The future of storytelling: Collaboration, quality, engagement

The barriers to entry are much lower... anyone, if they want to, can really be creative and say what they want to say.

A compelling snippet here (at least for me) from the Future of Storytelling's (FoST) channel.  Some of the points here that resonated with me related to interviewee's perspective on the importance of collaboration in content creation, quality, intimacy (in public forums), technology's role in democratization of video content, and engagement.

The interviewee is Lisa Donovan, one of the cofounders of Maker Studios, a collaborative "talent-first media company founded by YouTube artists."  The network was founded in 2009 to provide the best environment for artists to create, distribute, and monetize their original content on YouTube; the content produced at Maker Studios gets about four billion views each month.

image-reinventing storytellingMy takeaways / Highlights

Collaboration.  Working on one channel… we didn't know how sustainable that would be and we thought that there's a bigger opportunity here. If we came together with other like-minded people who were making their living on YouTube and we shared resources and we shared audiences, we could all benefit from that…

Immediacy and Quality.  We can now respond so quickly to something happening in current events.... You have people now getting more viewership and spending less money on the product that they're making; it's bringing up the question: What is quality? Just because it costs $100M to make a movie… does that mean it's quality if I don't enjoy it? (Nor with) I think is interesting or as engaging as something that's 15 minutes that costs almost nothing…?

Intimacy.  What we're seeing a lot more now is people being a lot more open with their life and sharing their life… there is sort of an intimacy that is created between the audience and the person creating the content.  I think structure and format and experience are all incredibly important when it comes to quality...

New Technology.  Technology has changed the landscape drastically. This is a huge moment in entertainment because you can't have one studio or one person define what quality is. Now you have audiences defining, for themselves, what quality is...

Engagement and democratization of content.  Anybody who is successful in creating quality online content is a master at engaging with their audience.... The barriers to entry are much lower… anyone if they want to can really be creative and say what they want to say.  And that's exciting…

Your turn: Maybe it's time to give collaboration a second look?

The points around collaboration really resonated with me here.  In the dialog I have with others in my courses and professional networks, it's not uncommon for me to find folks with truly great ideas for courses or other content that should--need--to get online, but that, all too often, never see the light of day because of perceived barriers to content creation and work effort.   Are there ideas you have that could benefit from collaboration with a like-minded content creator?

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How to close timeline gaps using Ripple Delete in ScreenFlow and Camtasia

I stumbled upon the problem below.  It was shared in this tweet asking how to close gaps in the ScreenFlow timeline.


Ripple Delete / Ripple Insert In the Big 3 Screencast Editors

The feature we're looking for here is called "ripple delete."  The trick is to quickly close those gaps without:

  • having to perform a "select all" or multiple-clip-select (because that's a pain in the ass when you're in the middle of a long, complex project with many clips and multiple tracks)
  • and while keeping all clips on all tracks to the right of the gap in sync with each other as the gap closes (because audio that doesn't sync with video doesn't make for compelling tutorials)

And, while we're at it, let's go ahead and address the sibling of ripple delete -- ripple insert.  That may become helpful when you want to add new media clips into the middle of a ScreenFlow or Camtasia screencasting project.

Each of the "Big 3" screencasting editors handles ripple delete/ripple insert differently

ScreenFlow, Camtasia Ripple Delete Cheat Sheet

(Click to enlarge.)

In the video below, I'll walk ya through how to close/insert those gaps quickly in each of the big 3 screencast editors:  ScreenFlow, Camtasia Studio (for Windows) and Camtasia For Mac.  Meanwhile, I've also made the cheat sheet on the right available for you to download.  (Click it to enlarge.  Then, right-click and "save as...")

Below are the video timecodes so you can fast forward to the parts that interest you the most

  • 0:00 to 4:00 - Ripple Delete / Ripple Insert: ScreenFlow
  • 4:00 - Ripple Delete / Ripple Insert: Camtasia Studio
  • 7:28 - Ripple Delete / Ripple Insert: Camtasia For Mac

Did this help?  Let me know!

Posted in How to, screencasts, Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

[New course announcement] Beyond PowerPoint – Teach Online Now With ScreenFlow For Mac

We recently launched the third in my "Big 3" series of screencasting courses.

image screenflow endorsed

The new course (Beyond PowerPoint: Teach Online Now With ScreenFlow For Mac) is based on Telestream's ScreenFlow product which, incidentally, gets mentioned a lot in the group of aspiring course creators in Udemy's "Studio" group.  (Ssshhh... It's owing to that frequency-of-mention is one of the reasons I was compelled to immediately follow up the other two courses with another based on ScreenFlow.)

Continue reading

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Q&A – Why Picture-in-Picture Is Effective for Video Tutorials

Picture-in-Picture Can Be Effective For Video Tutorials

It's not necessary, but when used effectively, picture-in-picture can help enhance the learning context by giving non-verbal cues to online learners.



