How to Get Crisp, Clear Screen Video

There are lots of great reasons to use screen video. Maybe you want to record a simple video showing a coworker how to submit time off on the new system or even a more elaborate corporate training video. Or maybe you want to respond to a client’s question by showing them the numbers you see on screen with some webcam video to add personality. Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to end up with blurry or distorted screen video.

You’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, you’ll learn how to use recording dimensions, project dimensions, and production settings to get crisp, clear screen video. So, let’s start learning.

Let’s start with three key things you need to know to get crisp video. Keep these definitions in mind as we go along to better understand how you can avoid blurry video.

Three Keys to Crisp, Clear Video

 

Recording Dimensions
This is the size of your recording. If you record full screen, it’s usually the same as the resolution of your monitor.

Project Dimensions
This is the size of your canvas in Camtasia, or the area in which you build your video

Production Settings
These are the options you choose when producing your video, including the size of your video.

Now, that we have those terms under our belt, the rest should make a lot more sense.

Screen Video Loses Quality When Scaled

scaling screen video

 

You may have noticed that when you scale images the quality often decreases. Screen video is no different!

Scaling is stretching or shrinking a screen recording to display it at a size different than the original recording size. This causes screen video to quickly lose quality and appear blurry or distorted.

To help ensure crisp, clear screen video, remember to display your screen video at its original size, which avoids any scaling.

A Shortcut to Crisp, Clear Video

matching video dimensions

 

Match your recording dimensions, project dimensions, and productions settings to help ensure crisp, clear screen video.

This guarantees your screen recording shows at its original size, or 100% scale—the highest quality you can get from screen recordings.

varying screen size

 

That’s great advice and all, but what if you can’t avoid scaling? Don’t worry! Sometimes it’s not possible to match your recording and project dimensions. For example, if you record a screen that is bigger or smaller than the size of the video you want to create, or if your monitor doesn’t fit a standard 16:9 aspect ratio.

In these situations, scaling the recording is unavoidable. But, you can use scaling to your advantage, and I’ll walk you through how to do it.

Use Scaling to Your Advantage

 

Our instructional designers here at TechSmith often use scaling to create tutorial videos. They record on a monitor that is twice the size of their project dimensions. They know that when they fit the screen recording to the project, it will be displayed at half its original size and will have some quality loss. It works for them, because they spend most of their time zoomed in and focused on specific parts of the user interface, which is where they want to see the highest quality.

To get the highest quality and most detail, they zoom to the original size of the recording, or 100% scale. When we need to show something on an adjacent part of the screen, they pan over, remaining at 100% scale. (You can learn more about zooming in TechSmith Camtasia by checking out our Animations In-Depth tutorial).

Scale video 100 percent

 

That brings me to my last point. When in doubt, keep your screen recording at 100% scale so it displays at the highest quality possible.

I hope after reading this blog post you feel more confident in recording crisp, clear screen video! And if you’re looking to learn more about video, check out our blog post on 50 tips for better video.

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Keeping Video Content Up To Date

Today, companies rely more than ever on images and videos to provide instructions and deliver information, and to communicate with customers and employees. This development is driven by the advantages of visual communication as well the changing expectations of the market itself.

A recent study by TechSmith showed that 67% of test participants understood & performed tasks better when the instructions included text with images (screenshots) or video compared to plain text; and another study by Hubspot showed that video is the format demanded the most by users.

As content creators develop more visuals to be used in their documentation, training and marketing content, a challenge is growing in the industry: Keeping those images and videos up to date.

The speed and number of release cycles is increasing rapidly and product updates are requiring more frequent updates to all visuals. Many departments struggle to keep up with this time consuming task and it is time to explore some established techniques for updating video content.

(Techniques for updating images and screenshots are discussed here in a different article).

 

Design video content that is reusable

Simplifying the process for updating video content starts with the planning of the video itself.
The content can be structured a way that facilitates any future updates while it should be designed to reduce the actual need. need for updates.

 

Leverage short content or content blocks

When changes are introduced to a software interface or workflow, for example a new dialog, it is often only a section of the pre-existing content that is affected by this change. Tying into the principle of intelligent content and microlearning, video content can be designed in shorter blocks or scenes that are then linked together. Oftentimes, these blocks can stand on their own and are not dependent on the previous or following micro-content.

Imagine a basic software tutorial consisting of a title clip, two feature highlights, and an outro.

Timeline showing a video consisting of four unique content blocks

If an additional feature needs to be explained, a newly created clip can be inserted in between the existing scenes using your video editor.

Updating individual blocks and shorter clips is considerably less work than having to update an entire video, saving content creators valuable time.

 

Create evergreen content

First, one should therefore ask themselves: Does existing content even have be updated to still be effective? Depending on the audience and goal, content designed for a previous version might still be relevant. More often than not, elements that are insignificant to the actual information one is trying to communicate are the factors that become out of date.
Greetings, software version numbers, small interface changes, references and corporate branding elements come as regular examples to mind.

By generalising some of these elements, one can often prolong the re-usability and shelf-life of content. Imagine the following beginning to a video tutorial:

To start a screen recording in Camtasia 9, click on the Record button.
vs
To start a screen recording in Camtasia, click on the Record button.

By purposefully leaving out the version number in the second example, the video content can likely be repurposed for the next version of the Camtasia software without causing user confusing.

Amy Rottmann and Salena Rabidoux offer additional advice in their article to increase reusability of content, such as referencing years instead of time passed (2016 vs. 2 years ago) and choosing a more generalized title for your videos.

And according to video marketing platform Vidcredible, creating evergreen content and keeping it up to date is also a great approach to increase SEO and traffic coming from established content.

 

Using Simplified User Interface (SUI)

At TechSmith, we’ve been using a design technique known as Simplified User Interface (SUI) for some of our video content. SUI has many advantages, and by representing software interfaces through a simplified visual representation that focuses only on key elements, content creators can create videos that require less or no effort to update.

The same SUI content can often be used across multiple versions and languages, decreasing the overall need to update content.

 

Edit in a way that allows you to easily revisit the content.

There are several techniques that can help to make updating an existing video easier.

Always archive a finished video project

Simply keeping a finished MP4 video file doesn’t offer the flexibility to make adjustments to a video at a later point. It is best practice to archive the actual video project in such a way that it can be re-opened and re-edited at a later time by yourself or a colleague. This includes saving the actual project file used by the video editing software, as well as all all recordings, images and audio clips that are incorporated in the video.

CAREFUL: Simply saving the project file is often not enough; as most video editors only reference the actual media clips used in a project. These media clips need be archived as well.

TechSmith Camtasia includes a handy “Export as Zip” option that will bundle the project file and all media together into a single ZIP file that can easily be stored and re-imported at any point for such purposes.

