A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Capture a Screencast with a Mac

While putting together a good tutorial movie for your blog or for an article you’re writing requires some thought and preparation, and would benefit from extra time spent on post-processing, the good news is that capturing screen shots and screen movies can be done inexpensively on a Mac. Although I take a glance at the wider context of preparing an entire tutorial and give you some tips along the way, my focus here is on the low-cost software you can use.

Jordan, Miraz. Digital Web Magazine (2007). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screen Captures


Determining When to Use Show-Me Helps and Demos

The availability of powerful yet easy-to-use multimedia tools enables technical writers to consider a powerful new form of embedded user assistance: show-me help. This paper provides an overview of who is currently using show-me help--some current research, some history, and some definitions. It offers some guidance in choosing tools, designing show-me help, and deciding when to include then, concentrating on consideration of your users, potential topics, subsequent releases, and translation. It also suggests how show-me helps can be reused as part of product education and single-sourced into user assistance from the Web.

Bradford, Annette Norris. WritersUA (2005). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


Familiarity Affects Preferences for Text or Video

This weekend I had to replace the solenoid in my Frigidaire Gallery refrigerator. The solenoid controls the flow of water into the ice maker, among other things. I’m not a technician, so when I received the new solenoid and looked at the instructions, I was a little hesitant to do what the text said. The text instructions took 30 seconds to read, whereas a YouTube video I found took 9 minutes to watch. But since I was unfamiliar with the process, I preferred the video to make sure I was doing the task right.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2011). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


Finding a Conversational Voice in Video Tutorials

A voice over is a voice narration from a performer whom you can’t see, who reads a script in an engaging way according to the context of the script. For example, many commercials employ voice overs from professionals. The difference between voice-over performers and announcers, Scott says, is that voice-over performers get outside of themselves, whereas announcers merely read a script.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2008). Articles>Documentation>Video>Podcasting


The Harsh Truth about Screencasts

If you watch screencasts, you probably have seen some that are just worthless. How long did you stay to watch? Not long, I am sure. Why am I being so critical? Because it is true.

Schoen, Michelle. Virtual Assistant Demo Girl (2009). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


How I Create Video Tutorials

Creating video tutorials is no trivial task. When you sit down to create 20+ video tutorials for a project, you’re faced with dozens of questions. What screen size should the videos be, what recording tool should you use, what microphone is best, how long should the videos be, what file size is acceptable? Should you use voice or captions? Where will you create the recording? You can create video tutorials using dozens of different methods. There are no official steps to create videos, because situations and audiences vary so widely.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2008). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


How Video Can Turn Your Career Around

When I talk to most technical writers, video is a format they haven’t done much with. This surprises me, because I find that, as a user, video tutorials are often the most helpful type of material for me to learn software. Video most closely simulates the universal desire we have for a friend to show us how to do something in an application. Perhaps I’m a visual learner, but the majority of us (some say 60 to 65 percent) are visual learners. But video doesn’t appeal only to end users. Video can be an appealing format for technical writers as well. Creating videos can turn your career around, especially if you find technical writing a little dull.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2009). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


“I Need Your Help with Some Documentation"

The following is a conversation I’m calling, “I need your help with some documentation.” The project manager represents a compilation of all the crazy things project managers have said to me over the years.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Multimedia>Video>Documentation


Incorporating Animation into Help Files   (PDF)

Information clarity, ease of use, and modern computing speeds are reasons to consider animation in Help files. Sharp's article presents three common types of animation and how to make them work for you.

Sharp, Roger A. Intercom (2007). Articles>Documentation>Video>Flash


An Introduction to Screencasting

If you provide end-user technical support, people likely ask you about the same software tasks over and over again. What's more, you've probably discovered that not everyone responds well to text or verbal instructions. What if you could send those people a brief video showing the procedure, accompanied by your voice walking through the important concepts?

Kanter, Beth. Tech Soup (2007). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screen Captures


Jump into Digital Video for Multimedia    (PDF)

Digital video (DV) is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and has an expanding role in technical communication. It is a powerful media for communication and can be included in favorite online formats such as WinHelp, HTML help, Acrobat (PDF), and web pages, as well as training presentations produced with tools such as Asymmetrix Toolbook and Macromedia Authorware. Delivery of DV spans a range of electronic media including CD, DVD, and the Internet. New technology offers the potential to synchronize the presentation of video, audio, and other multimedia forms. This paper introduces DV concepts. It gives practical tips for investing in DV equipment and producing video and audio.

Robbins, David B., Kathleen Wyrwas and Alice Davinich. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


Make Yourself a Screencasting Expert

This article shares some useful tips for anyone wants to be an expert of screencasting, especially people frequently use screen recorder to create training and presentation video for education and business.

