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While I have known for some time that Camtasia can output a video to an animated GIF, I never had need of it previously. But as I was updating my search bookmarklets page, I thought that it would be nice to have a visual example of how the transfer search bookmarklets work. So using Camtasia Studio 5, I recorded a short video (without audio), edited it a bit, and then generated it as an animated .gif.
example
Camtasia gave me several settings to choose from, including how many times to repeat the animation. I went with 3 and added ending title slide so that it would end on that description of demo. One great advantage of an animated .gif is that is is very easy to embed it in a blog post like this one or on a Web page like the search bookmarklets page.

The disadvantage is that viewers lose the controls of a standard video file. The stop, rewind, and replay functions are not easily available. I toyed with the idea of using a small .swf-based video instead of the animated .gif. But that takes much more work to get all the appropriate coding on the page, the JavaScript in the header, and all the embed codes working correctly. Despite their documentation’s claims, I did not find an easy way to use Camtasia’s ExpressShow to embed the small video on my page when I host it on my own site. If I use Camtasia’s option to upload to screencast.com, then I get a much easier embed code snippet to use. Trying that here in WordPress, it pastes fairly well, but for an unknown reason to me, it runs the 14 second video in about 3 seconds. Assuming that it ran correctly, I’m curious as to which version most people would prefer to see on a page like my search bookmarklets page.

2 Responses to “Simple GIF as Screencast”

  1. on 26 Mar 2008 at 6:19 AM Genie Tyburski

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for another informative post on screencasting. I agree there’s great potential for animated gifs in place of screencasts, particularly for illustrating short tasks that don’t require a voice explanation.

    But (you knew there would be a “but”) when I first saw the animated gif in the display of this post in Bloglines, I thought it was an ad. Obviously, I didn’t look closely at the content of the “ad.” I simply noticed, and tried to tune out, the flashing graphic.

    Had it displayed with the timing you intended I may not have had this reaction. But I can’t say that for sure. We’re so used to seeing flashing images as annoying that an ad was the first thought I had.

    I wonder if there’s a way to start with a title slide and wait for the reader to activate it. If not, I’d stick to video mode until Camtasia addresses this issue. The reason is, I found it difficult to focus on the text because of the darn flashing. (But maybe that’s just my old eyes!)

    Anyhoo, I’d be willing to test the file for you on The Virtual Chase. We don’t use blogging software. So, if you want to see if WordPress is the cause of the timing issue, you might be able to find out with a simple test on TVC.

    Let me know.

    Best,

    Genie

  2. on 27 Mar 2008 at 7:43 AM Greg

    Great point, Genie. I had not thought about the automatic mental connection between animated GIF and advertising. The speed of this animated GIF is my fault, not Camtasia’s. It was the speed of the Flash screencast at the bottom that for some reason is faster than I expected. And I was able to get that embedded properly here despite an initial problem.

    Anyway, with an animated GIF, it starts the animation right away. The benefit of Flash delivery is that you can have the start arrow (like the example above) so that the viewer can decide whether or not to view it.

    So maybe using slower actions in the GIF would help, or perhaps adding a frame around it? Another problem, since I did not set the animation to repeat endlessly, is that when it stops, a viewer may not know that to view it again requires reloading the page.

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