Export as Zip Dialog in Camtasia, accessed via File - Export as Zip

More information on managing recordings and project files in Camtasia can be found here.

It is also recommended to store any supporting elements, such as scripts, storyboards and image source files that relate to a project for later reference.

 

Edit audio and video separately

In many cases, either the audio or the visual portion of a video need to be updated, but not both. Keeping the audio and video content on separate tracks allows content creators to replace or change just one element without affecting the other. Many multi-track video editor offer an option to separate audio and video clips if they are initially combined on the timeline.

A clip's audio and video can be separated into two individual clips in most video editing software

 

Fix a section with an overlaid screenshot

Screenshots can often be used to mask a small visual change in a screencast. Positioning and sizing the screenshot to the right area does require some practice (and a multi-track editor such as TechSmith Camtasia), but it is usually faster and more effective than recreating an entire recording. Keep an eye on the mouse cursor in your video to make sure that your screenshot does not cover it.

Example: The “background fill” properties are added to an existing video by overlaying a screenshot.

Choose a Flexible Video Hosting Platform

The video hosting platform you choose can also have an impact on the ease of updating content. Many companies host and distribute their finished video content through online video platforms such as YouTube, Wistia, Screencast.com or Vimeo.

While each platform has its strength and weaknesses, the most critical feature to look for in this context is the ability to replace a video after it has been uploaded without changing the URL.

This feature allows content creators to replace a video in the backend without breaking any of the shared links and embedded instances, making version control much easier and ensuring that anyone with the link will always and only see the latest version. Vimeo, Screencast.com, Wistia and others currently offer such functionality, but YouTube does not.

 

Bonus Tip: Using Voice Generation Technology

We have recently seen great advances in the field of voice generation technology (speech synthesis) and its quality is getting better by the day. The voice-quality of services such as Polly by Amazon, IBM’s Watson and Microsoft’s Azure services is impressive and affordable.

Example: IBM’s Watson Voice Technology was used to generate the voiceover

As an advanced practice, content creators can leverage this technology to generate the audio voice overs for their videos instead of recording the audio themselves or hiring an expensive voiceover artist. This method is particularly helpful when updating video content: Any subsequent changes in the video voiceover can quickly be generated with a few clicks. And, unlike a human recording, the tone and voice of the new snippet will match the existing content perfectly.

Despite it increasing quality, the available voice generation technology is not yet perfect. It still sounds a bit robotiy and lacks the required emotion needed for marketing content. Further, any unique terms such as brand names are not supported by default. However, the technology can certainly be acceptable in documentation and training content and already offers many advantages for creating, updating and localizing content.

 

In Summary

Updating video content is an unavoidable challenge, particularly as the amount of content and the frequency of product releases increase. Video creators can prepare for this challenge by incorporating the need for later updates into all stages of their video process. Using the right design, organization, editing techniques and technologies can greatly reduce the burden of updating videos. This in turn keeps the video strategy agile and frees up valuable time for other projects.

The post Keeping Video Content Up To Date appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

3 Great Examples of Simplified User Interface

Simplified user interface (or SUI) is an a term that you may not recognize, but you will definitely know it if you see it in action.

SUI is popping up more places these days. Everyone from technical communicators to marketers are seeing the value of keeping things simple in visual communication.

So let’s look at some stand-out examples of simplified user interface and see why it works so well, in a variety of different ways.

You’ll be able to apply these three examples whenever you’re trying to easily guide someone’s attention.

1. Slack: Guide users through onboarding

When I go to sign up for a product or service I want it to be quick and easy. If it’s too complicated or confusing, I’m likely to bail out and try to find something else.

This is why it’s so important for companies to create simple and quick workflows for people signing up for their service.

That’s why I love the what Slack does within their onboarding.

slack onboarding screenshots

Not only is the content itself simple, but they do a great job of mixing in SUI into their onboarding experience. This makes it easy for me to see how the service is laid out, without being overwhelmed from the beginning.

2. Bluebeam: Use SUI for video content

Some of the most effective examples of simplified user interfaces are videos. You don’t have to be limited to just still images.

This example from Bluebeam is a smart use of showing a process in simple, yet effective way.

bluebeam sui example

If you make users think too much about your product, process, or service they’ll move on. The faster they can visualize success, the more likely they are to stick with you.

3. Conductor: Market a service with SUI

When you simply the interface of a product or service it makes it easier to focus on the message, not just the image.

When you’re marketing a product the last thing you want to do is cause confusion. By stripping out the complex areas of your screenshot, you can draw the focus to your message.

Conductor does a nice job on their website of using simplified images of they’re product. They are able to show off key features without being overwhelming.

conductor website screenshot

No matter what you’re trying to show off, there’s a lot to learn from how these different brands use SUI to show off their products and services.

Want to create your own SUI graphics?

I love using Snagit to create simplified graphics out of screenshots. It only takes a few steps and you end up with pretty great results. Get started today by checking out our complete beginners guide to create SUI images.

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How to Make an Explainer Video

Think of an explainer video as the modern day elevator pitch. Successful ones are concise, focused and have a very specific purpose: to communicate the value of your product in the shortest amount of time. The explainer style of video is designed to grab people’s attention. Of course, attention is a hot commodity, which means most explainers have high production value and a clear call-to-action. They are often displayed on landing pages, in emails and more commonly, as ads on YouTube. Now, all of that can sound a little intimidating, but don’t worry, in the rest of this post, we’ll walk through how to make your own explainer video, stress free. To get started, let’s look at a great example.

Now onto the big question, how do I get started creating one?

Start with the end in mind

Let’s return to the elevator pitch analogy and imagine ourselves standing next to a potential customer with roughly one to two minutes to get across the value of our product. That’s not long. Given the time constraints, the best way to craft your message is to first take a step back and look at why you’re even saying it. The goal is to figure out what you want the customer to do when the conversation ends. Should they sign up for your service? Create an account? Visit your webpage? Make sure you first set a clear end goal before you go any further.

One way to help establish this goal is to write a purpose statement. For example, a purpose statement might be something like “to drive current users to upgrade,” or “to increase the amount of trial sign-ups from people in their 20s and 30s.” The most helpful purpose statements include an actionable phrase and an audience.

Elevator with two people riding it.

Once you establish a purpose statement, the next step is to determine your audience.

Determine your audience

Explainer videos are short by nature and if you don’t speak to a specific audience, your video is doomed to fail. Think about the people that you most want to target with this video. The goal here is to get the right people on the elevator, so you can tell them the right message. Choose a specific subset of your total customers; a group that is strategically picked for the purpose of this video. You can’t target everyone and you shouldn’t try to. A broad message is often a muddled message, which means less people taking action after your video.

