Recording my computer desktop

This morning started out easy enough…  Find a way to post a YouTube video of my computer desktop.  Sounds easy enough, and I suspect for many of you it probably is.  While I have my Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Yelp, etc… accounts, one of the few I’ve never had is a YouTube account where I posted anything!  I know… Shocking… What planet have I been on all of these years.  I have friends that have posted, my daughter has posted…  but, I’ve never posted.  So, I began my little trek by doing a web search…

First of all, many of the initial results I got were how to record successful YouTube videos.  You know.  Make a plan, have a good microphone, have an interesting topic, etc…  Three pages into the results, and all I could read was how to be successful in front of the camera.  Good advice, yes… Just not what I was looking for.  I wanted something more education or business-like for recording my computer desktop.

Narrowing the search down, I did come across a few solutions.  In particular, out of ten or so pieces of software I found, I decided to narrow my focus down to just two.

CamStudio – (http://camstudio.org)

This tool is free!  Okay.  That’s a good starting point.  I visited their site, watched a couple of videos, read their FAQ, etc…  For a little more context, the computer that I would like to record on is running Windows 8.1 at 1920×1080 (1080p) with a dual monitor.  The software seemed to be what I was looking for, but there were many complaints about the installation software installing unnecessary additional software (bad!).

One of the ways I check to see what I might be missing with a free package is by comparing it to an expensive package.  In this case, I decided to look into Camtasia.

Camtasia – (http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html)

Price is ~$299.  Not too bad, but before I ever spend that kind of money, it needs to offer me something exceptional beyond what CamStudio can offer.  Now, I do enjoy their little tutorial videos which did  a great job of describing the package and its capabilities.  These were all good.  Additionally, Camtasia offers the ability to edit the video afterwards which CamStudio does not.  So, if I didn’t already have a subscription to Adobe Create Cloud, I would have probably needed to end up here.  Additionally, it is obvious this product is seeing more developer love.

All in all, it turn out that CamStudio would be my starting place.  If I find myself hitting a feature barrier, then I might entertain jumping to something like Camtasia, but for now, I thought I would see what the workflow looks like.

First things first.  I need to try a sample recording to see how well this thing really works.  Here’s the basic steps I followed…

1. Download the CamStudio software from http://camstudio.org (version 2.7.2 dated October 19th, 2013)

2. Install the software.  NOTE: I ‘declined’ to install all of the additional software, yet a couple of things were still installed.  Big negative for me, but I was able to go to the Control Panel under Add/Remove programs and uninstall the extra software.

3. Watch a tutorial video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVnBnvXJw00 (I searched for CamStudio Tutorial 2013, there are many of them)

4. I decided to go with the XVid Codec. – http://www.digital-digest.com/software/download.php?sid=1052&ssid=0&did=14

5. There were a few other options I needed to change to get things going.

  • Under the ‘Region’ menu, I choose ‘Select Screen’.  I plan on doing full screen capture.  I use a dual monitor, so I wanted to pick the screen beforehand.
  • Under ‘Options’, I choose to ‘Record Audio from Microphone’.
  • Under ‘Video Options’, I set the Compressor to ‘Xvid MPEG-4 Codec’ and have left the other options as-is for now

6. Now I went ahead and did a sample recording of me browsing the web

When it finished, it tried to play back the video.  The window was completely black, and so I thought it didn’t work.  It also prompted me to save the .avi file.  I saved it as ‘test.avi’.  If I double-clicked that file, it played back just fine.  Phew.

7. I turned off the playback [Options] | [Program Options] | [Play AVI file when recording stops] | [Do not play AVI file]

I’ll just manually watch them afterwards using the Windows Media Player or one of my other viewers.

Posting the Video on YouTube

You can go to http://www.youtube.com/yt/creators/ and create an account for yourself.  There are some pretty good tutorials and the interface is pretty easy.  I was able to drag my video file from my computer into the browser, it uploaded, and I was able to post it successfully (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9IyIX6kh4).  It’s lame and there is no audio, but it worked great as a proof of concept.

Now to go make something useful…

If you have any other suggestions, or if you would like a better explanation on anything I described above, drop me a comment!

 

Developer Accounts

If you plan on publishing your project, you will likely need a developer account.  Many of these require that you have a mail account associated with their authentication method.  Here’s a few pointers on where I’ve gone to sign-up.

