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

The Slaughter: Act One (Games)
The Slaughter: Act One 1.0.323 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.323 (iTunes) Description: “The game mixes realism and surrealism to create a story that can cause just as much laughter as fear. A-” -... | Read more »
NEO TURF MASTERS (Games)
NEO TURF MASTERS 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: NEOGEO’s legendary golf game is back, in a brand-new mobile version with touch controls! NEO TURF MASTERS (also known as “BIG... | Read more »
How to send money to a friend with the F...
Facebook is already a lot of things to a lot of people. It's a social network, sure, but also a tool for catologing memories, chatting with friends, and much more. [Read more] | Read more »
Pocket Arcade Story (Games)
Pocket Arcade Story 1.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.00 (iTunes) Description: Here comes a new challenger: it's the arcade simulation game you've been waiting for! Build your very own gaming... | Read more »
How to get coins faster in Rodeo Stamped...
There comes a time in a cowboy or cowgirl's life when all the riding and lassoing skills in the world aren't enough. You're going to need some cold, hard cash to keep your sky zoo expanding in Rodeo Stampede. [Read more] | Read more »
How to out-do Cam Newton in Can You Dab?
The thing about dance crazes is that you're never really sure when they've run their course. Take the Dab, for instance. Propelled by its adoption as the touchdown celebration of choice for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the Dab seemed... | Read more »
Artik Games releases Splashy Cats for An...
Splashy Cats had us hooked from the title alone, and when we found out the game was literally just zig-zagging one of our favourite pop-culture references, guised as a playable cat character, down a river – our appetites were whetted to say the... | Read more »
Battle Cars (Games)
Battle Cars 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Welcome to the world of Battle Cars. Battle Cars is a classic arcade top-down racing game with fast mini cars and funny weapons to... | Read more »
How to get started with live.ly
One could be forgiven for thinking that there are already plenty of streaming video apps out there. It's just that the App Store charts would insist that you're mistaken. [Read more] | Read more »
Rodeo Stampede: Guide to all Savannah an...
A "gotta catch 'em all" joke seems appropriate here, even though we're talking animals in Rodeo Stampede and not pocket monsters. By now you've probably had plenty of rides, tamed some animals and built yourself a pretty nice zoo | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Why Use Indie Opera And Vivaldi Instead Of Sa...
For many years my web browser workhorses were various permutations and spinoffs of the Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox Open Source platform, and the Norwegian indie browser Opera, which I took a shine to... Read more
Western Digital Launches Worlds Fastest 256GB...
At the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai Western Digital Corporation this week introduced a new suite of 256 gigabyte (GB) microSD cards, which includes the new 256GB SanDisk Extreme microSDXC UHS-I... Read more
KeyCue 8.1 Integrates With Typinator To Displ...
Ergonis Software has released KeyCue 8.1, a new version of the company’s keyboard shortcut cheat sheet. KeyCue 8 introduced a new way to define a wide variety of triggers, which can be used to... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
21-inch 2.8GHz iMac on sale for $1199, save $...
Amazon has the 21″ 2.8GHz iMac (model #MK442LL/A) on sale for $1199.99 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (Apple refurbished...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for up to $50-$100 off M...
B&H Photo has 13″ and 11″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $849 $50 off list price - 11″ 1.... Read more
Brexit Vote Result Forecast To Slash UK 2016...
Uncertainty and economic volatility can be expected to increase over the next nine months, as the Brexit and concerns over the future of the EU hit IT investment, say Canalys market analysts, with... Read more
13-inch 256GB MacBook Air on sale for $1149,...
Amazon has the 2016 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (model MMGG2LL/A) on sale for $1149.99 including free shipping. Their price is also $50 off MSRP. Read more
Haven App Launches New Age Of Wirless 911 Eme...
Haven from RapidSOS represents a transformation in access to emergency services from a phone call solely dependent on voice to a robust data connection for voice, text, medical/demographic data.... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, Willow...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.