Silhouette of three people with one highlighted

Craft your narrative

After establishing your audience, it’s time to craft the narrative. You have roughly ninety seconds to introduce your product/company, the problem your users are facing and how your product can solve it. This is a lot to cover in a short amount of time, and I recommend breaking it down into more manageable chunks.

Start by focusing on the problem. Take the time to dig into customer data, make customer calls and get to know the biggest problems facing your users. These problems are key to your message, as they’re the reason your potential customers are even looking for a solution.

Funnel with multiple icons falling into it and only one coming out.

Once you have a firm grasp on the problems, it’s time to focus on solutions. Here’s where you start crafting the narrative and the key is to focus on solutions, not features. Think of it less as a chance to show off your feature set, and more of a chance to communicate how your product will make them better at what they do. Focus on telling a relatable story about the problems they’re facing, then introduce your solution and show how it will improve their life.

Choose a format

Explainer videos tend to leverage four common storytelling formats: animation, live action, screencast video and whiteboard drawings. Each one has pros and cons, and the best explainer videos know when to leverage each to best tell their story. To help you decide what’s best for your audience, I’ve laid out the common benefits for each:

Animation:

Animations are great for communicating abstract or intangible ideas and are also great for creative storytelling. They’re the most versatile options for explainer videos, which also makes them the most expensive. They’re typically used to explain software or services.

Live action:

Few things can beat a relatable person, communicating a relatable message. Including people in your videos can build a connection between the viewer and the message you’re communicating, so any time there’s an opportunity to use live action, take it.

Screencast video:

Screencast video is ideal for showing software in action. This is a powerful method to use if your goal is to provide people a clear look at a product before they try/buy.

Whiteboard drawing:

There’s a certain appeal to having content created right before your eyes. Use whiteboard drawings when you need to communicate a bigger topic within the context of it’s smaller parts. The ability to zoom out at the end of a whiteboard drawing to show everything within context is a powerful tool.

Decide who’s going to build it

Before you roll up your sleeves or hand off your project to an external company, let’s take a step back and make sure the right people are making your video. The biggest factor in this decision is often budget, but I suggest you start by considering the level impact you want the video to have. This will help gauge a rational size for your investment. Is this video going to lead your marketing efforts for a campaign? Will it live in a prominent place, such as on the landing page of your website? The greater the desired impact, the more you should consider higher investment levels.

On the flip side, if you’re simply looking to dip your toes into the explainer video world, then you might want to consider rolling those sleeves back up and making this yourself to save some money. If you’re a little unsure how to proceed, I’ve laid out the pros and cons of the three most common options for building an explainer video.

Hire an outside company

Pros: Video production companies have the talent, skills and experience to create the best explainer videos. Good companies work with you to make your video exactly how you want it.
Cons: It’s going to cost you. The average cost for a custom 60 second explainer video is roughly $8,000.
Summary: If there’s a lot depending on this video, you should probably hire an external company to produce a “knock their socks off” level explainer video. This will cost you, but the pay off will likely be worth it.

Make it yourself

Pros: You have complete creative freedom and more control over the budget.
Cons: You’re limited by your own skills, time, software, and hardware. If you’re looking to get into video creation, I recommend trying out the new TechSmith Academy. It’s designed for people new to video production and it’s free!
Summary: If the stakes are low or you’re willing to try your hand at video production, then build it in-house. You have more control over the budget and complete creative freedom.

Use an online platform (templates)

Pros: These tend to be quicker to create, not-as-expensive as hiring a professional company and the end results is often fairly polished.
Cons: They’re still pretty expensive. You lose a lot of creative freedom with templates. This often limits the methods available to tell your story.
Summary: If you’re willing to take a gamble on a cookie-cutter platform, then a template based service is a viable option. They tend to cost less than a video production company and the turnaround time can be quite quick.

I made the video. Now what?

With your video finished, the last steps are to host it and determine how the video performs. The performance will be a low-level litmus test for how well you chose your audience, purpose and stuck to your message. If you’re looking to develop strategies for testing the performance of your video, I recommend looking into Wistia. They have services that make it dead simple and they tend to be the current thought leader for this industry.

Best of luck in your video creation and if you’re looking for more information on creating videos, check out TechSmith Academy.

The post How to Make an Explainer Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

Performance Support Tools Your Employees Can Start Making Today

Performance support tools (PSTs) are used by learning and development professionals to encourage “just-in-time” learning. These job aids are most often delivered as some form of content, though augmented reality and professional coaching are also becoming popular. Still, for most organizations, content is king when it comes to on-the-job learning.

In this post, I want to share types of performance support that learning professionals deliver. These don’t have to be developed by trained learning professionals, and don’t only support formal learning. Peer-to-peer and social learning is necessary in many professions, so organizations are investing in programs and technologies that allow anyone to create content that helps someone else excel at their job.

This is especially beneficial when employees work in dangerous or hazardous environments and accuracy is critical. Key performers know the right words to say, the order of operations, etc. and can be the ones best suited to create these tools.

Take a look at these three examples of content-based PSTs that anyone in your organization can make.

Infographics

Desk with computer and tools and paper with infographic

 

Infographics are highly visual, information driven storytelling. Most are eye-catching, easy to scan, and tell a story. But, you may wonder why you would tell a story using an infographic instead of text?

Research shows that visual information is more memorable and that 90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual. So, if presented with the same information in the form of both text and visuals, the brain will be more likely to retain the information communicated through the visual.

Now that’s a compelling reason to create a visual.

And with so many user-friendly tools like Visme and Canva Infographic Maker, I bet anyone in your organization could create an infographic.

Microvideos

small tiles of videos

 

You may or may not have heard of microvideos. The term has been floating through professional learning communities as one of the biggest and latest trends in video learning. It may not be the most technically advanced of all learning experiences, but when done well it seems to be highly effective and accessible, making it an attractive option to deliver learning.

Last year, we hosted a guest blog post by eLearning professional Josh Cavalier, who defined a microvideo as a small collection of “micro moments” (i.e. thought, image, concept, or idea) delivered in a video that’s six to sixty seconds long.

microvideo figure

Two or more of these micro moments create a macrovideo.

These short, pointed videos leverage the viewer’s sensory and working memory without being cognitively demanding, making it a perfect option as an on-the-job support tool. And with video recording and editing tools like Camtasia, anyone who can operate a computer can make a video.

Guides

Most people at some point have layers of sticky notes on your desk or work station with tips and reminders about workflows, processes, or workarounds. Reference documentation, or a simple guide, can compile that information in a more organized, searchable way to help you and your coworkers be more successful with their everyday tasks.

Does your desk look like this?

