Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Recording a Prezi with Camtasia

Prezi is a zooming presentation editor - kind of like PowerPoint on steroids. It's gaining popularity among K-12 educators because kids think the zooming aspect is cool and teachers want any help they can get engaging them. This summer I went to a conference at which a presenter used a Prezi and I actually found it pretty cool too.

Prezi is best used for concepts that aren't linear or by people who don't think very linearly but I think once you start to think differently, it can be used effectively in a lot of different situations. I'm very linear so it took a while!  It is harder to use than PowerPoint because it requires you to set up a path for each frame, so it knows where to go in what order and it's kind of a new way of thinking. I wouldn't say it's hard to use, but it takes a little getting used to. There are templates to work from when you're learning.  

When I created e-learning I often had the problem of how to find an engaging way to list off facts related to one big concept, or numerous parts of one thing. The typical solution would be one slide with a title and bulleted list, but that was clearly not acceptable. I found this quote in an article on the ad:tech blog that spoke to my specific issue: "There are certainly plenty of times when nonlinear might work better for a preso. Imagine trying to talk about eight aspects of something. In a slide format, you’d probably have a list of eight things, and then tick them off one by one, returning over and over again to the same slide, maybe with a highlight box around the one you are going to move on to discuss. With Prezi, you could arrange all that in a circle. Drift from place to place by zooming in and out, so that the viewer gets the sense of the totality as much as the eight distinct ideas."

I learned about Prezi at the end of the spring 2011 semester because a student wanted to make a Prezi for the English 110 redesign project and then record it with voice over. She contacted BITS for some training. We determined it was not possible to record voice over right in Prezi, but the Prezi could be recorded with Camtasia. The project ended up taking longer than she expected so she is just finishing up the Camtasia aspect this week. Here is her Prezi.

In my opinion, one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of Camtasia is making sure the correct recording and publishing dimensions are used so the final project is a reasonable size. The Camtasia presets have gotten better, but I recall re-doing many screencasts because they turned out really weird.

The documentation students I used to supervise create how-to videos by sizing their browser window to 800x600 and then record an 800x600 frame and then publish custom recording dimensions as 800x600. It's pretty straight forward. They used to record full screen and then publish in 640x480, but it was hard to actually see what was going on unless they zoomed in.

We tried to do the same thing with the Prezi but the problem is that Prezis either open in the weird window on the website (see image to the right) or in full screen, so we couldn't really size it to 800x600. It is probably possible but we couldn't figure it out in a reasonable amount of time, so she recorded full screen.

When she came back to add narration to it (because our practice is first to record the video - or "record the clicks" as we call it), we ran into a snag. Normally when we open the .camrec (raw, unedited Camtasia file), it is 800x600, so when Camtasia prompts for the size when it opens the project, we choose 800x600 but that cut off some of her video when we played it :/  First we worried that she had the recording area in the wrong spot and maybe didn't realize that although she could see the whole Prezi, it wasn't recording it. That is a common error when not recording full screen because the edges of the recording area aren't really obvious when recording.

I was really surprised it cut the video off rather than adding black bars to the extra space.  Isn't that weird? Anyway, we went back to the .camrec file and reopened it using the "recording dimensions" option (it was something weird like 1080x870) and published it as 800x600 just to make sure it was going to be alright and, thankfully, it was!

Another snag we ran into is that when she recorded the clicks, she accidentally recorded audio. Normally we turn off the audio when recording. So we had to figure out how to remove it and couldn't, but at least figured out how to silence it and she recorded in another track.

This whole experience was excellent for me because we are starting a Camtasia pilot with faculty and I know these types of things will come up!  I need to make some screencasts to refamiliarize myself with the ins and outs of Camtasia since it's been a while since I used it regularly.  When I used it a lot, I did things the same all the time and didn't venture out a lot, so I'm excited to have the opportunity now.

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