Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Screencasting 101 + Tips for recording internal audio

@seani Look what I made using Incredibox.  Then I recorded in... on Twitpic

I've been doing screencasts for some time now, for my Photoshop and other technical tutorials, but what I didn't know how to do before, was to record the internal audio.  
I am not yet an expert, but I think I've got it.  (Thanks to my friends on Twitter for helping to answer this one!) To explain more about what screencasting is, and with internal audio, it's when you want to take a video of your computer screen, but also make sure to record the audio that is coming from inside of the computer, and not the noise or talking that is happening in the room just outside of it.   To get best results on internal audio, you do not want to be recording the audio coming out of the speakers on your computer, and then going back into your computer's microphone.  It just won't sound very good.  This is only a good option for voice overs on your screencasts.
First you will need some screencasting software:  This allows you to take a video of your computer screen.  For best results, and highest quality, use the paid software options, but there are also free alternatives.  Adobe Captivate is the industry standard on this one. The screencasting tool inside of Quicktime on a Mac allows you to record video or audio (or webcam) and is also nice for doing quick and easy screencasts that you can edit later in your favorite video editing software.  However, I did not have luck recording internal audio on this one.  I'm not sure why not, but maybe I was doing something wrong.  For free alternatives, try Jing (which you must download) or Screenr, a free online tool that limits you to 5 minute screencasts.  
Next, there is a good chance you will need Soundflower. This was what did the trick for me, as it allows you to pass the internal audio to the other application.  The good news is, you can download it for free.  

Then, before you record your screencast of your Skype video conference, go to system preferences on your computer and change the audio input to "Line-in"  (Make sure to change back later.)

I had success doing this with Camtasia for Mac.  I haven't tried any others, but would be curious to know if they would work too.
So why would someone want to do this?  Well, maybe you would want to record a video conference you had with someone over Skype.  Or maybe you want to capture music that is playing on your computer. Here's a screencast I made for just that purpose.  I made it with Incredibox,  which is a free online music making tool that would not let me download afterward.  Originally I wanted to do this so I could record and save music on the Google's Les Paul Guitar.  (So this is great for musicians!)  Too bad I am not so good at music.  I guess that's next on my list of things to learn..

Monday, June 13, 2011

Phone to cloud with Picasa Web Albums

My search for a perfect solution to transporting and backing up my smart phone pictures to the cloud has continued.  Finally I think I found my favorite way to do this, and this works for anyone with a phone that takes pictures.  (See my previous posts for more information about sending to Flickr or other free photo storage sites.)  But what I really wanted to do was to send my iPhone pics. to a Picasa Web Album.  All you need is a free gmail account to get set up with your free Picasa Web Albums.  There is nothing to download to your smart phone or computer, and I love Picasa Web Albums because you have much more control over privacy settings.  You can mark your photos private, public, or "unlisted" which means that only those who you share the link with can see them.  I also like Picasa Web Albums because they work so well with other free tools by Google such as Blogger, Google Sites, Google Maps, Picnik and more.

To do this, first log into Gmail.  Look for the "Photos" button on the top of the menu bar, and click on it.

Next click on the little gear on the top right hand corner of your Picasa Web Albums page,  Look for "Photos settings."

You are going to look for the option to upload your photos by email. You will have to type in a secret word. This will give you a unique email address that is hidden within your gmail/Picasa Web Album account. Every time you want to back up your photo from your phone to the cloud, simply email it to this special email address.  For your trusted family, friends, or classmates, you can also give them the secret email, and you can collaboratively contribute to a photo album.

After you have done this, your photo(s) will land directly in your drop box in Picasa.  You can move, organize, or edit these later from your computer, or change your privacy settings.  But for now, they are safe in the cloud.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cinemagraphs: Photos Brought to Life in Animated .gifs

From animated .gifs
I just learned how to make a cinemagraph, and here's my first quick sample.  It's pretty cool, and even a little creepy.  Something between photo and video, it's a picture that surprises you when it moves.
For much more beautiful samples that have inspired me to keep working at it, here are some links to explore.  I couldn't do a better job myself, but Russell Brown from Adobe shows you how to do it in this video tutorial using Photoshop CS5 Extended.  Here's another step by step written tutorial here.  
From animated .gifs