Quick reference guides can be in the form of a SharePoint article, a PDF, a Word doc, or a printed handout, but the benefit is the same—the content quickly gives the learner what they need to keep working. For example, a technical writer is publishes new guides once or twice a year. A quick reference guide can quickly reinforce publish and printing parameters to ensure that the work is done as efficiently as possible across an entire team and that the quality of the printed piece is high with every update.

Check out these tips for making better looking visuals for your technical guide.

At the end of the day, so much of PSTs has to do with efficient and effective communication to increase productivity and quality at work.

So, whether your organization chooses to hire learning professionals to develop performance support tools or rely on your high performers to share their knowledge, consider the above tools as tried and true solutions.

 

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5 Ways to Save Time During Elearning Course Revisions

Do you tend to spend a bit more time than originally planned on elearning course revisions? Fine-tuning your elearning course is an essential part of the elearning course design process. After all, the outcome of the elearning course depends on it. This article features five top tips to save time during the elearning course revision phase and produce a high-quality elearning course.

How to Save Time During Elearning Course Revisions

No matter how in-depth the initial brief and planning is, there will always be an elearning course revision phase. The client might shift the scope of the elearning project or the learning objectives halfway through the project. Or you might realize that your elearning team missed a glitch early on, causing a domino effect that pushes back the launch date. Whatever the case, elearning course revisions are time-consuming but crucial. Fortunately, there are ways to speed up the process without maxing out your elearning budget or upsetting loyal clients. Here are five ways to save time during elearning course revisions.

1. Define the Elearning Course Revision Scope

It is important that you and your client are well aware of the scope of elearning course revisions before beginning the elearning project. You should clearly outline what will be done during the elearning course revision phase, then stay true to your word. A lot of different issues can arise just before launch. For example, the client may attempt to completely revamp the elearning course at the last minute. So, let them know beforehand that things that may have a direct impact on other technical issues, such as script changes, are not part of the package. The elearning course revision phase is for minor changes. Clarifying this makes them more vigilant in the initial stages and saves you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. It’s wise to meet with the client and discuss how you approach elearning course revisions and what that entails. Don’t forget to get everything in writing so that everyone knows what to expect and there aren’t any miscommunications later on. Additionally, specify how long it normally takes to complete elearning course revisions so that clients are aware of the turnaround time.

2. Set Deadlines for Each Phase of the Elearning Course Revision Process

It is important to please your client. However, it is also important to know what is required on your end and when you need to wrap up each stage of the process. No one likes a project to go on with no end in sight. Thus, you must let your client know that they need to get back to you within a certain time frame with elearning course revision requests. This allows you to manage your time more effectively. Also, it’s important that elearning course revisions are sent in chunks. In this way, you can work out a plan to complete the elearning course revisions with the complete picture in mind instead of having to constantly devise a new plan as new information comes your way. If you’re developing the elearning course internally for your own audience, schedules are still a vital planning tool. They allow you to delegate tasks to your elearning team and conduct user testing along the way. Thus, you avoid a lengthy elearning course revision round just prior to launch.

3. Take Care of Elearning Course Revisions Internally

Over the course of multiple elearning course revision rounds, content is usually added or modified based on learners’ needs and evolving learning objectives. As a result, you have small grammatical errors or spelling mistakes that need to be added to the proofreading list. In order to save yourself some time, delegate this task to a specific member of your elearning team. Preferably, someone with an eye for detail who has room in their schedule to filter every piece of content that their fellow online collaborators complete. Provided there aren’t extensive design issues, this revision “middle man” will allow you to breeze through the elearning course revision phase.

4. Keep in Constant Contact with the Decision Maker

There should always be a point of contact when you’re developing online training materials for a client. In fact, it’s best to set some communication ground rules up front, which include:

  • You correspond with only one person.
  • The person you correspond with is the final decision maker.

The last thing you want is your email inbox being flooded with emails from different members of the client’s team. Also, when you correspond with the decision maker, you will be able to get the final approval for elearning course revisions. You can also clarify confusions quickly, instead of having to check in with multiple stakeholders. Another advantage this offers is that it reduces the chances of unnecessary elearning course revisions being made. In which case, you would have to revert the elearning content back because the decision maker failed to give you the go-ahead.

5. Keep a Record of All Elearning Course Revisions

It is important that you gather all the elearning course revisions requested and keep track of them as the process goes along. This allows you not only to revert back to previous versions of the elearning course but also to refresh clients’ memory in case they question the changes you’ve made. For example, you modify the compliance demo video to include more workplace images as requested by the decision-maker. However, the client states that they prefer another set of photos from their archives. You can refer back to your notes and communications to remind them of the original request. Another option is to invest in an elearning course revision tool that automatically tracks changes for you. Your elearning team also has the ability to share feedback and work collaboratively to update the elearning content.

As any elearning pro can attest, the elearning course revision phase can be rife with challenges. There have been many cases in which the elearning course revision phase was prolonged due to lack of communication. For example, the elearning team failed to discuss the overall elearning course revision plan with stakeholders or even delegate tasks internally. Thus, you need to be clear from the start so that you can avoid delays and a significant amount of stress.

You certainly know that elearning course review tools help you collaborate with your elearning team more effectively, but are there any other benefits of using them that you may not be aware of? Read the article 8 Benefits Of Using eLearning Course Review Tools to discover the 8 most notable benefits of using an elearning course review tool for your next elearning project.

About the Author:

Christopher Pappas is founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning Industry. Christopher holds an MBA, and an MEd (Learning Design) from BGSU.

eLearning Blogger • EduTechpreneur • eLearning Analyst • Speaker • Social Media Addict

The post 5 Ways to Save Time During Elearning Course Revisions appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How Start to Using Intelligent Content Practices in Video and Image Creation

Most marketing and content teams face intense pressure to produce high volumes of high quality content. The tactics and formats can span an immense range. On any given day, a team may be working on landing pages, website copy, technical documentation, videos, graphics, blog posts, and more.

A company’s success depends on this content, but producing all of it while maintaining a high level of quality and consistency is a formidable challenge.

Over the last decade, the concept of intelligent content emerged as a way to provide customers with the most relevant and personalized content, while reducing the strain that producing that content places on marketing departments and content teams.

Since its inception, intelligent content has grown from an abstract idea to an evolving suite of strategies, practices, and tools to help teams create marketing and technical content more efficiently.

In this post, I’ll provide a quick overview of intelligent content, and then show you some simple, easy steps you can take to start implementing intelligent content practices.

Intelligent Content in a Few Words

Parody image stating Albert Einstein is a pioneer of intelligent content.

As founder of the Intelligent Content Conference, Ann Rockley has the foremost voice on intelligent content and how companies can put it into practice. Rockley explains, “Intelligent content is content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.” With this both specific and broad definition, Rockley offers helpful guideposts, but sets almost no boundaries. For someone new to the idea, this makes knowing where to start a little tricky.

