Camtasia is a wonderful tool for creating screencasts, but for many product developers or internet retailers, it is overkill. With a hefty $300.00 price tag, you have to really need Camtasia before you buy it. So what do you do if you just need to make a slideshow and post it to your web site, blog, or Facebook page?
There are a surprising number of free tools available. They may lack the polish or flexibility of Camtasia – but they get the job done.
For short tutorials – especially if demonstrating software or answering user questions is part of your customer service package – it is hard to beat Jing. This small screencasting application is also made by TechSmith. There are versions for both Windows and the Mac, and – perhaps most surprisingly – it comes with 2 GB of free storage at Screencast.com. If you are just getting your feet wet with screencasting, this is a great place to start.
Photo Story 3
If you want to create a slideshow, with Ken Burns like pans and zooms, accompanied by royalty free music and your own narration – you’ll want Photo Story from Microsoft. PhotoStory, which is free, can be downloaded from Microsoft’s web site. However, please note: Photo Story 3 is for Windows XP. It probably won’t work with Windows Vista. (Microsoft recommends that Vista users use Windows Movie Maker instead.)
Many top videos on You Tube were created with Photo Story. With a little effort, you can produce very professional results. (If you are looking for the missing Photo Story instruction manual – try Ghost Leg Media’s Everyone’s Guide to Photo Story.)
Perhaps the Ken Burns effect isn’t quite what you wanted. Maybe you want to add a little sizzle to your presentation. Then you need to check out Flypaper. Flypaper is finally out of beta, and the Standard version is free. (There is a paid, Pro version as well.) Flypaper uses a collection of templates to build online brochures, presentations, and movies. Although the templates may restrict your flexibility, Flypaper is optimized to work with eBay, You Tube, and Facebook and MySpace – so it is definitely worth checking out if you want to spice up your auctions.
Yodio adds a twist to recording audio. You can use your phone to record the narration – removing another technical stumbling block for folks without a microphone. Finished Yodios can be emailed or embedded in blogs, Facebook pages, etc. If you want to see what a Yodio is, check out Cindy Shebley’s simple explanation of HDR Photography. Like the other services discussed so far, Yodio is free.
If you’ve struggled with sharing your PowerPoint presentation online, look no further than SlideShare. You don’t need to master Flash or Camtasia or any of the other programs that convert PowerPoint into a movie. With SlideShare, you can add audio, or just let viewers click through your slides. The presentations are also downloadable at the creator’s discretion, so make sure you watermark unique content. Slideshows can be shared publically or privately (only selected viewers, according to rules created by you). Just sign up for a free account, upload your PowerPoint presentation and you are ready to go!
SlideShare still lacks some of the polish of a PowerPoint slideshow run on your computer (no transitions, for instance). And there is a conversion process which, like You Tube’s, can make pictures fuzzier than the original. But as a simple way to get your slides on the web, it is hard to beat. The FAQ will answer most of your questions about the service.
How can you take advantage of these tools?
If you are an eBay Educational Specialist and you want people to sign up for your classes – maybe Flypaper is the way to announce the schedule and content. If you want to offer a preview of an upcoming seminar, SlideShare could be the answer. Photo Story can perfectly showcase any product you have to sell. Jing will allow you to answer customer service questions in half the time and with twice the effectiveness of an emailed reply. Yodio can bring pizazz to any announcement, regardless of your video or audio equipment (or lack of it). This is just a taste of the free photo/slide/screencast services available to product developers. More are added every day. What are you using?