My thoughts about this is in constant evolution.  Just asI try different techniques every time I teach a live class or workshop, I try different techniques also in my online video presentations.  No one technique, however, is definitive.  Like many presentation styles, there are a variety of approaches that can be effective.  The main thing is that we keep trying different techniques AND keep reflecting on feedback from our network so that we can refine our technique for the next iteration.

Also, my choices about how I include picture-in-picture in my screencasts is also influenced by a desire to make each presentation as much like the "feel" of a classroom environment as possible.  In a classroom, the teacher/facilitator is always visible.  The teacher doesn't have the luxury of visually fading out… although I know some lectures you and I have attended can certainly feel like that would be a benefit.

But my point is that, more often than not, there's a benefit to seeing the instructor.  You and I, as students in a live classroom, often take our visual cues from the non-verbal mannerisms and gestures of the facilitator as much as we would from the verbal.  But, the question of how best to translate that same live classroom atmosphere to a video context is an ever evolving challenge -- one that I think too many online teachers actually DON'T do well.

For example, too many online facilitators, I think, go too far the other way.  That is, they display NO PIP (picture-in-picture) overlays at all and rely exclusively on voiceover and screen recordings of PowerPoint slides.  Now, I'm not saying that's wrong.  Because, you only have to go as far as a site like to see how effective pure voiceover instructional content can be.

But, my experience, too, is that in far too many pure-voicover style instructional videos--especially from folks who are trying this for the first time--is that the facilitator relies almost exclusively on PowerPoint and voiceover and ends up becoming too far removed from the learner.  And, in a way, I think that ends up sort of robbing the learner of non-verbal cues and facial expressions that can otherwise enhance the learning environment.

Now, I have some thoughts about what makes for an effective Picture-in-Picture overlay that I'll follow up with later. But, for those of you in any of my online courses now, you can catch my thoughts about that in the introductory lecture about the Picture-in-Picture overlay in my Digital-Know-How course.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. For videos you've seen that use a picture-in-picture of the teacher, what is it that you did or didn't like about them in general.  And, if you like the pure voiceover type videos (with PIP overlays), is there something specific you can point to that makes them particularly effective?

Posted in best practices, Digital-Know-How, Q&A, Tips and Tricks, Training | 1 Comment

[Video] How to make the ‘Magnifying Glass Map’ effect in Screenflow

image-how to make the magnifying glass effect using screenflowIn a previous post (ref: How to Make the Magnifying Glass Map Effect Using Camtasia) I shared the tutorial of a colleague who made this animation using the green screen ("remove a color") feature in Camtasia Studio v 8.1.  (Just a quick note: the "remove a color" feature wasn't available in Camtasia Studio prior to version 8.1.)

Let's Use Screenflow This Time

In this post, I wanted to share a few more details about making the effect work -- and this time let's use Screenflow (for Macintosh) to pull off the effect.


The gist of the effect is to use screencasting software to show a metaphor--in this case, a magnifying glass--move across a map.  As it does so, magnified areas of the map appear wherever the magnifying glass traverses the map.  In addition to applying this effect when screencasting map sequences, the effect can also work well for other screencasting projects in, say, biology and anatomy when tracing genomic sections.  In which case, perhaps a microscope metaphor might work.  Or, you could also apply it to financial scenarios where you might want to "drill-into" a spreadsheet cell and examine the underlying calculations.

The range of scenarios is obviously limitless.  The main thing is to use editing software that will allow for:

  • Chroma key-type effects (a.k.a., green screen or "remove a color")
  • Multiple tracks in the editing timeline
  • And keyframe animations


0:15 The end-state of the magnifying glass effect we're shooting for.

0:40 You have to make it in two passes. The first pass is to produce a reference video with a colored shape that you'll later "punch a hole" through.

0:55 The second pass is to use the reference video with the colored shape as the starting point for a new Screenflow project. Then, "punch a hole" through the colored shape using the chroma key video effect in Screenflow.

1:15 The third step is to overlay the magnifying glass stock image in order to complete the metaphor.

1:30 Here I launch Screenflow to start creating the reference video. Here we used a map graphic snapped from Google Maps. Then, on top of that, we add a red-filled circle.

2:45 Animate the red-filled circle to trace out the path on the underlying map that you want your magnifying glass to trace.

3:15 A question for the Screenflow Product Managers at Telestream! (What's the deal about not easily being able to create a color-filled circle?)

5:30 Export the animation to create the reference video.

5:50 Create a new Screenflow project and import the reference movie.

6:25 Use the Screenflow Chroma Key video filter to punch a hole in the red-filled circle in the reference movie.

7:15 A word you need to know about the "tolerance" setting in the Chroma Key Filter. Initially, Screenflow will attempt to make a transparency on all similarly colored objects on your screen -- even ones you don't intend. The Tolerance parameter in the Chroma Key filter can help you adjust this!