Simply put, intelligent content practices produce more of the effective content that drives and delights customers without adding a huge burden to your content team. At its heart, intelligent content is modular, structured, reusable, format-free, and semantically rich. Rockley and Scott Abel, another pioneer in the content management field, explain what each of these mean in this excerpt from their book Intelligent Content: A Primer.

Creating truly intelligent content might sound daunting. Teams must hash out and put in place infrastructure, systems, and strategies to create, deliver, and manage content intelligently. Fortunately, you don’t have to get to full intelligent content implementation to reap the benefits. It takes just a few intelligent practices to make your life and your team’s easier.

Ways to Make Image and Video Creation More Intelligent

Create a common intro sequence for videos

Marketing, technical documentation, and customer support teams often make a lot of videos. That rings true at TechSmith where we make tutorials, one-off support videos, and product marketing videos daily.

We use a quick intro sequence on our videos that displays the video title. This simple touch helps viewers become accustomed to the rhythm of your videos and know what to expect each time they watch one. A common introduction grows trust and displays a higher level of professionalism.

Here are the intros we use for Camtasia and Snagit tutorials, side-by-side.

Notice how the intros—while not exactly the same—share a number elements and the same basic structure. Both display the product icon and name with the tutorial title below. Additionally, we use the crosshair motif in both intros and then animate it to advance the action. The Camtasia intro was made first and it inspired the look of the Snagit intro. The intro was reconfigurable, a hallmark of intelligent content.

Think about areas where you can version content to fit different purposes.

Now, to make the intros even more useful, we made them available to everyone on the team. This meant packaging and sharing the assets with the new Camtasia 2018 Library. The Library makes it easy to create reusable content packages and allows you to export and share them as a single file.

Take a look at this tutorial to learn how the new Library can help you create more intelligent content and speed up video creation.

Give SUI a try

If you haven’t yet heard the term SUI (sue-wee), you’ve at least seen the design style in the wild. SUI stands for Simplified User Interface and is a method of using shapes and graphics to approximate a particular user interface. With SUI, only the most important details are maintained in a graphic or video. Words, some buttons, and design flourishes are removed to make it easier for a viewer to interpret and remember what they are seeing.

The image below displays the actual TechSmith Camtasia 2018 interface on the left and then a SUI version we use for certain tutorials on the right. Notice how you easily recognize exactly what the SUI graphic depicts — even without most of the finer details.Side by side of Camtasia interface screenshot and SUI image.

Most importantly, SUI produces modular, reconfigurable, and reusable content.

We often use Adobe Illustrator to create our graphics, but TechSmith Snagit also works. Our source files remain editable, so we can always return to them if we need a new, slightly altered graphic.

Over time, we have built up a library of SUI graphics for our products, computer operating systems, and other interfaces that let us create new graphics quickly.

Traditional screenshots and screencasts can quickly become out of date as interfaces are updated. SUI increases the longevity of content because SUI graphics usually require minor tweaking, if anything at all, when interface changes happen. The time savings here can be pretty big.

Finally, SUI creates opportunities for reuse, a key aspect of intelligent content. Graphics created for tutorials are often used in marketing materials or blog posts. Over time a graphic made for one purpose will find numerous applications and save different people in different roles time, while helping them create stellar content.

For more on SUI and how to get started, check out this blog post.

Create template resources

Most brands strive for a consistent look and feel in all marketing, technical, and customer communications.

Having fonts, colors, and content structures follow the same patterns sends a powerful and important message to current and potential customers: We have our stuff together.

Intelligent content makes it easy to maintain consistency across projects. Create template materials for your content creators to use when making technical documentation, help articles, sales resources or marketing content.

Themes make it easy to follow brand guidelines. Themes are packages of colors and fonts that can be shared by colleagues. The best way to do this is to create a theme for each set of product or brand colors and the necessary font. Then, export a file that can be imported by any colleague. Check out the tutorials below to learn how to make Themes with Snagit and Camtasia.

Intelligent content…and beyond!

Hopefully you read that last header in Buzz Lightyear’s voice. I say “and beyond” because the idea of intelligent content continues to develop and grow.

This post offers a few simple entry points to help you make content more efficiently and add a touch of intelligent content principles to your workflows. As you study the concept, you will likely discover new and powerful ways to implement the ideas and strategies into your work.

 

The post How Start to Using Intelligent Content Practices in Video and Image Creation appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

What You Need to Know to Get the Best Audio

Audio Best Practices

Nothing turns off viewers faster than a video with bad audio. If you’re recording with mobile devices or lower end cameras, they will most likely have very poor built-in mics that are designed to pick up a wide pattern of sound. Unless you have a higher end camera that has a built-in shotgun mic, you are going to want consider recording audio separately from your video.

Choosing the Right Mic

The first thing you’re going to want to do is select the right microphone. Each mic has a different pick-up pattern and connection type so you’re going to want to determine what’s best for your situation. For one person interviews, we recommend a lavalier or “lav” mic. Here is the lav mic that we use at TechSmith for interviews. These are great for clipping on your subject’s shirt and are easily hidden. They do a great job of picking up only the audio that is close by.

For capturing location sounds, or dialog between 2 or more people, we recommend a shotgun mic. Caution though, shotgun mics are very directional, so you need to make sure you’re pointing the mic directly at the sound you want to pick up.

And finally, there is the traditional hypercardioid mic which is great for your TV journalistic style shoots or stage performances.

Selecting an Audio Recorder

So you’ve picked out your microphone and now you need a recorder to capture the audio. Here are a few options that we recommend:

  • Don’t be afraid to spend a little less on a camera if it means you can put more money into a better audio recorder.
  • Keep in mind that these audio recorders typically record to SD cards, so make sure you have something over a few Gigabytes in size.
  • You’ll also want to make sure you have the right cords. Most audio recorders use XLR or ⅛” size audio jacks or have mics that are built-in.
  • In addition, it’s good practice to get as close as you can to your subject, because the sound will degrade exponentially the further you are away.

Recording Audio

Finally, you are ready to shoot. Since you want to make sure it will be as easy as possible to sync later while editing, you will want to use a trick called the “Clap Method”, which is creating a spike in the audio that is captured on both the audio recorder and camera. Have you ever seen those clapboards on movie sets? It’s essentially the same idea, because you are creating a noticeable increase in the audio that you will be able to easily line up later in your editor.

We know that it can become time consuming if you are recording multiple clips and are trying to sync them in your editor, but there are softwares available that will help. We’ve used Red Giant’s PluralEyes in the past and it is a great source if you have many clips that you need to sync up.

