Creating Tutorial Podcasts
COW Library : Podcasting Tutorials : Aharon Rabinowitz : Creating Tutorial Podcasts
Before you even get started with producing a tutorial, you need to think about what it is you want to say, how you want to say it, and who you want to say it to.
For me, this often includes thinking about how I might visually explain ideas that are not easily conveyed through example, speech, or text alone. I usually learn some new things during this process, and it often completely changes the way in which I approach the tutorial.
Having created presentations for industry conferences like NAB and Siggraph, I've learned that even confident presenters spend a lot of time going over a script. So, like any good presenter, you should do the same. Put together and practice a script that walks you through every step of the project, and you'll be able to present your ideas clearly, and concisely.
RECORDING THE AUDIO
Personally, I take it one step further: After I've run through it a few times and made sure everything works, I record myself reading it in Adobe Audition. I've found that there are several advantages in prerecording audio, such as being able to concentrate solely on sounding as clear and confident as possible. Also, if you make a mistake while recording audio, it's much easier to fix it here, than while recording both audio and video together. Finally, recording ahead of time allows you to edit out those random thoughts and odd jokes that sounded a lot better in your head than they do in your audio.
ENHANCING THE AUDIO
It's crucial to have a good microphone for this process. However, you don't have to spend big bucks to get big sound. I use a Plantronics DSP 500 USB headset ($52), and get excellent sound. When I'm done recording, I use Audition's noise reduction tools and the Multiband compressor to improve the quality of my audio. Special thanks to Franklin McMahon for his superb Creative Cow online tutorials on working with audio. Also check out Marco Solorio's audio techniques article in this issue of the magazine. Finally, I chop up my final audio into pieces so that I can capture my video in small parts.
For video capture, there are a lot of options: Camtasia Studio from techsmith.com and Snapz Pro, available at ambrosiasw.com. Both very popular. I use an old shareware program called CamStudio from brothersoft.com. Each tool has strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately, it's how well you plan your video capture, that will decide how difficult editing will be.
Rather then recording the audio through my headset, I set CamStudio to record audio from my soundcard. I play the audio on Windows Media Player while capturing my video, following along by doing the actions I talk about in my audio. It's essential that you figure out how much time it takes you to do a particular action so that you can leave yourself enough time in the audio to actually complete the actions you talk about. It takes practice, but eventually, it becomes second nature.
As I mentioned, I break up the audio into pieces so that I can capture only small amounts of video at a time. This way, if I make any mistakes, it only affects a small part of my whole video. Otherwise, one bad mistake, and I may have to redo the entire thing, or splice in a fix that doesn't really match up.
Before I record I find places where I know I can fade out to a visual, or where I can stop and start the recording again without changing anything on the screen. Planning ahead makes it much easier to cleanly splice it all back together later.
When it comes to editing, what program you use is up to you. If you're doing simple fades and transitions, then any non-linear editor is up to the task.
Personally, I work at 800x600 in After Effects, lining up my video and audio, and creating all motion graphics and FX in there. Also, I use AE's Time Remapping to quickly fix or tweak any mistimed actions so that they properly match up with the audio.
FORMATTING FOR PODCASTING
Once I've got my tutorial built at full size, I format my project for podcasting. I duplicate my composition, set it to 320x240, and then use a null layer as a parent to scale everything down to fit inside the comp window. Working at 320x240 is a bit hard on the eyes. If you are not working in After Effects, then just make sure that your file size is 320x240.
The most important thing I do over the course of the podcast is set appropriately timed keyframes for zooming in and out of different areas. That way, someone watching the video on an iPod video screen can clearly see what it is I'm actually doing. Otherwise, what's the point of making it available as a podcast.
OUTPUT & COMPRESSION
Once everything is set up, I output my video as QuickTime with Animation Compression, a lossless compression format. Never use, render or output to a lossy format, until you compress your final video for the iPod. Otherwise it may result in a significant loss of quality.
Once rendered, you'll need to run the video through a program that is designed to compress for iPod format – basically an .mp4 video. Quicktime 7 Pro can do this, but I recommend Sorenson Squeeze 4.3 (sorensonmedia.com), which does it faster, and can batch process many videos at once.
POSTING YOUR PODCAST
Finally, once your video (or MP3 for an audio podcast) is ready for iTunes, you need two things: somewhere to put it, and a way to let people know where and how to get it.
As far as where to put it, at Creative Cow we use LibSyn.com, a company that gives you unlimited bandwidth, but with limited webspace and archiving, depending on the price plan you choose, though all plans are extremely reasonable.
Once you have a place to host your podcasts, you need to let people know how to download them. And to do that, you need to create an RSS feed; basically a web document (xml) that tells programs and websites like iTunes or PodcastAlley. com how to direct the audience to your podcast. The RSS feed uses your descriptions and keywords to tell them what it's about. If you're not comfortable writing code, there are tons of programs out there such as FeedForAll (feedforall.com) or Feeder (reinventedsoftware.com) that allow you to create an RSS feed without ever having to code a single line. Eric has an article online if you want to learn to do it yourself.
Once your RSS feed it set up, you can host it on your own website (it's a very small file). To get the word out, you need direct podcast-listing websites to your feed. Podcast411. com has a huge directory of sites at which you can go to and register your podcast. Every website has a different way of registering a podcast, but it basically amounts to entering the URL for your feed into their system.
UPDATING THE FEED
As you create and add new podcasts to your server, simply update your RSS feed with a new entry containing the description and location of the file. Once you do this, any podcast listing site you're registered at will automatically update the listing with the new file. Anyone subscribed to your podcast will have it automatically downloaded to their computer the next time they connect to the web. All in all, podcasting is a fairly simple and straightforward process, and anyone can do it - especially if you're willing to spend a few scant dollars on tools that make life easier.
Aharon Rabinowitz is an accomplished animator and designer whose work has been seen on national television in shows like Sesame Street and others. Aharon is the host of the Creative Cow After Effects podcast and is a leader in the Cow's After Effects forum.
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