8:20 Add the magnified graphic to your timeline and underneath the reference movie. This will then be revealed through the "hole" in the reference movie above it.

9:45 You now need to animate the underlying (magnified) graphic on track 1 in order to sync it up with the "hole" in the reference movie on track 2.

10:55 New term: Definition of T.L.A.R.?

12:05 Now we complete the metaphor with the magnifying glass graphic. You can find these graphics from cost-effective royalty free media sites like Fotolia or Presentermedia.

13:30 A little tip about the differences between PNG and JPG files. And what's the preferred file format if you want transparency included.

14:10 Importing, aligning and animating the magnifying glass image in order to sync it up with the "hole" in the top image and the magnified map underneath.

16:45 The completed magnifying glass effect is fully rendered.

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How to make the ‘magnifying glass map’ effect using Camtasia

green-screen-backThe Green Screen Effect Ain't Just For Talking Heads

In the Fundamentals section (Module 2) of the Digital-Know-How course and Section 2 of the Deep Dive Screencast training course (Camtasia Studio) on Udemy, I teach you how to make the so called "green screen effect" in Camtasia Studio.  However, in the course I model a scenario where we use a video of a live "talking head" subject in order to project him/her onto another background.  But, as you'll see below, the green screen effect isn't just for live subjects.  You can use it, too, to add some creative twists to your eLearning and screencast projects.

"The End"

Credit for this animation goes to David Demyan.  In the first video below, David shows a creative use of the visual properties and green screen ("remove a color") features in Camtasia Studio 8 (for Windows).

Beginning with the end in mind, David first shows the end result of the effect that shows a magnifying glass graphic panning across a map.  As the  graphic pans across, a magnified section of the map appears inside the magnifying glass.  Brilliant!

The "Reveal"

Here's how he did it.


  1. Use Camtasia to publish an initial "reference video" that includes the background and a green colored shape that you'll use later as a mask.  This mask will later reveal a "hole" through which you'll see a magnified image.
  2. Create a second screencast video project.
  3. Add a magnified version of the background graphic onto track 1.
  4. Add the reference video from Step 1 (the one that contains the green masking shape) and place it onto track 2.
  5. Use the "remove a color" effect in Camtasia Studio and apply it to the green shape in the reference video.

There are some additional overlays David uses to enhance the context and "theme" of his project.  In the second video above, for example, David uses a magnifying glass graphic as an overlay to the masking shape.  You can use other overlays that match your theme, but the gist of the steps are in the highlights above.

"What if I'm not using Camtasia Studio?"

I'll follow up with another post that shows how you can produce the same effect in Screenflow (for Mac) and Camtasia for Mac.  But, essentially, just as long as your chosen screencast editor will support:

  • multiple tracks,
  • keyframe animations (a.k.a. "video action" in Screenflow; "add animation" in Camtasia)
  • and green screen features (a.k.a., chroma key in Screenflow, "remove a color" in Camtasia)

then you'll be able to effect the same animation that David deftly manages above.


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3 Simple Steps To Learn How to Draw For Graphic Note-Taking

Technically, I guess it's called graphic recording

I'm not saying it's the only way to take notes.  I'm not even saying it's the best way to take notes.  All I'm saying is that it's another way to take notes.  And, one that could help you internalize concepts better by the simple act of associating imagery with cognition.

In this video, Rachel Smith explains to a room full of Tedx conference attendees about the  value of graphic recording.  But, more than that, she facilitates a quick activity that you can also do in, like, 30 seconds, that will prove to you that you have the ability to draw.


(8:30) What's the most common objection from folks who think they can't learn how to graphically record?

(9:30)  Three Simple Steps:

  1. Pick a tool (9:40)
  2. Learn a few basic icons in your drawing vocabulary (10:40)
  3. Listen for and capture key points (12:00)

(13:28) "You don't want to take too long..."

(15:00) Give it a try... (activity).  Draw a person.

Trace Your Way to a New Graphic Vocabulary

Basic icons for graphical recording

Click to enlarge. Courtesy: Rachel Smith.

That last point reminds me of another easy way to learn your graphic vocabulary.  A few weeks back I posted an article about the "Dummies Guide to Drawing Custom Sketch Graphics On the iPad."  By using the same technique I showed there for drawing a simple ball (and a not so simple F-18 jet fighter), I've been steadily learning how to build my own graphic vocabulary.  You can do it, too; give it a try.

Take the image above (click to enlarge-courtesy: Rachel Smith) and, using the same technique I showed in the "Dummies Guide" post, import the image into your iPad Sketchpad app,  then use a (fun) little activity we all used to love in grade school:  Tracing.

Maybe once you and I become proficient with our basic "vocabulary," we too can put more imagery in our notes.

Your turn

Give it a try.  Then tell me.  How long did it take you to draw a person?

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