Monday, 14 November 2011

Sharing skills: Camstudio

Camstudio pic
We haven’t used Google Apps for a while so I needed an activity as a warm-up. After the Glogster activity I posted about before half term I was keen for students to continue sharing their knowledge with others. I started by showing them the large number of hits my Audacity page has received - currently around 400, more than any single post. I asked them to prepare to share a skill. It could be something they already knew how to do -  attach a file to an email, say - or something they would discover themselves through exploration, but should be something their peers might find useful and interesting.

We used the excellent, open-source Camstudio. It’s a really useful little piece of software  that will capture any desktop activity as video (avi. or swf.) It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio but that would cost over £3000 to install in our suite and Camstudio is easy to use and free.  There is a useful post here about getting Camstudio set up.

I asked for it to be installed when our ICT suite was built with the intention of getting students to make video tutorials like this. It turns out to have been one of those good ideas that was waiting for its moment. In the meantime it’s proved really useful in all sorts of other ways, capturing: Powerpoints as video, Pivot animationsGaming footage, recording from local TV (whose footage often disappears after a day), and generally any interesting online animation. Feel free to add to this short list of possible uses.  The video below was made to be used as part of a Christmas production video back projection - open it in vimeo for more details.

Like any performance our tutorials were best after some rehearsal.  Our ISP filters (grrrrrrr…) prevent us using our 10gb of Google Apps video space, so we’ve been attaching our tutorials to explanatory web pages and the attachment file size limit is 20mb. This has been a blessing in disguise, as to stay under this limit the avi. captures have needed to be short and punchy and students whose mouse pointer meanders around the screen clicking on wrong menus find their file size somewhat inflated. It is also a good idea to assess exactly how much of the screen needs to be captured as full screen captures are large. As so often, constraints are forcing careful preparation – a useful lesson to learn…