Creating a Captivate Movie - Part 1

By: Tom Green

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This 3-part series is an excerpt from Tom Green's Captivate Visual QuickStart Guide. Published by peachPit Press it will be available in mid November.

Creating Captivate movies involves much more than simply doing a screen capture and "adding stuff here and there". Whether it is demonstrating a software technique, a product demonstration, quiz, or tutorial, the key to success is that old business adage: "Plan your work, work your plan."

Although Captivate is an extremely powerful software tool with a myriad of applications, never forget there will be a human watching the presentation. In this case, the message that the movie conveys, is far more important than the technology. Though you can add audio, animation, and other interactive media to your movie, always keep in mind that these features should add to the viewer's experience. The least successful presentations are those where the developer says, "Aren't I clever?!"

This chapter focuses on the movie creation process. This process starts with planning in many respects, the most time-consuming aspect of creating a Captivate movie. You'll learn how to record a movie, manage movies you have created, and create and use a Captivate template.

Creating a movie in Captivate is both uncomplicated and fast. Still, there is a work flow that follows these general steps:

  1. Plan your movie using storyboards, scripts, and any other organizational material such as written notes or project planning software. Storyboards are especially useful because they can show the frame-by-frame progression of a movie, including audio, animations, mouse movements, and so on that will appear in the frame. Storyboards range from hand drawings on paper to PowerPoint presentations, for example, that lay out the content in the slide and describe its purpose.
  2. Determine the playback media. Captivate movies can be played back from CDs, from hard drives, and through the Web. In each case, the final playback media will have a major role in determining the assets and recording of the movie.
  3. Gather your assets. You can add images, sounds, animations and even other Captivate movies to your movie. Make sure these assets are readily available to you.
  4. Open Captivate, set the recording options and, if needed, set the movie preferences.
  5. Record your movie. The flexibility of Captivate enables you to record a movie from "scratch", utilize slides and animations from previously recorded movies, and even re-order the slides you have just recorded.
  6. Adding the captions, images, sounds, and other assets called for in the storyboard.
  7. Generate and preview the movie.
  8. Save the movie as a Flash SWF file and export it in the format best suited to the media being used for playback.

Planning the Captivate Movie

The first rule of planning any interactive media project is this: "Focus on the user. Don't focus on the technology."

You are not the audience for the presentation. When planning a Captivate movie, the first step in the process is not to open the application but to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the audience? A movie designed for primary-school children will look and feel a lot different from one designed for software engineers.
  • What does the audience need to learn from the movie? These are the learning objectives, and the fewer - two or three - the better.
  • What is the audience's skill level regarding the content of the presentation? A presentation designed for people who have never used software will be a lot more basic than one designed for "power users". Knowing the audience's skills will also give you a good idea of the project's scope and complexity.

After you have determined the project's scope and understand the audience, you can then move into planning the movie's content. This is where the importance of a storyboard or script can't be understated.

Using Storyboards and Scripts

Storyboards use rough sketches to plan the progression of the movie. These can range in detail from a series of pencil sketches on a sheet of blank paper to full-color drawings created in drawing or imaging applications like Macromedia Freehand MX and Fireworks MX 2004. If you will be using lots of screen shots in your movie, with few captions or minimal text, a storyboard would work well.

Traditionally scripts are created using word processing software. Scripts enable you to describe, in depth, the contents of each screen and to present the movie in a logical, sequenced order. If your movie will contain numerous captions, text, voiceover audio, and so on, you should create a script.

Storyboards and the Macromedia Studio MX 2004

If you own Macromedia Studio MX 2004, you have three very powerful storyboard creation tools at your disposal —Freehand MX, Flash MX Professional 2004, and Fireworks MX 2004.

Freehand MX is a vector-drawing tool. One of the application's features is the ability to create multi-page documents. Also, you can  use master pages —which can hold commonly used elements, such as logos and headings, and apply them to any or all of the pages in your document. For example, the new "Connector" tool  enables you to create flow charts showing the branching in quizzes, and the new "Action" tool lets you add basic Flash actions to a storyboard destined for the Web. You can also print out the storyboards and use them as  client deliverables.

Flash MX Professional 2004, though aimed squarely at the Web coder, also contains a powerful storyboarding tool—the Slide Presentation. This feature allows even non-Flash users to quickly prepare an interactive presentation that can then be presented to the client for approval.

Fireworks MX 2004 is Macromedia's web imaging application. Apart from creating GIF animations that can simulate each frame of a recording, you can use this application to optimize images used in Captivate.  Further, the use of a symbols library in Fireworks allows enables you to reuse such items as logos and text without the inevitable file size increase.

Unlike RoboDemo, Captivate does include a "Storyboard View panel". The purpose of this area is not to let you plan your movie, but to rearrange the slides in the movie prior to its being published.

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