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Using Macromedia Captivate to Retouch Images

Have you ever worked on an e-learning project, only to find that you need to alter some of the screen action you have captured?

Have you ever worked on an e-learning project, only to find that you need to alter some of the screen action you have captured?

In projects I have completed recently, I found myself in this exact situation. Had I not discovered Adobe Captivate, I would have had no choice but to either re-record a number of screens or the entire demonstration or simulation again ­ both of which would have been an extremely time-consuming affair.

In this article I show how you can update your Captivate project files using an external image editor and insert new image files into your Captivate content. I also explain the way Captivate handles mouse movements, which is crucial when performing these tasks.

For the last seven years, I spent the majority of my time creating video-based tutorials for VTC (Virtual Training Company) online and on CD. I've also created tutorials for Macromedia, Adobe Systems Inc., and the leading Macromedia extension developer, WebAssist. Historically I've always used an AVI recording tool to create my demonstrations. One of the problems that plagued me over the years, however, is how to alter the recorded screens.

Below are some examples of when I have found it necessary recapture a screen area:

  • The recording application crashes while recording your screen action.
  • Artifacts are present on certain frames in your movie.
  • An object is present on a screen that shouldn't be there.
  • The version of the application you are recording is still in development. You have created the movies and have sent them to the client for approval, only to find that there is a new feature that needs to be included, such as a new entry in a pop-up menu.
  • You have an icon somewhere on the screen that needs to be removed, such as another vendor software application.
  • The version number of the program has been updated and you need to change it or remove the version number altogether in the demonstration.
  • You have typed some text on the screen, only to find that you have spelled a word or phrase incorrectly.
Attempting to change demonstrations using an AVI recording tool can be both a time-consuming and complex task. Most of the time this requires that you record the whole demonstration again. Even if you decide to try to record just the screens that need to be amended, you may still encounter mouse position issues, which you may not be able to resolve successfully.

Why is this such as big deal? The main reason that editing demonstrations created using an AVI recording tool can be an arduous task is the way it captures your screens. Video files created using an AVI recording application are made up of many still images combined sequentially into one file. With video files, each screen with mouse action appears at a number of frames per second (typically a frame rate of between 5 and 10 frames per second), thus creating the illusion of movement.

Video files use a delicate balance of key and delta frames. Key frames contain all the information that is required to display the frame. Delta frames contain only what has changed from the previous frame. Remember that the more movement there is in a video file, the more area of the screen is altered, which results in larger delta frames and, therefore, a much larger resulting file size.

Some AVI recording tools give you the ability to overlay new graphics into your movies. However, because the mouse pointer has to be captured when the screen area is recorded, inserting a new graphic image will typically result in the pointer appearing behind the inserted image, so you are still left having to reshoot your movies!

Capturing Screens Using Macromedia Captivate
Macromedia Captivate uses a completely different approach. In general, when capturing a screen area, Captivate takes a series of static screen shots. This means that most of the time you don't have to worry about capturing a screen area again. But what about the mouse pointer? Surely if Captivate takes static screen shots, it must include the pointer on each screen shot it takes, right?

Actually, no. Captivate does not include the mouse pointer when it takes a screen shot. Instead, during capture, only the position of the mouse pointer (among other things) is stored. Only after you have finished capturing your screens does Captivate add a fully editable mouse pointer and curved motion path to your Captivate project file. Captivate gives you an incredibly flexible working environment.

Editing Screens in Captivate
There are two ways you can make changes to the screens that make up your Captivate project files:

  • Copy a background image and edit it in an image editor, such as Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004
  • Overlay a new graphic file on top of the portion of the screen you wish to alter
Retouching Captivate Background Images in an External Image Editor
Being able to edit each of the background images that make up your Captivate project files gives you an incredibly versatile working environment. For example, one of the projects I just finished involved creating a series of interactive simulated tasks for the e-commerce software application WA eCart developed by WebAssist. Having created a Captivate project demonstrating how to install the software, I received an e-mail requesting that one of the screens should be altered because it displayed the software version number, as shown in Figure 1.

Because Captivate enables you to copy the background image of a slide, altering a screen is incredibly simple:

  1. Select the slide you wish to edit.
    (Optional steps) Because you cannot undo pasting an image background in Captivate, you may also want to do the following:
    a   Select Slide > Duplicate Slide3.
    b   Select the original slide and choose Slide > Hide Slide.
  2. Select Edit > Copy Background for your duplicated slide.
  3. Switch to an image editor such as Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004.
  4. Select File > New in your image editor and leave the default values.
  5. Select Edit > Paste.
  6. Change the image as you deem necessary.
  7. Save the file.
  8. Select the entire image and choose Edit > Copy. (If you're in Fireworks, make sure you've selected the Pointer tool.)
  9. Switch back to Captivate.
  10. Select Edit > Paste as Background.
  11. Save the Captivate file.
Using this copying slide background technique, I was able to completely remove all traces of "WA eCart 2.1.0" (see Figure 2).

Inserting New Images into Captivate Projects
As well as being able to alter the background image of each of your slides, Captivate also enables you to overlay a new image over a certain region of your captured screen area.

Again, while working on the WA eCart project, the day the software and interactive simulations were going to be launched, I received another e-mail telling me that, at the last minute, a new feature (an e-mail friendly cart) had been added to the application which needed to be somehow incorporated into one of the existing tutorials. Figure 3 shows what the original screen looked like.

To resolve this issue, I simply took a screen shot of the new pop-up menu and placed this over the top of the existing menu. You can use a screen shot tool or simply Print Screen and crop the image (using an image editor such as Fireworks) to simply display the change. Once I was happy with the way it looked on all the relevant slides, I incorporated (merged) it into the slide background. See the result in Figure 4.

More Stories By Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is one of the most experienced authors at the Virtual Training Company, where he specializes in creating training CDs and online tutorials on Macromedia products, such as UltraDev, Fireworks, HomeSite, Sitespring, and Dreamweaver, including Dreamweaver MX Fundamentals, Dreamweaver MX 2004 Fundamentals, and Dreamweaver MX Web Applications. Mark also develops online tutorials for WebAssist.com, a Dreamweaver and UltraDev extension developer.
www.vtc.com, mark-fletcher.co.uk.

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SYS-CON Australia News Desk 01/30/06 02:14:17 PM EST

Have you ever worked on an e-learning project, only to find that you need to alter some of the screen action you have captured? In projects I have completed recently, I found myself in this exact situation. Had I not discovered Adobe Captivate, I would have had no choice but to either re-record a number of screens or the entire demonstration or simulation again ­ both of which would have been an extremely time-consuming affair.

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