We media creators get seduced by shiny toys, which is why we’re always drooling over the Mac Pro tower and the newest Adobe suite of software. Having worked professionally in video production, I got used to having some awfully nice toys at my disposal. It’s great when you’re not limited by your software.
Idealware is not a media production house, so the multimedia content I produce is done under very different circumstances. One of my current projects is to create a series of 10-minute demonstration videos that show off the features of donor management software. Like many nonprofits, we’re working with limited resources and trying to produce quality content. This requires us to be creative and flexible. For these demonstrations, I am using Adobe Premiere Elements (Techsoup.org, $15) and Camtasia (Techsmith.com, $250 for nonprofits).
Originally, I wanted to use Camtasia for the entire process, as it has some great features that streamline the process of making screencast videos. Unfortunately, the software has a serious limitation that makes it very difficult for me to create the videos the way I want to: it doesn’t let me have blank space in the editing timeline. If you’ve ever edited video, you know that being able to insert empty space into your timeline makes rearranging video much easier. These demonstrations have hundreds of edit points, which Camtasia is clearly not designed to handle. I even called Techsmith, who admitted that what I wanted to do was not currently possible.
Here’s what I do instead:
Now, I know there are probably better ways to handle this process. In an ideal world, I’d be using Adobe After Effects to create my motion graphics effects. With pro-level tools, I could have all the precision I need. I don’t think that upgrading to After Effects would be the best decision in my case, though, because I would be sacrificing the speed and convenience of using Camtasia’s pre-built effects.
I’m in the interesting position of straddling consumer-level tools with pro-level quality. The consumer-level tools are built to be user-friendly and convenient. They’re also more affordable. Bear in mind, I’m not doing anything complicated in these projects; all of the tasks can be accomplished without pro-level systems. What I get in return, though, is a few headaches from trying to work around the deficiencies of these simpler tools.
If your organization is thinking about embarking on a media project, find somebody who really knows what they’re talking about. Sit down and have a long, candid talk about what you really need to accomplish your goal. You want to make sure your staff is properly equipped to do their job, but it’s easy to think you need bigger, better software than is truly necessary.
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