Category Archives: Screencasts

#224 Camera Raw #5 Color Intensity

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This episode on the Camera Raw Color tools is the last in the series of tutorials about how to use the basic tools of Camera Raw to complete the bulk of your image editing.

The color intensity tools give you the means to make your image sparkle by accentuating some or all of the colors in your image. Whether you’re producing images for Print, web or video output, the final format you choose will leech away a substantial amount of color and contrast form your image. Knowing this allows you to use these three tools to add the necessary colors back into the image so it appears to everyone who sees it as you intended.

When I began this series of tutorials I deliberately omitted the first episode, which is an introductory tutorial about Camera Raw and the goals of these videos. I felt it would be more useful to jump right in to the tools and how they work. I will post the first episode in a couple weeks and you can use it as a review of what I’ve already covered, as well as background information about the general advantages of using Camera Raw in your everyday image editing routine.

Thanks for taking the time to watch these videos and feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at videostudentguy@gmail.com. I’m ope to your suggestions for improving the look or function of these tutorials (I’m planning on doing a lot more in the future) or subjects I can cover, whether they be on a single issue or a series.

#222 Production Notes

One of my goals in producing screencast tutorials is to revue the major screencasting applications available on the market and report back on their usefulness. I’m hoping to work with each one thoroughly enough to understand their operation and identify their best features. In the end I want to compile the best features in order to point out what this field of video production should aspire to.

My most recent production, which I posted yesterday, is Camera Raw Pt4. It was captured using Screenflow, a Mac program I have been using for a couple of years and feel the most comfortable with. Previous tutorials I’ve posted on this blog were made solely using this program. In the past month I began exploring TechSmith’s Camtasia Mac, a 1.x sibling of one of the outstanding screen capture tools on Windows, Camtasia Pro 7. Adobe’s Captivate 5 is the last of the set that I’ve been exploring.

To date I have found Screenflow to be the simplest, and the easiest of these programs to use (Version 3 was been released recently, but I haven’t had a chance to review it to see what new features have been added.). By the way, simple doesn’t necessarily mean useless. While Camtasia Mac has many more features, many of them are automated. When you make something automatic, it sacrifices the ability to control and customize settings. While Screenflow is limited in features, it’s easy to find work arounds.

The truth is, all these applications require workarounds. In fact, I think this whole exercise has made me realize that what I’m learning is not how to create video tutorials using these programs, but how to work around their limitations. I can easily list half a dozen actions I want to perform that are either unavailable or so weak they may as well be.

I’m talking about the ability to highlight or darken specific areas of the screen and easily enlarge a portion of the screen in a custom shape other than a square or a circle. I would like to layer video on multiple timelines, create more complex animations of objects, text and images, have some decent control over text formatting and be able to assign hyperlinks to text and graphics. Cropping images inside the video frame in order to emulate a transparent alpha channel would be a gift!

In all fairness, I may have overlooked or missed any one of these things in one program or another and I just haven’t discovered where they are. I’ll have more to say once I’ve thoroughly evaluated the programs and posted the reviews. Certainly all these programs capture the screen admirably and some of them provide some of the features I mentioned above in some retarded form. For example, the two more expensive programs, Camtasia Pro 7 and Captivate 5 allow for linking internally and externally, but their function is still limited to a few formats once they’re exported.

As I was completing this most recent tutorial I realized that what I’m really looking for is an animation tool like After Effects. The video for this tutorial was captured on a Mac and imported into Camtasia Pro 7 because I was so frustrated by the feature set of the Mac version. Camtasia Pro is a Windows application (and don’t get me started about the hassle of getting QuickTime and Windows video codecs to work cross platform) and I like many of the features it has, but it still leaves me feeling unfulfilled. I’m constantly asking, why can’t it do this, or, just give me a little bit more control over this effect.

Of course After Effects is a hefty program, in cost and complexity, but it’s a product I know very well. I hadn’t considered it up to now for editing screencasts because it seems like overkill, however I know I can do anything that I think of with it.

As an aside, I produce the intro and outro animations for these tutorials in After Effects. Also,  working in the timeline of Camtasia is by far the most pleasant editing experience I’ve had so far with a screen capture tool.

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Because I can’t present any argument without a devil’s advocate perspective I will concede the two following points.

1. Screen capture video producers are not video editors and many of the features I’m asking for are perhaps beyond their creative needs. I’m also sure that their production needs insist on a streamlined workflow and consistent, but limited series of features. In their case more choices may not be the right solution.