Using Camtasia? Tips for Recording Audio for Screencasts

Many of the same tips for recording camera video apply perfectly well to screencast recording as well. In the following video, Nate Gray, a member of our Tech Support team, covers basic screencast audio tips including microphone selection and using the noise reduction process in Camtasia for Mac. Combine these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to recording great audio, every time.

How to Prepare a Room for Quality Voice Overs

Nothing kills a video like poor audio quality. No amount of set design, camera effects, or lighting tricks will help your finished video if your audio sounds like an old cassette tape. Beyond seeming unprofessional, poor audio quality makes it difficult for your viewers to understand the video. Your point gets lost in the static along with your voice.

Of course, some types of videos are less driven by audio than others. We can think of a few excellent videos that don’t have any speaking parts at all! But for anything with a voice over, on-screen dialog, or interview, you’ll want to make sure the sound quality is as good as possible.

Before we talk about how to prepare your own room, let’s take a quick look at how sound works in the first place. Once we understand what makes a voice recording echo-y or scratchy, we can start fixing the problem.

The Science Behind Sound

Sound moves in waves. When those waves hit something (like a wall), they bounce back. If you’re in a room with more than one wall (and let’s be honest, that’s most rooms), the sound wave will bounce back and forth. Over and over again. As you might imagine, sound bouncing back and forth across a room doesn’t make for the highest quality audio.

To give you a better visual of what this means, we’re going to turn it over to John Calder of Acoustic Geometry.

Like John says in the video, there are two types of sound in a room: direct and reflected. Direct sound comes from sound waves going directly to your ears (or voice recorder). On the flip side, reflected sound is created by sound waves bouncing off walls. Because reflected sound arrives at our ears later, it causes distortion. Basically, it makes audio sound bad.

To fix this problem, we have two options: absorb the reflected waves or diffuse them. Absorbing sound waves reduces the strength of the reflection. Absorbing all the errant sound waves may seem like a good a idea, but if you absorb too much, your recording will start to feel unnatural or lifeless. That’s where diffusion comes into play. Diffusion is just another word for scattering; sending reflected waves in different directions has a smoothing effect. To get the best overall audio, use absorption and diffusion together.

How sound travels infographic

Common Misconceptions about Soundproofing

Up until this point, we’ve been discussing how to make the audio inside a room sound better. Absorption and diffusion only help with echoes, dampening the noise within a space.  Although many people refer to this process as soundproofing, what we’ve actually been discussing is acoustics. Soundproofing, on the other hand, is how you block outside noise from entering the room in the first place. And it takes different tools to do both jobs.

Dampening sound within a room

Soft materials absorb sound waves better than hard materials (that’s why it echoes more when you walk on hardwood floors than carpeting), and surfaces with lots of angles diffuse sound waves. Put those two concepts together and it becomes pretty obvious why most recording studios are covered in soft foam with lots of angles.

Here you can see TechSmith’s recording studio; we used a combination of a few different types of foam to get the best overall audio experience.

Soundproof recording studio

Blocking external noise from entering a room

To soundproof, you have to stop sound waves from entering a room. Generally, very dense materials are good at this. Usually soundproofing is taken care of during construction because it can be difficult to reinforce a room after it’s finished. But don’t worry yet, there are a few tricks you can use to get around this setback!

How to Create Your Own Home Recording Studio

For a truly masterful voice over, you’ll want to control for everything we’ve covered above: blocking outside noise, absorbing stray sound waves, and diffusing the rest. You’ll also want to use a professional microphone to pick up the best audio possible.

To block noise from entering a room, you need thick walls made out of a dense material. Think plaster instead of drywall. Since full-on construction isn’t exactly inexpensive, let’s focus on picking the best room you already have access to.

Choose somewhere remote, preferably without windows. The best spaces can seem unconventional: don’t count out closets, storage rooms, or even your car. Most cars built these days have built in soundproofing to minimize road noise. Use this to your advantage! No one will know if you record your voice overs from the passenger seat.

Recording in a busy office can be a challenge, but if you can’t find somewhere quiet, you can always send a polite email reminder to your coworkers when you need to record something, or let them know in-person.

Next, assess how much extra noise you’re still hearing. The easiest way to do this is to plug headphones into your mic and listen closely for anything it’s picking up. Is a dog barking? Do you hear construction noise? Maybe the fan in your desktop is whirring?

You’ll want to dampen any extra noise you hear: the goal is complete silence. You could buy acoustic foam and plaster it up in the room you’re using, but that’s not always necessary. Remember, any soft material can deaden noise. If you’re short on budget, try putting a blanket over your head and microphone. Sure, it looks a little silly, but it works! Hanging heavy curtains or carpeting on the walls of your room is another option.

Small spaces tend not to need as much diffusion as larger spaces, but if your audio plays back sounding dull, throw some corners into your room. Again, acoustic panels work well, but anything with some angles on it will do.

Syncing Audio and Video Sources

Often times to get a more professional sound you may need to record audio separately from your video. This means that you’ll need to learn how to sync audio and video sources in your video editing process.

Step 1: Getting Good Audio

This can be tough. There are so many things that could potentially affect your audio recording. On top of making sure you select the right microphone, you will also need to make sure you select the right location. Here’s a short list of factors you’ll need to watch out for:

Weather

Nothing will make a terrible audio experience like wind. Filming an interview outside? Did you bring some wind blocking gear? You will, at the very least need a windscreen, however, the best case scenario would be to find an interview location where the weather is not a factor.

Location

Ambient noise can be terrible to try and eliminate in post production. Some video editors have advanced sound mixing tools, but try to fix as control as possible before the edit. Find a location that is quiet and has low foot traffic to mitigate unwanted sounds.

Animals

Yes, this is a real thing! Unless you intend to hear dogs barking or birds chirping during your video, try to find a location where ambient animal sounds are a non-issue. Nothing is worse than having a dog bark when your interviewee gives you a perfect one-liner!

After you have found the right location, you absolutely must do a “sound check”. This means setting up all of your audio recording equipment, recording some test audio and playing that back to assess the quality of the sound. Never jump into your interview without doing a sound check!

Step 2: Importing Audio

So you’ve just recorded your audio separate from your video? Congratulations! There are so many video editing software options on the market it can sometimes be hard to choose the best one for your project. If you’re the type of producer who is recording interviews and b-roll, Camtasia may be the best product for you.  With Camtasia, you can import your audio and video tracks independently. If you need to trim a portion of your recording, it’s often easier when the tracks are separate.Then, simply drag each clip onto your timeline.

Step 3: Syncing Audio with Video

The most difficult part of syncing audio with video is actually lining up your audio and video tracks in the timeline. Use the timeline zoom function in Camtasia to begin lining up your audio and video. You’ll want to make sure that you can scrub through the timeline at frame by frame basis. To do this, zoom all the way in!

