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Demonstration Software: do it myself, or buy a program?

Posted on 2007-03-23
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Last Modified: 2016-02-10
I need to create a demonstration of some software that I wrote. I want to use the demonstration on my web site, and it would be a bonus if I could take that same "movie", and include it on a DVD.

If you go to http://www.instant-demo.com/ and click the "View a Customer Demo" link,  and look for 30 seconds at the customer sample demo, you'll see just what I'd like to do. Basically, record the screen activity (as if it is live), including the smooth mouse cursor movements, as well as an audio track.

Quite frankly, I may just buy that "Instant Demo" application, or another one if I find something better. On the other hand, if this is something that's not too difficult to do with tools I already have or could buy for less, then I would do that. The customer demo shown is displayed using Flash, but I don't know if it was created using Flash. I have Macromedia Flash 2004 MX, but would upgrade it if necessary. Perhaps this is a two step process: record screen activity and audio track simultaneously, and then take that movie and convert it to Flash or whatever.

So, can someone help me decide whether to do it myself, or buy a program, and if so, then which program do you recommend?

I'm going to put 500 points on this. I know it's arbitrary, but if I get several good suggestions, I'll split the points up as fairly as I can.

Thanks in advance!

Dennis
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Question by:dtleahy
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shuboarder earned 200 total points
ID: 18780719
Hi dtleahy,

I recommend CamStudio:

http://www.camstudio.org/

"CamStudio is able to record all screen and audio activity on your computer and create industry-standard AVI video files and using its built-in SWF Producer can turn those AVIs into lean, mean, bandwidth-friendly Streaming Flash videos (SWFs)"

The best part about CamStudio is, not only is it simple, easy to use and effective, it's completely free as well!

Hope you like it!
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Assisted Solution

by:bigbillydotcom
bigbillydotcom earned 300 total points
ID: 18781728
I also like Camtasia
http://www.techsmith.com
It outputs to multiple formats and has integrated screen recorder, video editor and multi-format producer
Check out this video
http://interventcorp.com/training/spyware.asp
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Author Comment

by:dtleahy
ID: 18785214
Thanks shuboarder and bigbilldotcom, I appreciate the replies!  Very good suggestions!

I tried CamStudio, and it does work. And, the fact that it is free is certainly a bonus!

My application (that I need to record) uses the full screen (think kiosk application), and so when capturing the full screen, then playing it back in Flash Player, all of the browser junk takes up a bunch of real estate. So, I need to figure out how to scale the playback and/or capture to make the whole screen visible during playback.

I'm going to give Camtasia (trial version) a whirl as well. I guess I really should get my audio equipment set up to record audio/narration simultaneously, because that may end up to be the deciding factor between a couple of contenders.

Anyone else have a recommendation?

Dennis
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Assisted Solution

by:bigbillydotcom
bigbillydotcom earned 300 total points
ID: 18785503
with camtasia - you can record just a portion of the screen
and for sound, all you need to do is get a headset with mic and hook it up and camtasia will bascially walk u thru the rest
it also allows the sounds that come out of your speakers to be recorded at the same time (without having to put a mic up to them like i used to have to do)
which is great if what you are doing has audio cues as well (such as the "boink" when an error window popsup)
i have never used camstudio before, but I have used Camtasia for many mnay years - and it stronger now than ever
if you serious about doing this - camtasia is sure to produce!
it takes some tricks to learn how to produce to multiple formats, but it can handle it now matter what u throw at it
One reccomendation - never record an area >800x600
if your target is for dvd - that "resolution" is 720x480 - but you have to compensate for what is called the title safe area which is approx 640x420 (that's not precise - i usually just use 90% of 720x480)
and at that size - it would be fine for 99% of computer users since the most basic of screeen sizes now is 800x600
most will have larger resolutions

have fun
bbdc
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Author Comment

by:dtleahy
ID: 18786214
>with camtasia - you can record just a portion of the screen

>if you serious about doing this

>One reccomendation - never record an area >800x600

Thanks for the reply, bbdc

I'm definitely serious about doing this. I need to capture the entire screen, which will be at least 1280x1024, and sometimes even 1680x1050. Again, think kiosk application. I'm covering the entire screen with the application. In effect, I don't want the user to know if it is Windows98, XP, Vista, Linux, or a Mac screen that they are looking at. For a retail kiosk, I need the user to be immersed in just that one application that they are allowed to interact with.

