Getting Demo Videos Right

A few days ago, one of our clients, BlueLotus Strategy Consulting, approached us for making demo videos for their software suite. The videos were to be used for presentations, pitches to prospective clients and for their website.

So we started looking for a decent screen-capture software.  We singled out  Camtasia Studio 8 for Windows (brought to you by TechSmith), which is also called Camtasia for Mac. It is a great tool for shooting, editing and animating screen captures and also helps you deliver a presentation to a large audience at a time.

I decided to record the screens of BlueLotus’ software suite on my 3-year old (hence almost obsolete) machine, which to my surprise, was easy enough. Camtasia Studio lets you select recording dimensions and aspect ratio, even allowing you upload youtube ready videos.

After the recording, it was time for editing and animating the video. This is where things got tricky; you have to decide what should be explained, what should be left out, etc. For this purpose, I used the spotlight ‘callout’ feature across the video: It helped me cover up unwanted elements in the video, thus focusing the viewer’s attention on the more important features of the software being demonstrated. Camtasia Studio also has a range of cursor effects like left-click effect, magnification, cursor size and more effects that help the viewer detect action in the video. These too became an important part of the video.

Everything was coming together nicely, till text had to be added in the video. Here I found, that some clips were too short or too long to display the explanatory text. But ‘Clip Speed’, another feature, let me speed up certain portions and slowed the others down hence giving the text enough visibility and time to be read and understood. After adding the starting and ending screens and their text, and adding some light music, the last remaining thing to do was exporting the video. Camtasia Studio offers a variety of exporting options. I needed the .avi format so I went with custom settings. Finally, my project was rendered and the video was complete!

Overall, the experience was smooth. The software has convenient solutions for almost all minor and major issues with the exception of these:

  • Camtasia projects created using Mac are not compatible with those created using Windows and there is no way around this, yet. Thus you need to complete your project on any one platform.
  • The exported .avi file refused to run on most video players because of a codec issue (its the TSC2 Codec problem), which meant it had to be converted to a normal .avi in order for it to run – a needless hassle.
  • The Mac version crashed once after which all projects created on it till then failed to open. This meant that we lost a lot of time and effort, and decided to stick to windows only.

Apart from these issues, I think the software has been easy to get used to. Although it consumes my computer’s RAM, it has worked well on my old machine and I’m looking forward to doing more work on it!

Have a look at the demo video above.



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