TweetFollow Us on Twitter

CameraMan 3.0

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Tools Of The Trade

CameraMan 3.0

by Edward Ringel

QuickTime screen capture utility simplifies documentation and training

Software authors sometimes find end user documentation one of the most vexing aspects of development. End user satisfaction with your new application depends not only on the quality of your product and its ultimate ease of use, but also on the slope of its learning curve. While some programs are inherently complex, and the learning process is inherently long, good documentation and tutorials can make the training process less painful, take less time, and sometimes even be fun. Good documentation and training materials may not be responsible for the initial sale of your product, but will heavily influence upgrade sales and sales of other titles in your product line.

Applications benefiting from a graphical user interface require graphical documentation. The move toward electronic documentation, although probably fueled primarily by paper publishing costs, has as a secondary benefit high fidelity screen reproductions. Many applications now benefit from built in electronic help systems such as Microsoft Help, QuickHelp as used by Claris, and of course AppleGuide. AppleGuide is particularly sophisticated in that reference material, instructional material, and outright assistance with tasks can be incorporated into an AppleGuide file.

Animated tutorials of the kind that can be programmed in AppleGuide and recorded in CameraMan can be incredibly helpful in learning to use a product. A "movie" of how a screen should look and change during certain program actions can sometimes be all that's really needed to show exactly how to use a program. Creation of an AppleGuide file to do this can take considerable time, knowledge, and effort. CameraMan cannot create a Guide file, but it can create an animated tutorial with no programming effort.

Enter CameraMan

CameraMan is a product that documents screen activity on your computer. Because this review is in MacTech Magazine, I am approaching this product primarily from the standpoint of the developer with a need to document software. Obviously, such a product can be useful in any number of docu mentation, education, and entertainment scenarios.

Like a number of other utilities, CameraMan can perform a simple screen capture. Of greater interest, it can make a movie of the screen activities or sequential stills, the latter particularly useful for slide shows and other forms of static documentation. CameraMan has three virtues: it is cheap, it is incredibly easy to use, and it does exactly what it says it would do. It has a few failings, and with one exception they are relative and do not detract from the overall value of the product.

I obtained CameraMan electronically, over the Internet. It is available from http://www.mwg.com (Site no longer exists). It comes as an installer application that creates five files. First, it places the CameraMan extension in your system folder. Second, it creates the CameraMan application. Third, it creates QuickEdit, which permits editing of the movies created by CameraMan. Fourth, it creates a .pdf documentation file and the mandatory Read Me SimpleText file.

The documentation indicated that the applications would work with QuickTime 1.6 or greater. Although the CameraMan extension and application would record with QT 2.1, QuickEdit would not work until I upgraded my system to QT 2.5 with Goodies. (This problem has been acknowledged by the company and will be addressed in the next maintenance upgrade.) After that, I had no difficulty with the product's performance. System 7.0, 8 megs of RAM, 32 bit QD 1.2, and QT 1.6 is the minimum configuration; System 7.5.5, PPC processor, 16 megs, and QT 2.5 with Goodies 2.5 is recommended. Please note that I evaluated this suite of products on my Performa 6200 CD with the recommended configuration. I like to think of this CPU as particularly useful for stress testing products since, at this point, the creature is about 15 months old and the PPC 603 chip that powers my fearless machine seems to have ended up on a dead branch on the evolutionary tree.

Record It,...

From a user's standpoint, the CameraMan application is a control panel for the CameraMan extension. The most important settings are the capture settings, which permit the user to define the size of the screen capture area, the frame rate, and a QuickTime vs. PICS vs. sequential PICT's decision. It is possible to create a capture area that then "tracks" the cursor movements, which can reduce memory usage and focus the attention of the viewer.

There are a number of advanced options regarding QT compression and the like which I will not review in detail; suffice it to say they are present and extend the utility of the program considerably, especially for long, large videos. The user can define the various control keys, where movies are stored, and several options regarding sounds, including the opportunity to use stylized mouse click and keyboard sounds. The movie can use microphone input or other audio input such as the computer's internal CD. The user can record sounds as a separate soundtrack or as an integral part of the movie. On systems with multiple monitors, the user can pick which monitor to record.

