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Camtasia Studio QuickStart Guide for Authors, Part 1: Getting Started with Screen-Capture Video Production

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Tom Bunzel, author of Solving the PowerPoint Predicament: Using Digital Media for Effective Communication, uses TechSmith's Camtasia Studio to build effective multimedia presentations. In Part 1 of a two-part series, he shows how Camtasia Recorder can capture presentation and narration simultaneously, creating both video and audio parts of a project.
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TechSmith's Camtasia Studio has many uses. For example:

  • Recording PowerPoint slideshows as they're being presented, with narration
  • Capturing a series of computer screenshots with narration
  • Acting as a full-blown video-editing system, with multiple tracks of video, audio, and effects
  • When recording screen and PowerPoint slideshows, using a webcam or video camera to add a video window of the presenter or narrator

The purpose of this two-part QuickStart Guide is to help you get up and running on Camtasia, with a clear understanding of the fundamentals so that you can dive into a project. We'll concentrate on capturing screens as video with audio narration—mainly as a means to describe processes on a computer screen, for either demonstration or instruction. The TechSmith online tutorials can help you to fine-tune your technique to meet your specific needs, and Part 2 of this series provides additional resources.

This article covers the basics on how to begin the capture process. Part 2 discusses postproduction: editing and encoding (publishing) to multiple platforms and formats.

Preparation for Effective Tutorials

Although you can make final determinations about video quality and size in the editing and publishing parts of this process (covered in Part 2), you should begin with a plan for the ultimate destination of your video. Will it be shown on PCs, Macs, tablets? At what resolution? Do you also want versions to be available online (for streaming or download) or for viewing on mobile devices?

The process consists of three major steps:

  1. Record and narrate. Capture the screens you want as movies, with accompanying description.
  2. Edit and highlight. Combine and annotate segments and watch the previews. Save the project when it's complete.
  3. Encode and distribute. Use a production preset or custom output to save movies in the format you need; then post the files online or otherwise distribute them—burn to DVD, send via email, and so on.

Before recording, you might want to make some preliminary preparations:

  • Clean up your desktop. Since it may be visible during recording, make sure that your desktop is clean.
  • Auto-hide the Windows Taskbar. Unless using the Taskbar is part of the project, remove it from sight: Right-click the Taskbar and choose Properties > Auto-hide the Taskbar. With this setting, the Taskbar will pop up if you move the mouse close to it.
  • Set up dual monitors. This feature makes recording easier, but pay attention to how to set the recording options on the appropriate screen, thereby keeping the other screen available.
  • Use a USB microphone. For optimal audio quality for your source files and narration, this equipment setup is highly recommended.
  • Test your audio settings. Few things are worse than recording 10 minutes of video and only then discovering that you have no sound.
  • Eliminate ambient noise. Shut off air conditioners and move the dogs away. Temporary interruptions such as ringing phones can be cleared in postproduction, but shutting off the phone and other noise makers could improve audio quality.
  • Don't start again if you make a mistake. Many errors can be corrected with the magic of postproduction. Take a breath and continue.
  • Plan appropriately for your target device. Mobile phones can display only a limited view. YouTube videos are frequently shown in small windows. Plan for this kind of output by using SmartFocus as well as zooming/panning (we'll explore these options later).
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