My quest for free tools to combine video clips to produce tutorial clips hasn't yielded the desired results, but I've learned plenty along the way.
This is the final post in a series focused on creating video tutorials using free applications. Over this last week I've attempted to fill in the “missing piece” in the video production tool set I've been trying to put together – the editing application (a tool to let me combine video clips, trim them if needed, and more).
A ‘Dead End'
Unfortunately, after more effort than I care to admit to, I was not able to find a free editing tool that would effectively assist me in the production of video tutorials . I was able to combine and edit clips with some tools, but each time, the quality of the original clips was diminished to the point that the text on the screens in the clips could no longer be read. I guess this is one of the primary qualifiers that differentiate free tools from paid tools in this category.
Free Screencasting – Easy
The good news is that it was easy to find free tools for screencasting. There are plenty of tools available today on the Internet that enable users to capture screen activity and audio to create brief tutorial presentations. I took a quick look at a list of tools in this post. I used Jing, Debut Lite, and Screenr and found them each to be very useful (I briefly reviewed Jing in this post, Debut Lite in this post, and discuss Screenr below). I look forward to using these excellent tools to create brief tutorial clips, but it appears that I'll need to purchase a paid tool like Camtasia if I'm going to get the editing capablities I seek (more on Camtasia below).
While continuing the search for editing capabilities this week, I spent some time with a few additional tools, and want to share a little about my experiences with them …
I tested Screenr, which is a web based tool that creates MP4 files which can be left on their site and accessed via a URL or embed code, and can also be downloaded. Screenr markets itself as a tool for creating screencasts for Twitter, and they make it quick and easy to capture screencasts and tweet them, but these files can certainly be shared elsewhere.
The quality of videos created using Screenr is excellent, and I appreciate the simplicity of the app, and the fact that there is no need to install anything on your local computer to use it. I've embedded an example of a simple test video I created below (click the Full Screen button, next to the Volume button at the bottom of the video window, and check out the crisp resolution of this clip!):
I took Camtasia for a trial run (they offer a 30 day free trial), to confirm that it does what I needed. It does. I was easily able to combine video clips (even different formats) without losing quality. Camtasia appears to be capable of a whole lot more. I found the interface easy to use – it's reminiscent of Windows Movie Maker. I'll probably review Camtasia more in depth in a future post.
Utilities for file conversions, and for combining files
Oh. My. God. The number of utilities, free and paid, available for converting or combining video files is ridiculous – just do a search for “combining video files” and look at the results listing! I tried a number of free utilities, including the Aiseesoft MP4 converter and others (I ended up uninstalling them and can't remember their specific names – there are a lot of similarly named products out there!). Sadly, my experience with each of those that I tried was disappointing. Several didn't work under Vista, others either scrambled some clips or lost audio, or some just didn't seem to work. The bottom line here is to proceed with caution – many of these free utilities will not necessarily do what they promise.
It's definitely time to move on to another topic! Next week I think I'm going to update my popular “6 Examples of Using Twitter in the Classroom” post. This is a major topic of interest – I get a lot of search traffic on this post. It's been 7 months since this post was originally published, and there are plenty of new stories and examples to share. After that, we'll move on to something new.
As always, if anyone has anything to add about video editing, creating tutorial presentations, or anything else relevant to this post, please comment and share. Thanks!
Related post(s) (if the above topic is of interest, you might wish to check out …):
Testing free video editing tools (and techniques)
Screencasting with Debut’s Lite Version
Comparing 12 Free Screencasting Tools
Creating brief instructional videos (and more) with Jing
Using Internet story telling tools in education