Traditional reference service is dead--- or dying. This blog will focus on new approaches toward providing library assistance to patrons... or whatever else I feel like rambling on about.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Camtasia & Ipods - early thoughts: they won’t work together

I finally had a chance to experiment with screencasting. One of my summer projects is to generate some videos for engineering students—more on that in the coming weeks.

Paul and I shared enthusiasm toward creating content for the video ipod. However recent tests using Camtasia have failed to produce a clear video for that medium.

This is the best quality I could create; this screenshot is actual size of what users would see on their ipods:

And this is using the Zoom feature. It’s a little clearer, but still not that great:

I tried a lot of different experiments. My theory was that if I made a high resolution video, I could shrink it down to a smaller screen and retain the quality. Wrong! I created three clips: .wmv, .avi, and .mov at 1150 x 834 and they are terrible. Very blurry and basically unwatchable. Next I created clips using a moderate screen size, 760 x 530, which allowed me to still show most of the web page, or at least enough to get the point across—anything smaller and it would be too small.

There was a remarkable difference – the quality was great and nearly identical across formats—however the audio was noticeably better with QuickTime. Check it out: QT clip.

The problem is size. These clips are 10 seconds and huge: .wmv (1.01 MB), .avi (780KB), and .mov (1.06MB)—the m4v for ipod was 515 KB—but as viewed above, poor quality.

I know the popular approach is to produce Flash files and embed or link to them allowing students to view them streamed. I like this approach, but I am also trying to get beyond the library web site and to create ‘walk away’ content—allowing the video to be downloaded and viewed at the user’s preference also allowing the video to be uploaded in various environments, such as email, a course management system, a professor’s site, where ever. My latest ambition was to use youtube a free, open access video sharing site that allows users to interact with the content (post messages/comments) – offering an unlimited amount of videos, file sizes up to 100 MB and direct linking to each individual clip. Ah, but is it too good to be true? I loaded all three clips which looked great via a media player and they appeared second-rate via youtube. Evidence: wmv avi mov mov w/ zoom

The Zoom example offers the best quality and is at least readable, but when you show a main page it looks so slooppy. I’m still going to proceed with my videos for web based instruction, but my enthusiasm has diminished a little. I am also going to step back from screencasting for the ipod, although I hope to produce some non-instructional content for that medium in the near future.

Oh yeah, and this post isn’t an attack on Camtasia. I thoroughly enjoy their product, even though everyone seems to be jumping on the Captivate bandwagon. I frequently produce short video clips to answer student emails; it’s much easier to show someone how to use Web of Science than to write it out!


Blogger David said...

The whole size issue is something I've wondered about with the video iPods in general. Even with a good quality video, made to display on the small screen. Just seems a little tooo small to even watch Lost or something, no less video of using a library database.

4:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use Camtasia for database instruction and had hoped, at some point in the future, to do something with video iPods. Disappointing to hear that won't work so well.


8:30 PM

Blogger troy said...

I'd love to help out. We've done a fair bit of testing over here with iPod video quality. ;-) Drop me a line at

t.stein at

Best regards,

Troy Stein
Camtasia Studio Product Manager

10:43 AM

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