February 08, 2008

Review : Macromedia Captivate

Some notes and observations after testing the screen capture software Macromedia Captivate this morning.



It is very Flash like in its construction. Place sprites on the stage and does its best to automate the animation of them. Audio can be recorded at the same time or later, either directly or imported. It recorded ‘events’ not frames and they are placed as objects on a Flash-like timeline. Everything is editable and can be further customized after recording in Captivate or Flash. It creates presentations that are similar to this:



http://www.microsoft.com/sharepoint/demo/index.html



This does a kind of animated approximation of the user experience. Cursors are tweened, windows are made visible and hidden as objects on a timeline, etc..



What Captivate does not do is create a frame based recording. That is every frame is recorded as a unique flattened image. The sequence of images are then played back in a linear fashion as am movie. Techsmith Camtasia is a type of product that creates a recording as such, usually in Windows Media, but can be converted to any format. It creates presentations that are similar to this:



http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/assistance/asstvid.aspx

(note, this only works on PC)


Microsoft distinguishes these 2 styles of demo on it's site as, respectively, Overview Demos, and Task-based Demos.



Captivate tries to bridges these 2 styles actually. It attempts to make a ‘task-based’ demo by using low bandwidth sprit-based animation used in ‘overview’ style demo’s. Very interesting. Obviously it is a huge plus to be able to export to Flash for further enhancement, which is almost definitely necessary as it does not always capture the exact motion you were hoping for. A lot of post work would be in order to complete a ‘task-based’ demo with Captivate, whereas with a frame-based capture you get exactly what you see on screen with the caveat you lose any ability to enhance after the fact.




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