We are spoiled by our high resolution computer screens. They are so crisp and clear. When creating tutorials using screen capture with an application like Camtasia for delivery on small formats like DVD, we sometimes forget that DVD resolution is 720×480 (NTSC) or 720×576 (PAL). That’s like changing the resolution of your PC screen to 640×480. Yikes! But with a little planning and understanding of the limitations of the DVD format, you can get pretty good results.
In this tutorial I’m going to share some of the techniques that I use when making Camtasia tutorials for DVD delivery. The same rules apply for any small format out like YouTube. It starts by not expecting video captured at 1680×1050 PC desktop resolution to be readable in a tiny 720×480 DVD sized video. Resizing from that resolution will not maintain the fine lines needed to read text. Some preplanning is needed in order to get good result and that starts with the resolution of the application you are using for your tutorial.
Follow these steps and you should have a pretty good looking Camtasia tutorial on DVD:
- I like to deliver widescreen DVD’s so I use 16:9 when creating a tutorial. For this, I capture using 1280×720 screen dimensions. That’s the same as HD 720p and allows me to repurpose the footage for web delivery at HD resolution. This means that you must resizing whatever program you are using to 1280×720. This is easy using Camtasia 6 since it will resize the program for you. If you want to capture to 4:3, I would use 1280×960 so that you still have enough resolution to repurpose later.
- Since this tutorial is about editing in Vegas Pro, in the Camtasia recorder select Tools | Options and make sure that you capture to the AVI file format (not CAMREC) so you can edit immediately in Vegas Pro. Some people like editing in Camtasia Studio but I prefer the tools that I have in Vegas Pro.
- In Vegas Pro go to File | Properties (Alt+Enter) and use the Match Media Settings button in the project properties to match your Vegas project to the Camtasia media. If you used the settings in #1 this should be Custom (1280×720, 15.000 fps) progressive with square pixels. It’s important to have your Vegas project match the resolution and fps of your footage.
- Select the Track FX button on the track that contains your Camtasia screen capture footage.
- Add the Sony Sharpen FX with about a 0.500 setting to the video track with the Camtasia footage. This will clean up the edges to make text more readable.
- Use Pan/Crop to zoom into areas of interest in your video. Remember, a DVD is only 720×480 resolution. Don’t try to pack too much information into that tiny space. Zooming is your friend.
- Render using the standard DVD Architect NTSC Widescreen video stream template. Rendering direct to MPEG2 in Vegas Pro will give you the highest quality over creating an AVI and re-encoding it in DVD Architect later. Below is a screen shot of the actual rendered MPG file being played back in the VLC player.
As you can see from the full size 853×480 image above, the output is quite readable although slightly fuzzy due to the interlacing that is required by DVD’s. For those wondering why it’s 853 pixels wide, DVD Widescreen has a pixel aspect ratio of 1.2121. That means the pixels are actually wider than 1.0 (square). If we multiply 720 x 1.2121 we get an image that is approximately 853 pixels across.
Hopefully this will give you a good starting point for creating your screen capture tutorials that are targeted for DVD. Even if you are targeting for the web, the same rules apply. Plan to capture and the lowest resolution possible to minimize rescaling, set your project properties to match your captured footage, use sharpen to make the edges more pronounced, and zoom in to the action so that you maintain as much detail as possible.
Johnny “Roy” Rofrano