narrow, only to show Column E.) I then opened Windows Journal (the application I'm using to do the writing with Ink) and made that window as wide as the Excel file. It's a little awkward writing in that constrained space, but not too bad. And finally I set the Camtasia region to capture the Windows Journal area below the menu bar and pen settings.

I've found that I do a pass twice, once to just record the screen movie when I write and then a second time to record the audio with Audacity. Once I've got the video made, I use Camtasia to produce a Web presentation at the highest quality settings for viewing and listening. Then I upload the folder of that presentation to my College of Business Web space. That can be viewed directly by following the link, but I've also got it so it can be viewed within the blog.

This looks like it is embedded but it is not. Actually, I'm using the iFrame command in html to show a Web page within a Web page. The first Web page is the Camtasia movie. The second is the blog. Then I set the iframe so it has no border and gives the appearance of being embedded. The last part of this is to set the height and width appropriately. There is no great science to that. I try settings till it looks ok. This is the html code I ended up with where I've deleted the "<" before"iframe src" as well as the ">" after "/iframe" so the html doesn't render a second time.

iframe src="" frameborder="0" height="650" width="425">
Also note that the Camtasia movie is sitting on a regular Web server. It seems to load reasonably quickly and I'm happy about not needing a Flash server to make this work.

Below there is a talking head movie with a bit of a how to for making those. Google video is fine for this, particularly if you record the video larger knowing that it will be compressed. For these I'd just as soon not have that on a Web server that the College hosts. But the Campus seems to get into a tizzy about having educational content on a third party server. I'm not sure why.

So now we have two different ways to "embed" movies one really with the html embed command and the other using iFrame, and we can using Google Video for talking head but use Camtasia published to a regular Web site for screen capture that doesn't get reduced in size after it is uploaded. This plus text and images gives the instructor/presenter an ample arsenal for making and distributing content that can be produced on the fly fairly easily.

That last point needs some qualification. One has to know a bit of html to do this, but nothing too burdensome.

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