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How I Make The Hacking Illustrated Videos (CamStudio 2.0 and other software)

How I Make The Hacking Illustrated Videos

     Folks ask me every now and then how I create the Hacking Illustrated videos on my website. All of the software I use is Open Source with one exception (Flash MX). Here I'll provide links to help others do similar videos to mine. If you make any give me a yell, I'd be interested in seeing them. Also I may be interested in hosting them. I'm always looking of quality content to post. To aid it that endeavor I'll also give you tips on what I think makes for a better video tutorial. If your don't have all of the tools listed, feel free to just send me the video and main narration and I can put it in the Flash template.

CamStudio

        The first tool I use is CamStudio from RenderSoft. It's a piece of Windows software that lets you make videos of what's happening on the screen. It use to be completely Open Source but has since gone commercial (I think it's called RoboDemo now and is owned by Macromedia/Adobe). CamStudio 2.0 seems to be the last Open Source version, you can download the compiled software and the source code from my site:

CamStudio 2.0 Binaries

CamStudio 2.0 Source Code

        While you are at it you may want to get the lossless codecs that were made for CamStudio, they are great for screen capture videos:

CamStudio 2.0 Codecs

        If you decide to take the code and continue development please let me know. CamStudio can save videos out as Flash files or AVI, since I import my videos into Flash 2004 MX and have had memory problems with imported SWF files I usually set CamStudio to export as an AVI. My normal settings export using the CamStudio lossless codec and set it to capture at a frame rate of five frames per sec.
 

        An important thing to keep in mind when doing your video capture is screen size. You want to make a video that does not take up a lot of screen space, and is relatively small for downloading, but that is still readable. I'll cover that in the next sections.

Squint

        Since I want to make my videos as small as possible, and have them viewable at most resolutions the web browser may be running in, I try to capture at a resolution 0f 640x480. XP/Vista won't always let you set the screen resolution that low (depends on what monitor and video card you are using), so I use a VB app I wrote called Squint to set it the screen resolution to 640x480:

Squint Binary

Sometimes you don't have a choice, and have to capture in at least 800x600 to fit in everything in a GUI's window. In those cases I use VirtualDub to shrink the video down to 640x480, which I will cover later.

Audacity

        To me, narration is a must. I see a lot of video tutorials that are just screen captures with little information about that is actually happening. Doing a voice over let's you explain things much better that video and text boxes alone. I capture and edit all of my sound in Audacity. You can download it from the following site:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

My biggest tip with Audacity is to use the noise filter, and export to lossless wav file to import into your other tools. Hard drive space is getting cheaper all the time, and I've noticed that the sound quality is MUCH better if I don't compress the sound into mp3 before compressing it yet again when I make my SWF file.

VNC and VMWare

        In case you are wondering how I capture Linux or Mac OS screen videos with CamStudio here's how. For most Operating Systems I can export the display using VNC for the target platform then connect to it from a Windows client. Then all that I need to do is capture what's showing on the Windows VNC client with CamStudio. You can find VNC for all sorts of platforms here:

http://www.tightvnc.com/download.html

A better alternative, and one I find myself using more often now, is VMware. VMware let's you run another operating system in a virtual machine as a guest OS while your host machine runs the CamStudio capture tool. I've covered VMware in many of my other articles/videos so search around. You can use either VMware Player, or VMware server, both of which are free and can be downloaded from:

http://www.vmware.com/products/free_virtualization.html

VirtualDub

        If I have to edit the AVIs I make with CamStudio I use VirtualDub. You can download it from:

http://www.virtualdub.org/

The main things I use it for are as follows:

1. Trimming out sections of video when it is too long.

2. Adding extra frames by cutting and pasting the same frames over and over. It's hard to make sure you have just enough time in the video capture to say what you need to say in the narration.  By trimming a few frames here, or pasting a few frames there you can make the video just the length you need for the audio portion.

3. Shrinking the video down to size. As stated before, I like my videos to come out as 640x480 so they fit nicely on the page and are quick to download, but sometimes that's just not enough space to fit in all of the GUI elements in some interfaces. In VirtualDub you can use the resize filter to make the videos resolution smaller. The trick is to set the mode to "Precise bicubic (A =-0.60)" which makes the on screen text in the video far more readable than if you used "Nearest neighbor".

 

Flash MX 2004

        This is the only piece of commercial software that I regularly use to make my videos. You can buy it from Macromedia/Adobe:

http://www.macromedia.com/

I use the older 2004 version because it does everything I need.

 

That about it, hope it helps some of you to make informative videos. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll update this site.

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