Figure 1. The CameraMan Application main window showing the recording configuration options.

The documentation for CameraMan is quite acceptable. All options were carefully reviewed and several strategies were offered for optimum recording. File sizes predicted by the documentation were somewhat larger than what I actually encountered.

Capture of screen activity on my 15 inch screen occurred without malfunction. I tried recording a narration of my activities along with my instructional demo, and aside from the fact that my kids laughed at me for talking to the computer and our new kitten insisted on sitting on my lap and purring into the mike, this part also went well. Comic relief aside, the utility works as described, and it was enormously easy to set up. As an example of file size, a 1 minute, full screen capture with voice-over was about 10 megs.

I have two comments about the capture aspect of the CameraMan package. First, it would be great if MotionWorks created another capture mode which automatically tracked and captured activity in the front window. It is possible to do this by setting the capture frame correctly, but I would expect that an automatic setting would be fairly easy to implement. Static screen capture utilities such as Flash-It do this, and it would be a reasonable and helpful upgrade to CameraMan. More importantly, initiating capture slowed other activity on the computer to a crawl. In fairness to MotionWorks, they forewarned of this, and I deliberately stressed the program by doing full screen recording.

I made several of the suggested alterations such as choosing the correct compression, reducing frame size, and using a solid background for my desktop, and performance improved. I think that careful thought and planning to record only the necessary portions of the screen would be an important aspect of product use. Obviously, the documentation should be produced on the fastest CPU available to you. I see this speed issue as CameraMan's one significant problem, since product documentation and tutorials often may require full screen capture. Given the task at hand, though, I'm not sure that anyone could write faster code. I think the speed issue may be an inherent limitation of the genre.

Practical use of the capture utility would include having the producer thoroughly understand the product or procedure to be recorded. He or she would then write a script of screen actions and a narration (or some other form of background music or sound) appropriate to the situation. Then, in a quiet room without cats or children, the script would be executed. The next step in production would be to edit the file.

Edit It...

Editing of recordings takes place in QuickEdit. This application can edit movies and soundtracks. I freely admit that I am not a QuickTime maven, but excepting a few rough spots, the product was more than ample for creating animated documents. Soundtracks can be edited and applied in "layers." Animations also can be layered, and text movies that overlay screen recordings can be created. Cut, copy, and paste appropriate to the tasks were available. The only glitch that appeared was that the window showing the tracks of the movie I made insisted on positioning itself partially offscreen.

The documentation for this application was not as good as for CameraMan. For example, it took a while for me to figure out how to create a new narration for a screen animation and replace the original; too much familiarity with QT was assumed.

All in all, I wouldn't want to create the sequel to "Toy Story" using QuickEdit, but it is a very creditable product. The individual responsible for developing a software tutorial will not push the limits of QuickEdit, and will learn how to use the package fairly quickly.

...Then Play It

The last part of the manual deals with playing back the movies you have created. It addresses licensing issues and the use of Apple's MoviePlayer. I would not have thought to put this last section in the manual, but it is a useful addition that will prepare the developer to write the necessary instructions for the end user. I used MoviePlayer to view some of my "tutorials" and encountered no problems.

The Bottom Line

CameraMan is a useful product for tutorial production and software documentation. Consider this: the average CD can hold 650 megs. Your golden master has 250 megs of software. With a little forethought and planning, in the remaining 400 megs you could present a tutorial video 20 or 30 minutes long that eases your new user over any ambiguities in the use of the product. You would have expended no resources on writing or contracting out an AppleGuide file and you would have required no fancy production house to make your video. I would like to see some portions of the documentation improved for QuickEdit, and I would like to see front window autoframing. Some utilities are probably better for still picture capture.

Personally, I would like to see more software QT tutorials. I used them when learning to program the Newton, and was impressed with this approach. I see this as a good package at a fair price, and I encourage developers to consider this means of software documentation.

Products Reviewed

  • CameraMan(tm) 3.0 and QuickEdit 2.0, Motion Works International, Inc. Suite 130 - 1020 Mainland Street, Vancouver, BC Canada V6B 2T4. $69.95. Windows 95 and Window NT versions are due shortly.
  • MoviePlayer 2.5, Apple Computer, Cupertino, California.