So, capturing large screens, and reducing them to an aesthetically pleasing smaller size (so they can be viewed on a potential customer's 1024x768 browser screen, or a potential customer's 720x480 TV monitor), is a must. Even if they view the demo on a 1024x768 monitor, if they purchase the application, it will be running at least 1280x1024 resolution. Obviously, we know this can be done, 'cause we have all seen documentaries showing how animators or other CAD professionals work, and those are very hi-res programs that we are viewing (squashed) on a TV screen.  Maybe 640x512 is a good resolution to shoot for, for the movie?

Just so we don't go off on a resolution tangent too far, this application I wrote is designed for a minimum screen size of 1280x1024. One the main user screen, there is a 1024x768 image displayed, as well as user navigation controls and a bunch of data. The demonstration involves showing the entire screen, so showing a portion of the screen is not enough.

Thanks,

Dennis
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Expert Comment

by:bigbillydotcom
ID: 18788314
Hey Dennis,
I understand - this is a very common situation that as far as I can tell is typically overcome by creating the media to specifically target the audience
One consideration is dispaly on a tv screen - which for the most part limits you to a 4:3 perspective screen
Sounds like you are going tobe needing a lot more video production skills, and that the screen capture is only going to be a part of it
My reccomendation to do 800x600 was basically that larger resolutions (or is 1024x768 smaller - hahaha)
look so tiny when you then shrink the video to the NTSC or PAL size that can make some things difficult to see

perhaps using pan and zoom techniques once you've captured your screen video will be your saving grace

i have used Media Studio Pro to do this - the pan and zoom is the easiset to use I've seen

best of luck - let me know what I can do to help!
bbdc


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Author Comment

by:dtleahy
ID: 18789616
Now that I have tried both of the products, I feel that I was given excellent advice from both shuboarder and bigbillydotcom. CamStudio does work, and I can see that it will be a great solution for the budget conscious that are so broke they can't pay attention. {attempted humor} For anyone that wants to create a screen capture demo on a shoestring budget, you should check out CamStudio. That may be an even better choice once they get v3.0 up and running.

That said, Camtasia v4.01 is a fully refined product, and has every feature that I need and want. It allowed me to capture 1280x1024 at 32 bit color depth (CamStudio required me to drop down to 16bit.) Once I finish my screen recording, Camtasia allows me to create multiple output files, with various resolutions, and various file types. So, I can create a DVD version at 720x480, and multiple screen versions to allow the website visitor to pick the size they want to see. The site visitor can also choose among MOV (Quicktime), WMV (Windows Media), AVI, and SWF (Flash) in a variety of screen resolutions and even file sizes tailored to their bandwidth. I haven't burned a DVD from the DVD size (720x480) output yet, but I have seen it on my monitor, and it looks great. Very good scaling/image compression. I assume it will show full screen on a standard (non-widescreen) TV? (I'll find out)

Honestly, I don't work for Camtasia's parent company, even though it probably sounds like I do. I'm just excited that the product will do everything I want and need for $300. There may be a dozen other demo creation software applications out there that do it all too, but I need to make a demo and move on to the next project - and Camtasia will allow me to do that.

Thanks again to shuboarder, and bigbillydotcom for the suggestions, and to bigbillydotcom for the follow-up.

>Sounds like you are going tobe needing a lot more video production skills, and that the screen capture is only going to be a part of it

I have Adobe Premiere (v6?), a digital Sony Camcorder, and semi-pro quality digital audio workstation and mics. So, at least I have the tools (though lacking in both time and anything but cursory skills with the tools.) I'll keep pan and zoom techniques in mind as I continue a couple more quick tests before blastoff.

Thanks!

Dennis
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:bigbillydotcom
ID: 18792500
Thanks Dennis - Best of Luck!
My recollection is that you can do pan and zoom in Premiere - although I can't recall...I think it's called the Move...command - I remember helping someone do this, and that action is available by rt. clicking the video clip - sorry I can't  recall exactly
Please let us know if you need any more help
bbdc
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