Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself, and your involvement with Camtasia Studio.
While still in college, I had the opportunity to do a study abroad in Germany for a semester. That one semester turned into three. The next thing I knew, I was beginning a Master's program in German. It seemed to all happen in an eyeblink - I took my first college-level German course at the age of 20, and taught my first college-level German course at the age of 23. So schnell geht das.
Teaching was a terrific experience. I also had a blossoming interest in technology, specifically computer-assisted language learning, and a large portion of my work and studies were devoted to that. These paved the way for my first out-of-school position as a software trainer and tech writer.
Then, in 2000, I got an assignment to consult with a company called TechSmith Corporation. They had a brand-new product named Camtasia, which could take any actions viewed on a computer and capture it as a video. They wanted me to use Camtasia to make videos about Camtasia. Even though it was a very young product with a limited feature set, I was blown away by the possibilities.
Later that year, I accepted a role with TechSmith as a full-timer. It was a tiny organization at that time (17 people including me), which allowed me to wear a lot of hats. I was able to stretch my wings and experiment, working in such roles as database design, marketing, and international development. I never got far away from the video creation aspect, though, and continued to make training and marketing videos for them throughout my three-year tenure.
Then, in 2003, my wife and I decided to return to her hometown of Huelva, Spain, so I left TechSmith to start dappertext LLC. As the name implies, I was originally envisioning copywriting and tech writing as the main thrust of the business. But the lion's share of the requests I get have to do with Camtasia Studio, so I needed to juggle my priorities a bit. I create videos, and I also train people on creating their own. I do these two things almost exclusively.
Geetesh: How do you typically use Camtasia Studio?
Daniel: Damn, that's a broad question. Are you referring to my 'process?' As I work for a long list of different clients with very different needs, it's hard to pin down a "typical" workflow, but I'll give it a shot...
After getting the administrativa out of the way (contract negotiation, fee deposit, all that jazz), I always always always start with a narration script. Sometimes the client writes it, sometimes I do (which is my preference). I typically pull this info from the supplementary materials they provide (training manuals, brochures, help file, etc.). If the visuals are complex, I'll storyboard those ahead of time as well.
I then record the raw footage with one eye on the script. I don't record any narration at this point. My recording dimensions are almost always set to 688 x 520, which is an ideal size in most browser windows. If the content just won't fit, I'll record larger, but then scale down later by way of zoom-n-pan.
Voiceover narration happens in Adobe Audition. I actually make use of a number of third-party tools, all of which are mentioned in the book. I even include demo versions of most of them on the accompanying CD.
Production details depend on the client. Flash is typically the way to go for content destined for the web, but a surprising number of these folks still like to distribute CD-ROMs.
Geetesh: Tell us more about your new book, and what do you think a reader can get from it.
Daniel: The fact that this book is currently the only game in town when it comes to books on Camtasia Studio is both limiting and liberating. I felt compelled to craft the book to serve multiple masters, as it were. I wanted it to be a great stepwise manual, which is why I visually separated the procedures in the book. It also drove my decision to include end-of-chapter exercises. Though a tad on the thicker side, you could use it as a classroom training manual provided you focused mainly on the procedures and skipped over the prose.
But I also strove to make it a solid reference book, so that even people who chose not to read it all the way through (and only wanted to mine that occasional tidbit whenever they got stuck) could easily do so. A great deal of thought went into how the individual chapters and sections were structured. I provide a lot of tips and warnings honed through my years of daily use of this program, and I think I've managed to find the "sweet spot" between giving the power users good stuff they didn't know before, and not completely losing the greenhorns.
I also tried to remain cognizant of my tone throughout the book. I like to keep things lighthearted and fun, and I hope that side comes through without the user feeling like they're being hit over the head with it. Few things bug me more when reading a manual than when the author speaks to the reader with an inappropriate level of familiarity. I think the book succeeds in being approachable and pedagogically sound at the same time. After all, the main goal is to make sure people learn about the program.
Now, the cool thing about Camtasia Studio is that (with a little training) nearly anyone can make something professional and innovative. As a consultant, you always want to convey that "normal people" can't possibly do what you do, and that it's best to leave it to "the experts." I can't really make that claim. If you read through the book completely and work through its exercises, you're likely to come out on the other side at least 80% as proficient as I am.
Of course, there are things that dappertext brings to the table as a content creator that aren't so easily matched, mostly thanks to my aforementioned "unmarketable" bachelor education. My theatre training (coupled with high-quality audio equipment) gives my clients access to world-class voiceover narration. My language background as well as partnerships with translators and voiceover artists from around the world allow us to offer localization of client videos into just about any language. The book is a wonderful guide, but I don't think it'll put me out of a job, at least not yet.
Geetesh: How do PowerPoint and Camtasia work together?
Daniel: Quite well, thank you. They actually get on pretty famously. Camtasia Studio's add-in for PowerPoint gets you quickly from recording to editing. It also offers niceties like including camera video of your face and automatically turning your slide titles into markers for easy creation of a table of contents. You can tell that a lot of love went into making the add-in as seamless as possible.
Sometimes the animations aren't quite as smooth as they should be when recorded, which can be an annoyance. I did manage to figure out a workaround to this problem, but you'll have to buy the book to find out what it is :-)
Oh, and perhaps a few PowerPoint afficionados out there are wondering why exactly one would need an application like Camtasia Studio to archive a presentation. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to read the book excerpt here on Indezine, where I discuss in detail the current unmet needs that are expertly filled by Camtasia Studio.
Geetesh: Can you share some trivia—or just something that you want to share with Indezine readers.
Daniel: As a consultant specializing in Camtasia Studio, I train people all over the world. This generally involves my coming to them and doing the training on-site. I occasionally get asked if we do classroom training.
So here's an idea that I've been kicking around, and I hope your readership might help me in gauging interest. I live in a rather desirable corner of the world. Islantilla is a bustling resort area that caters to loads of vacationing Europeans (and some Americans). I have been doing some initial research into the viability of offering a "training vacation" package for people who wanted to learn more about Camtasia Studio and explore an incredible country at the same time.
Just think: you could improve your video creation skills, and also take eye-popping day trips to Seville or Ayamonte (or la Doñana, the largest national park in Europe), lounge on the beach with a good book (I can even recommend a title for you ;-), enjoy amazing food and drink, and soak up the Spanish sun.
This weeklong training excursion would be slated for the first or second week of September 2007.