Useful URLs

  1. http://www.mwg.com Motion Works on the Web. (Site no longer exists)
  2. info@mwg.com Motion Works e-mail.
  3. http://www.quicktimefaq.org QuickTime information.

Ed Ringel, eringel@mint.net, is Contributing Editor for product reviews for MacTech Magazine. In his spare time, he is a respiratory and critical care physician in Waterville, Maine.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Black Hole Joyrider (Games)
Black Hole Joyrider 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Guide your spacecraft through the gravity well of a powerful black hole using only your retro-thrusters and dwindling fuel... | Read more »
My Koi (Games)
My Koi 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: My Koi is a beautiful and relaxing fish pond app. Customise and name each fish. Feed them daily. Watch them grow. Collect new fish.... | Read more »
Never Gone (Games)
Never Gone 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ###IMPPORTANT### Never Gone's HD art resources require devices with more than 1GB RAM, so please note that iPhone 4/4s, iPad 2/... | Read more »
INKS. (Games)
INKS. 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: From the makers of BAFTA-winning Lumino City comes INKS. INKS updates pinball for a new generation. It combines the joy of pinball with... | Read more »
How to maximise your profits in Bakery B...
Running a bakery can be an expensive venture. You’ll need to continuously upgrade your oven, your kitchen supplies, and even your ingredients to keep customers happy. Most of these renovations in Bakery Blitz cost a pretty penny, but we have a few... | Read more »
How to manage your time in Bakery Blitz
It can be tricky, especially when you risk burning your kitchen to the ground if you forget a cake in the oven, so make sure to use these time management tricks to keep your bakery running smoothly. Don’t collect the money right away [Read more] | Read more »
Model 15 (Music)
Model 15 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $29.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The Moog Model 15 App is the first Moog modular synthesizer and synthesis educational tool created exclusively for iPad, iPhone and... | Read more »
How to deal with wind in Angry Birds Act...
Angry Birds Action! is a physics-based puzzler in which you're tasked with dragging and launching birds around an obstacle-littered field to achieve a set objective. It's simple enough at first, but when wind gets introduced things can get pretty... | Read more »
How to get three stars in every level of...
Angry Birds Action! is, essentially, a pinball-style take on the pull-and-fling action of the original games. When you first boot it up, you'll likely be wondering exactly what it is you have to do to get a good score. Well, never fear as 148Apps... | Read more »
The beginner's guide to Warbits
Warbits is a turn-based strategy that's clearly inspired by Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Since turn-based strategy games can be kind of tricky to dive into, see below for a few tips to help you in the beginning. Positioning is crucial [Read... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

12-inch 128GB iPad Pros on sale for up to $10...
B&H Photo has 12″ 128GB WiFi iPad Pros on sale for up to $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 12″ Space Gray 128GB WiFi iPad Pro: $899 $50 off MSRP... Read more
Global Tablet Sales Slump Continues, iPad’s F...
Another miserable showing for the global slate tablet category in calendar Q1/16, with global tablet shipments falling another 1ten percent to 46.5 million units during the according to Strategy... Read more
Revel Systems to Showcase iPad POS Platform w...
Revel Systems, specialists in iPad Point of Sale management solution for brick-and-mortar retail, food businesses and more, today announced that it will showcase its innovative iPad Point of Sale... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 iMacs available for up...
Apple now has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are... Read more
Indian Smartphone Market Grows Annually by 12...
India’s smartphone market grew by 12 percent year-over-year, with 24.4 million units shipping in Q1 2016. The top five vendors stayed the same, with Samsung in the lead, followed by Micromax, Intex... Read more
Get Notifications When Your Friend’s Phone Ba...
Calgary, Canada based Stonelight Pictures has announced the release of Battery Share 1.0.1, its new utility for iOS 9 supported devices. The company notes that people are spending more time on their... Read more
11-inch 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Amazon has the current-generation 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MJVM2LL/A) on sale for $749.99 for a limited time. Their price is $150 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model... Read more
Price drops on clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs by up to $250. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799, $200... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.