Now that you can see each frame and audio spike, it’s time to line up the “Clap Sync”. This is an old school method of syncing your audio to video. You may have even seen this method used in big Hollywood production (see below for the clapboard).

The clapboard is used to give editors the visual marker, while the sound produced by the clap provides the audio marker.

On your timeline, you will see an audio spike and in the video you should see your clapboard or hands clapping. This will allow you to sync the video with the audio!

If you forgot to include a clap or cue, you’re left trying to find an obvious cough, or louder moment in the audio spike, that you can cue to their mouths movement.

Step 4: Celebrate!

You did it! You synced your audio and video on the timeline. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trimming the ends and exporting, other times you have a lot more editing still to do. Either way, you are now through the syncing process and ready for what’s next.

Syncing audio and video can seem like a tough and terrible task, but it doesn’t have to be. Use the tried and true method of the clapboard, along with easy to use post production software like Camtasia to get your desired audio and video. This will get you on track to produce great interview footage.

Normalizing Audio Clips and Volume

Have you ever watched a video where the music was so loud you couldn’t hear the voice over? What about the other way around? “Mixing” as it’s referred to in video production, is the art of blending your audio tracks to deliver a seamless audio experience, which can be achieved when you edit video.

In fact, big time Hollywood productions have teams dedicated to all different facets of sound. Many people take sound production for granted as it’s not as noticeable as moving images on a screen. Yet, sound carries you through the video experience. It allows you to experience the moving images in a different way, and associate a feeling with those images.

How To Get The Right Sound

Get Your Tracks In Line

When you begin any edit, it’s important to start by organizing your timeline. Editing your video is an art, make no mistake about it. Make sure to have your tracks separated by type (audio, video, animations, titles etc.). Then make sure your timeline is consistent. A disorganized timeline is the fastest way to wasting time while editing.

Selecting The Right Music

Selecting the right music is often the toughest part of editing a video. If your music choice significantly over-powers your narration or voice over, you may need to select a different track. Some people have soft voices that will not do well with overbearing musical scores. Additionally, you will want to make sure that the music you select fits the pacing of your video. There are many posts about choosing the right music for your video, our best advice is to pick a track that matches the feeling you’re trying to convey. By simply asking yourself what the mood of the video is, you will be able to further define your selection.

Quick tip: There are many royalty free music website that provide professional musical scores. As with any production, you’ll want to make sure you have the rights to music before publishing. Services like YouTube and Facebook will block your content if it has an active copyright. Here are some royalty free music sites you can look into:

Balancing Volume

Once you get your tracks in order and a rough edit, it’s time to start mixing. You may think that you should have all of your track volumes at the same level. WRONG. You need to keep your audio tracks balanced and flowing; just like your footage. This means that some audio tracks may need to be lower than others. This is especially true with voice over talent that have soft voices. In most video editing software the audio track will have a horizontal line that can be clicked on and adjusted. This line adjusts the volume of the track up or down. Below you’ll see how we create the illusion of fading audio in and out. One good trick is to close your eyes and listen. If the voices sound like they are drowning under the music, you’ll need to adjust the individual clip.

Quick tip: Music should always slightly fade lower as narration or voice over begins. That means that if your music is loud, bring it down a few notches when the clip with voice over begins. It shouldn’t fade out entirely however, as this will also be jarring to your viewer.

To better help keep your audio tracks balanced, you can separate audio and video so that your audio edits do not affect your video edits. In Camtasia, you can do this by right clicking on any video clip and selecting “Separate Audio and Video”. This will allow you to adjust track volume and apply fade ins, gains and more.

Key Framing or Adjustment Points

As we mentioned above, you’ll need to adjust audio volume when voice over or narration begins. In Camtasia, you can apply fade in and fade out effects. This allows you to effectively apply key frames where you want your track or music audio to be higher or lower.

A key frame is a location on a timeline that marks the beginning and end of a transition. In this case, we’re using it for an audio transition, but they can be used with video, animations and more. This is where music or voice over should fade in and out. Keyframing helps us create the experience for the viewer. Zoom into your timeline, find the audio track and mark your keyframe for where you want the volume to fade lower, and again for where you want it to get louder. Adjusting your audio in this way, will help your characters, narrators and voice overs be heard while still having the music lead them through the video.

Quick tip: Use Camtasia’s drag and drop audio effects to apply fades. Then select the circular nodes on your audio track to adjust the levels.

Normalizing audio is important

Audio is just one important part of editing video. Often, it’s an overlooked component for beginner video creators. You could create a picture perfect video, but poorly mixed audio will distract your viewers’ attention. Remember the quick tips above and you will be on your way to creating a powerful and engaging video! You can also try these tips using Camtasia, which includes a 30 day free trial.

If you are interested in learning more about video editing, check out our other blog posts about video editing tips and tricks.

It’s Not Too Late! How to Reduce Audio Noise in Your Recordings (For Free)

Recording clean audio can be tough, especially in noisy environments. Whether it’s background noise or less-than-ideal equipment, sometimes you end up with hissy audio. Luckily there is a free method to make your track easier on the ears.

Take a listen to what software noise removal can do:

Noisy Audio:

Clean Audio

Before We Get Started: Room Tone

There is one tip that will help immensely with this process. If you are the one responsible for your recording, remember to record at least 10 seconds of “room tone”. Room tone is simply a few seconds of recording the natural noise of the environment in which you’re recording (with no talking, nail filing, heavy breathing, etc.) Even if you can’t hear anything, a sensitive microphone will pick up ventilation noise, computer fans, and more.

Taking “room tone” will serve as a baseline for the software to remove noise. Having a section of room tone in your recording is always a good practice but if you know you’ll be needing to do noise removal later definitely don’t forget! If you don’t have control of the recording process you can still usually find a bit of room tone in a recording. You can find room tone in a break between takes or time at the beginning or end of the file where nothing much is happening and usually that’s enough to work with for noise removal purposes.

So how is noise removal actually done?

The Free Way – Audacity

In this economy, who wouldn’t take the free option when available? If you aren’t looking to invest in high-end audio software, Audacity is a free piece of software created and maintained by a community of programmers and audio experts. It accepts a wide range of audio file types and has a perfectly serviceable noise removal tool. The one catch is it’s audio only, so if you’re working with video it may not be the smoothest workflow. More on that later…

Here’s how it works:

1) Select your room tone by dragging your mouse over an area with no (or little) audio.

2) Under the effect menu select noise reduction.

3) Click “Get Noise Profile”. The box will disappear.

4) Click on the timeline once more to clear your selection.

5) Under the effect menu select noise reduction once more.

6) Click preview to hear the default noise removal settings. Depending on your room tone and original audio, these settings may work.