Android Developer – Google Play (https://play.google.com/apps/publish/)

Windows Development – Windows Store (https://appdev.microsoft.com/StorePortals/en-us/Home/Index)

Windows Azure – Cloud Computing / Storage (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/)

Network Solutions – Domain Registration (http://networksolutions.com)

YouTube – Videos, Demonstrations and Tutorials (http://www.youtube.com/yt/creators/)

WordPress – Blogs (http://wordpress.com)

 

You may know of others.  This is the list of ones I’ve recently frequented.

Tools of the Trade

Before I get started, I’m going to go through a few of the tools I may use during this project. While most of these are tools that cost money, almost everyone of them has a free alternative. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford these tools, but there are many who are less fortunate, so where I can, I’ll suggest an alternate tool to complete a job.

Tools I have or plan to use:

Unity 3D Links – 3D Game Engine / Toolkit

Unity3D – http://unity3d.com

There is both a free version and a PRO version. While many, many things can be done with the free version, the PRO version includes some advanced graphics options, and the ability to use some more advanced features across platforms (i.e. networking on Android)

World Machine – World building Software

Home Page: http://www.world-machine.com/

There is a free version that is limited in size, and a full version where the height-map is not limited.

BMFont – Bitmap Font Generation Software

Download: http://www.angelcode.com/products/bmfont/

BMFont importing into NGUI: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ni7TfMPWq5M

Great tool, and best of all it’s free.

NGUI – GUI add-on for Unity3D

Homepage: http://www.tasharen.com/?page_id=140

Download: Unity App Store http://u3d.as/content/tasharen-entertainment/ngui-next-gen-ui/2vh

There is a free version to try things out, and supposedly Unity 4.5 (or 4.6) will have much of this built in. Current verison I’m using is Unity3D version 4.3.4

Microsoft Azure – Cloud Storage and Services

Homepage: https://manage.windowsazure.com

Azure SDK: https://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/net/

Almost free to use, and I’m not sure I’ll use it fulltime. I’ve used it in the past for hosting my websites so I don’t have to keep a server running at home. This service is always getting cheaper…

VisualStudio.com – TFS or GIT Source Control / Project Tracking

Homepage: http://www.visualstudio.com

Free for most people and groups of developers less than five.

3D Studio Max 2014 – Autodesk 3D Modelling Software

Homepage: http://www.autodesk.com/products/autodesk-3ds-max/overview

Expensive… Blender is probably one of your best alternatives. I’ve just been using this package for a while, and I’m familiar with it. With Unity, many of the models can also be acquired through the asset store for not too much money depending on what you’re going for.

Adobe Photoshop / Illustrator – Image editing and creation software

Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html?sdid=JTGIQ

There are many alternatives. For me, I consider these the best in their class and continue to use them for game development as well as photography, etc…

Notepad2

Homepage: http://www.flos-freeware.ch/notepad2.html

Free. Great alternative to NotePad. Makes a great basic text editor.

UnityVS

Homepage: http://unityvs.com

I only recently acquired this one. It is not necessary, but it does make the transition between Unity and Visual Studio a bit better. If you’re using the built-in Mono development environment for Unity, you won’t need this.

 

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it.

Getting Started…

I’m always full of ideas and a passion for excellence.  My wife convinced me to write down my journey so as to share it with everyone else.

At first I paused…  I’m really not very good and repetitive things, things that keep me to a schedule, etc…  After several months, I usually lose interest, find something else shiny, or just plain get bored.

That said, as I get older I’m finding it easier to just keep things cool and calm and consistent.  Finding my rhythm in life I guess.

Quick background.  I’ve been working in the computer industry for almost 35 years (hurts to write that).  I’ve developed a multitude of products, ranging from imaging software for small businesses, to multi-billion dollar software for some of the industry giants.

You’d think after all of that, I wouldn’t want to continue programming…  Quite the contrary.  I find programming to be exciting and challenging.  I’m always looking for ways to push my knowledge, explore a new algorithm, or just make something fun.

That’s where this comes in.  I’ve  been taking a break for the last year playing other games instead of programming.  I want to use this opportunity to get back into the thick of things and get the creative juices flowing again.

Almost everywhere in the industry, people are talking cross-platform.  So, I thought I would give it a go outside of work and see where things led me.

Welcome to my journey…