I had the opportunity today to offer a Professional Development workshop on capturing and producing screen video from Camtasia, the remarkable screen video program from Techsmith.com. The normal Camtasia workflow is Record > Edit > Produce, with most of the work occurring during the edit phase. Last semester I did a workshop on Editing in Camtasia, and the attendees asked for another in Capturing (the Record) and Publishing (the Produce phase), so that is what I did today. I could not help but notice that the people at that last semester workshop were not present. However, lots of other enthusiastic attendees were, and we covered the topic as best we could in two hours. What was only touched on throughout the workshop were the relationships between the manner of video production, i.e., the production settings, and the actual link to the video. In other words, the various ways to link to or embed a Camtasia video once it is produced, and what your production settings mean related to your link style. There are a bewildering variety of ways to create video links and embeds, but my strong recommendation is to publish to YouTube. This will virtually eliminate any bandwidth or platform-related playback errors, and also embeds elegantly within Blackboard. Later blog posts will deal with other publish options, but today’s will deal with publish to YouTube.
To begin with, Camtasia makes it one-button easy to publish to YouTube—or in fact to their own (Techsmith’s, the company that makes Camtasia) video hosting service Screencast.com. YouTube is to be preferred unless you have a special reason to use Techsmith’s service, which I will discuss when I post about that publishing method. Here are the steps for using YouTube.
After capturing and editing your video, click Produce and Share on the Camtasia Studio toolbar (we used the latest version of Camtasia in our workshop, version 8). Click on Share to YouTube… to start the Share to YouTube wizard. You have to provide your YouTube account credentials, and then the produce and upload will occur.
What screen dimensions should be chosen to upload to YouTube? It depends on the video, of course, but up to 1280 x 720. YouTube will re-encode it, and scale it down for display, but your users will have the option of showing up to full 720p video in the YouTube player, whether linked or embedded. If your user decides to display the video full screen, as many if not most students do when watching screen video—I know from simply observing large numbers of them over the years—your 1280 x 720 video will look good.
If your goal is to display your video through your Blackboard course, use the YouTube mashup tool in a content area, or within the content editor to embed your video. This is the best way to embed a YouTube video in Blackboard. Here’s how:
Login to Blackboard, enter your course, and go to the content area where you wish to embed the video. If you wish to place the video in the content area without any other written instruction, use the YouTube Video mashup tool on the Build Content drop-down.
The mashup tool will allow you to search for your video, which is best accomplished by simply entering its YouTube URL in the search box, and then select it. You will end up, depending on your configuration choices within the mashup tool, with a thumbnail like this, the recommended way to do it.
If you have other written instructions you wish to impart to your students before they play the video, however, you will want to insert this thumbnail within the content editor. Here’s how:
Rather than selecting YouTube Video, as above, select Item. The item form will load. Give the item a title, click in the content editor and type your opening remarks, and then click the Insert Mashup drop-down in the content editor tool bar. From here the procedure is the same as immediately above, except that the thumbnail is inserted within the context of your item, and not a stand alone item in your Blackbaord content area.
The downside to this technique is that you have to wait for the video to index at YouTube before it can be found by the mashup tool’s search function. This can take up to 24 hours. If you are in a big hurry, this will not work.
Alternatively—and this will work if you are in a big hurry—you can simply use the YouTube Embed code in a Blackboard Item content area. To do this:
Go to YouTube. You have to wait until your video encodes at the YouTube site, but this usually takes only a few minutes. Click the YouTube Share button, then the Embed button.
Note that the YouTube form that appears allows for selecting the size of the embedded window, and whether to use HTTPS (secure http protocol). Using HTTPS is an excellent idea, because it eliminates a security warning the users of some browsers may get when they click on a link that combines secure and insecure content. Since our Blackboard environment is secure, clicking on an http link can provoke this warning. This is especially important for users of Internet Explorer and Chrome.
Selecting the size of the window is optional, but in this event I believe smaller is better. The user can always elect to play full screen, or in a larger window.
From this YouTube form, copy the embed code (the code in inverse video on this page).
Create a content item in Blackboard, as above. After typing your initial remarks, click the HTML Code View control in the content editor toolbar.
An HTML code view window will pop up. Place your cursor under the remarks you have typed (or within them, depending on where you want the video player to appear) and paste the embed code.
Note that this is the more modern “iframe” embed code, and not the older Flash Object code. At one time YouTube (and other) iframe code broke the Blackboard content area in which it appears, but that has been fixed with the latest version of Blackboard. Note also that width and height are specified in the code. You can manually change these settings by simply typing new values, though be sure not to change the aspect ratio. Finally, note that the https protocol has been used, not the less secure http.
Now click update. The video will appear as a shaded place holder in the content editor. Click Submit. The video will appear embedded in the content area.
Once the user clicks play she will have access to all the normal YouTube controls for quality, closed captioning, volume, and play full screen.
This is by far the easiest Camtasia to web solution, and the easiest embed in Blackboard option as well, which is why we make it our number one recommendation. If for some compelling reason you do not wish to use YouTube, there are many other alternatives, but I will reserve those for future blog posts.