7) If you still hear noise, adjust the sliders and preview again.

What the sliders do:

Noise Reduction: Controls the amount of reduction of your noise volume.

Sensitivity: Controls the range of what noise removal considers noise. The higher this goes the more your actual audio (such as voices) will be affected.

Frequency smoothing: The default setting is setting is 3, settings lower than this tend to favor music and higher settings tend to favor spoken word.

Reduce and residue buttons: Reduce is what you’ll want for a good preview. It plays what the audio will sound like with noise removed. If you want to hear exclusively what the noise reduction is taking out, select residue and click preview.

Cleaning Up Audio

Audacity is great for cleaning up audio for a podcast or music. But for vocal tracks in video, it’s time consuming to export your audio tracks, clean them up in Audacity, and resync them again. It’s not impossible but it’s not the most efficient way to remove noise, especially if you’ve already cut up your clips in the timeline. Camtasia (TechSmith’s video editing software) has a noise removal feature built-in which is dead simple. It still works with your room tone but it’s not necessary to select the section on your clip, Camtasia will do that for you.

The sensitivity slider in Camtasia works the same as in Audacity. The “Amount” slider is equivalent to the Noise Reduction slider in Audacity. By removing noise on the timeline you save the trouble of importing and exporting back and forth from an external program like Audacity, and it’s much easier to make changes quickly.

Next Steps

There are other programs with similar processes such as Adobe Audition and the very powerful Izotope RX5. These programs edge into the professional realm of audio tools and allow you to go much further with audio sweetening if you’re willing to put the time and money in to learn them. Just remember while software continues to get better at saving audio, doing everything you can to minimize noise in the initial recording will always be your best bet.

How do you get the best audio for your videos? Have suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

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How Screen Capture Can Make Your Life Easier

Text Is Dead: Images in Email vs. Text

No, I don’t mean every email you send has to be pure Emojii’s. Sometimes text is required to give context or extra meaning to your visuals (source: this sentence). That being said, often you can convey your meaning more efficiently with a smart visual than you could with the written word alone.

The truth is that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish, and that isn’t going to be changing anytime soon. The average American worker is trying to be more effective and articulate, while managing a much bigger workload than we’ve ever seen in history.

We’re being pushed by necessity to make shorter and clearer emails that don’t waste the readers time and get straight to the point. We simply don’t have the time to waste—we must find the most efficient and effective form to communicate. Either writing emails or reading them; no one can digest an entire novella with every email.

Reduce the size and wordiness of an email using a simple photo or screenshot. They can be used to illustrate a point, a workflow, or even directions. Boil down your emails to the essentials and use visuals to get those messages across.

The Big GIF

GIF’s are often disregarded and brushed off as jokes, but it’s time we take a look at the real value a GIF can bring to a conversation. They can show functional and digestible information, or they can show your cat doing a crazy jump over and over again to prove your cat is the best cat. You GIF however you want. As effective users of GIFs already know — humor and articulation do not have to be mutually exclusive.

GIFs are quickly becoming a mainstay in the way millennials communicate with each other. This new generation grew up completely in the internet’s shadow, and they do not disseminate information in the same way as older Americans. More than one-in-three American workers today are millennials. That percentage is only going to increase more and more as Millennials naturally become a larger percentage of the workforce over the years.

Still not convinced GIF’s are a thing? Giphy, a living database of approximately one kabillion memes, has an active user base of up to 82 million every month. That’s more than the size of the entire UK, or around double the population of California. Giphy is a database only—those numbers don’t consider all the other homemade memes flying around the internet.

While GIF’s can be silly and fun, it is definitely a form of communication that can save you a lot of time. To land a killer joke or to prove a point, a GIF is an efficient way to express yourself.

I Dream of Electric Meme

GIFs are effective, videos are great, but memes can do a man some good. While sometimes used to declare your love of cats, other times they can be utilized to affirm and support a coworker. As our work and social patterns converge, meme’s can be found for any occasion:

Consider this email chain where we discuss our excitement about an upcoming Game of Thrones episode via cat meme only:

Sure, we could have met at the office water cooler and shouted “Winter is coming!” at each other for thirty minutes each morning, but memes allow us to stay on task and work with the occasional micro-exchange of fandom.

While the silliness reaches prepawsterous levels, believe it or not – that is real conversation.

I concede it’s not a particularly deep one, but that’s the beauty of the meme; convey a simple message as easily as possible.

How Screen Capture Can Make Your Life Easier

With a screen capture tool like Snagit, you are able to communicate more clearly than with text alone by using the screen capture and screen recording functionality. You can show someone exactly what you want them to know, rather than relying solely on words. You can even take your screen capture a step further and incorporate a human element with webcam capture, which can be helpful when you are using screencasting to build and strengthen relationships.

Here are 9 ways screen capture can make your life easier.

1. Report an error message to IT and show them exactly what type of problem you’re having.

Screenshot showing an error message

2. Save important things you might like to refer back to later.

screen capture of flight information, kept to submit for reimbursement.

3. Provide feedback to a colleague.

Screen capture of email showing customer feedback

4. Send a personalized video to a customer to touch base about an existing account.

5. Support your customers with clear instructions that explain how to complete a task.

Screenshots showing a customer question from Twitter with a marked up screenshot with the answer

6. Share a brief portion of a video.

You can view full video, My Favorite Outlook Calendar Tips and Tricks, on YouTube.

7. Make a meme for use in an email, or for your company’s social media channels.

Meme made with Snagit, success baby used screen capture, got point across quickly

8. Explain a document to a client.

9. Create an on-demand presentation by recording PowerPoint slides.

3 Ways Screenshots make your Microsoft Word Doc, PowerPoint, and Email Better

Now that you know several ways you can use screenshots to make your life easier, here are few ways to make your documents even better:

1. Use Fewer Words in Word Documents

Including step-by-step instructions complete with screenshots in your procedural or technical documentation can make a big difference. It breaks up the text, and can make your message even clearer by also showing what you’re trying to say.

2. Add Personality to PowerPoint Presentations

People often dread viewing PowerPoint Presentations. There’s nothing more boring than slides of words being read out loud.

Add visuals to your slides, like screenshots of data dashboards with arrows to call attention exactly where you want their focus.

You can also include an animated GIF to add a touch of humor!

3. Add Excitement to Emails!

You can’t stop the emails, so why not at least try to make them more enjoyable?

When sharing industry news or articles, include a preview of what people are about to open or click on!

Another example of how you can use screenshots in email is a new hire message. Include a map of where they sit, as well as a picture so people can say hi when they see them:

These are just a few of our favorite uses for screenshots in documents, presentations, and emails. What are your favorite ways to use screen captures? Let us know on the socials!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 

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