2. The developers of these products are serving a relatively narrow market as far as their margins are concerned. Screenflow and Camtasia Mac cost about $100 and I’ve heard a lot of professionals who use these tools say they’re enough. Camtasia for Windows costs under $300 and Captivate costs over $500. And I think a lot of the research and development for the last two programs is geared for more interactivity, something else regular video editing software doesn’t provide (though I have to wonder why!).

I just think people should expect more for their money. I can’t be the only one who wants more out of a screen-capture tool, can I? I know that  Camtasia and other applications geared toward the eLearning industry, such as Articulate and Lectora, are meeting a larger need than just screen capture tutorials, However the larger, more general audience represented by YouTube demonstrates that the baseline for video tutorials involves the use of flexible animation features, broad text formatting capability and manageable timeline and editing functionality.

I will continue to work through these programs, but for the next couple tutorials I’m going to use After Effects and see whether it’s complexity doesn’t outweigh it’s usefulness.

#222 Camera Raw #4 Luminance

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This tutorial covers the the tools that manage the luminance or light of an image, such as Fill Light, Blacks, Brightness and Contrast. These are the controls that you’ll spend most of your time with as you prepare an image.

While I mention it in the tutorial, it bears repeating that you should work down the list in order and try not to backtrack, at least not while you’re still learning how to use these tools. Once you’re aware of what each slider does and how best to use it then you can do whatever you want. Each one of these tools is very powerful and as I’ve continued to use them I realize how light a touch you need to get a good result.

There’s a lot more I want to say about the making of this video, but I’ll put it in a separate post tomorrow. In that post I’ll to talk about the experience, often frustrating, of working with these screencasting programs, much of which comes from high expectation based on using video editors such as Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer.

#219 Camera Raw #2 – Basic Tools

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It continues to amaze me how much control you can have over the look of a photograph using a few basic tools in Camera Raw. As I described in an earlier podcast, Camera Raw is an editing platform for digital images using any of these Adobe programs: Bridge, Photoshop and After Effects. Bridge is my preferred application for reasons I’ve described already.

I’ve created 5 short tutorials for editing in Camera Raw using Screenflow, which is a Mac only screencast tool.

Video #2, using the Basic Tools is where I want to begin this series. The first tutorial  is an introduction to Camera Raw and it’s mostly a PowerPoint presentation, so I’m going to post that one last.

There are a lot spinning plates in play in this series of tutorials. Learning the how to use Screenflow, understanding Camera Raw, getting the right balance between exposition and demonstration, timing, focus and most importantly, relevance.

I’m working in a vacuum as far as your interests are concerned and I know you can’t please everyone. Still, any constructive comments are welcome. I’m planning on getting better. I hope you can help.

#208 Keyboard Editing in FCP – 01 Navigation

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This is the first of several screencasts I’m producing that are about using (as much as possible) keyboard commands for editing in Final Cut Pro. I have to qualify that because Unlike Avid, FCP very much relies on the mouse in the editing workflow and some key commands are not available, or are simply less convenient. I will try use commands for every action and you can decide whether they’re useful. To make it easier for me, I will not bother with key commands for other applications, including the Mac OS.

You’ll get the most out of these tutorials if you already know how to edit in FCP. There’s a lot of information in these videos and it’s presented very fast, so you’ll probably find that you need to go through each of them several times. My intention is to  use these movies as reference tools, so feel free to download them to your computer. If you’d like to share them I’d appreciate if you would send someone the link, instead of sending them the movie file directly, that way I can track how much interest there is in each tutorial, which will then help me decide on what to cover in the future. Of course, I’d be glad to read your comments and email, particularly what to cover and how to improve what I’m doing

The video embedding plug-in I use in this blog has scaled down the size of the movie above considerably, so downloading it will allow you to view it at a higher resolution (720×450). An even larger version of this video (1080×676), is also available for download on my Vimeo page.

The idea for this topic occurred to me after a recent conversation with another editor who was adamant about the importance of editing fast and faster,  and how using keyboard commands is an absolutely necessary skill in order to achieve that blessed state.

After looking around for tutorials I found a lot of written material, pages of lists of key commands for Final Cut, Avid and Premiere, but not so much in the way of video tutorials that put the commands in context to the actual editing process. So I thought I could do that myself, provide the commands as I quickly move through the process of setting up a project, importing, roughcut, finecut and final export.

Throughout this series I’ll finish each tutorial with a list of the commands used. I’ll also create an index movie at the end of the series that shows all the key commands I’ve covered and which episode they appeared in.

Once I figure out how, I’ll create a menu for screencasts and a submenu of specific topics.

I’m just starting out here, so this is the perfect time to offer some direction and suggestions.