Chang, Tangyi. Wondershare (2009). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Putting the Poetry of Film to Use Online   (PDF)

This article helps technical communicators become better informed producers of interactive, cinema-like new media objects (help systems, public information and ordering kiosks, promotional technical presentations on the web, and so on) by providing a summary of how cinema works, and then by proposing a few ways that some basic cinema editing and display techniques can be integrated into on-screen technical communications practice. The author makes the claim that if we are to begin thinking and working like film makers, the fundamental poetics and information designs we use in our new media design and development work must also change.

Gillette, David. STC Proceedings (2005). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


Screencasting as Art: Exploring Cinematic Techniques

Screencasting has a problem–it hasn’t evolved all that much over the 10 years or so since its inception. We still record the computer screen from a stationary position (dead centered) and we still present this flat, banal presentation to users sitting at their computers, which in and of itself presents problems (you’re looking at a computer screen on a computer screen–where does one end and the other begin).

Andrus, Brooks. BrooksAndrus (2009). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Screencasting Primer

This primer is an introduction to screencasting. It covers the what, why, and how to get started. You will also find examples of screencasts and additional how-to resources.

Kanter, Beth. Wikispaces. Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Screencasting Redux   (PDF)   (members only)

In a continuation of a previous introductory article about screencasting, Archee continues the discussion by delving deeper into the history, benefits, usefulness, and future of this powerful technical communication tool.

Archee, Raymond K. Intercom (2008). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Screencasting Strategies

In general, screencasting is a three-step process: capture of audio and video, editing, and production of a compressed deliverable. Camtasia combines all three functions in a single, integrated application, but in principle they're separable. I can imagine using Camtasia (or an equivalent) for capture, Premiere (or an equivalent) for editing, and Camtasia (or an equivalent) to produce a compressed .SWF file.

Udell, Jon. O'Reilly and Associates (2005). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Screencasting: How To Start, Tools and Guidelines

Screencasting, or sharing your virtual desktop via video presentation, has exploded in popularity with the advent of podcasting, and gives you the ability to bring the classroom feel to a media presentation that can be delivered over the Internet. The medium of screencasting is readily available to everyone and with a few tools of the trade you can be ready to produce your own.

Hay, Adam. Smashing (2008). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Technical Communication in the 4th Dimension

A discussion of how to plan for the use of time in video documentation projects.

Miller, Harry. Microsoft (2009). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screen Captures


Video, Documentation, and You

Video has the potential for enhancing documentation. But is video the be all, end all? Is it really the next stage in the evolution of documentation? Will it supplant text and static images? This post looks at the pros and cons.

Nesbitt, Scott. DMN Communications (2009). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


Video: Documentation - It Doesn't Suck!

Without documentation, you could probably do your taxes, build a new piece of “some assembly required” furniture, or manage a database instance – but you’d probably end up living in prison, living with broken furniture, or living in fear of your servers. Writing documentation might not seem as important or exciting as developing or tuning code, but it keeps database administrators out of prison. Join Jes to learn what you need to capture and what tools to use.

Schultz, Jes. Brent Ozar Unlimited (2013). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


Visual Storytelling Guides: A New Deliverable in Technical Communication?

When I read books to my little girls (ages 5 and 7), the pictures combined with story provide a captivating experience. I’ve often thought that if I wanted to create documentation that people actually read, maybe I should integrate these two same elements: picture and story. I’m not entirely sure what a product would look like that integrates these two elements, because technical writing usually lacks both visuals and story. It usually consists of dry technical procedures written in a list, meant to be read in any order, and stripped down to its most minimalistic expression. So perhaps what I’m envisioning is a different kind of deliverable, rather than a remake of an existing deliverable.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2011). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video


What Is Screencasting

A screencast is a digital movie in which the setting is partly or wholly a computer screen, and in which audio narration describes the on-screen action. It's not a new idea. The screencaster's tools—for video capture, editing, and production of compressed files—have long been used to market software products, and to train people in the use of those products. What's new is the emergence of a genre of documentary filmmaking that tells stories about software-based cultures like Wikipedia, del.icio.us, and content remixing. These uses of the medium, along with a new breed of lightweight software demonstrations, inspired the collaborative coining of a new term, screencast.

Udell, Jon. O'Reilly and Associates (2005). Articles>Documentation>Video>Screencasting


Why Is It Important for Video Tutorials to Be User-Led?

When it comes to video tutorials, long narrations quickly tire the audience. Why is that? The same reason my kids prefer the beach over Disneyworld: most videos are not user-led.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2009). Articles>Documentation>Tutorials>Video


Writing Scripts for Training Videos   (members only)

If you are interested in writing a script for a training video, this article provides you with the basics of writing a training video script and how to avoid some unpleasant surprises as you write your script.

Kulabkar, Pankaja. Intercom (2011). Articles>Documentation>Multimedia>Video

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