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Video Grabbing: A super solution for tech training

After a month off from my latest contract, I’ve had some time to consider the most important innovation that came from the completed work. The contract was with a global manufacturer of a very technical product line which requires field upgrades of both hardware and software components. My charge was to develop new methodology that leaned more on video in order to produce effective technical training with a minimum of traditional ILT components.

My Two Challenges

  1. The company had just acquired, through a joint venture agreement, a new POS system designed for global use. I was tasked to develop eLearning modules in Adobe Captivate 8 to support training for customer staff and systems installers.
  2. Our Help Desk department needed some modules showing how to do a full software upgrade in the field beginning with changes to the BIOS all the way through to application installation and configuration.

As it turned out, the answer to #2 above also pointed to the solution for #1. It always makes me smile when one germ of an idea morphs into multi-solutions Smile

What’s a video grabber?

After my Help Desk teammate and I finished the 1st module showing the DL steps needed to support the software upgrade,

Mark said. “I think we need a VGA interface”

“A what?

“A device that captures the server side screen without the need to load any software on the server.”

This concept was new to me, but with a little Googling, I found some cable splitters on Amazon and sent the specs to Mark. He replied with a negative, we needed a smarter device. With a more precise Google search, I found  http://www.epiphan.com/products/dvi2usb-3-0/ a very nice device that would take either VGA or DVI inputs and convert them to USB 3.0 for input to a another computer’s secondary monitor.

DVI2USB3

After a little experimentation and several calls to Tech Support we determined that my #1 issue needed a video splitter (triplite) with 2 cables so I could push the rectangular POS screen to my large monitor in order to make very realistic video captures. Once set up, the POS screen was a perfect replica on my capture monitor.

For Issue #2, we only used the VGA to DVI cable. These techniques were OK, but the captures were large AVI files in both cases

Enter Snagit

Snagit has been my fav quick image capture tool for years, but version 11 has some nice video capture enhancements.

  • Easy to set and recall precise x y screen coordinates for repeated captures
  • Mic control
  • Pause/Rec Control
  • MP4 output

Now we had a complete and robust solution for both tech training issues.

  1. For the POS captures, we used Snagit over the video grabbed, capture screens for both live video and screen shot recordings. Using the mouse to move the POS pointer but viewing the action on the larger monitor proved the easiest way to make smooth captures. For some modules, we extracted frames for the transaction steps, on others we took more precise screen shots
  2. The the System upgrades, we used the SMEs SOW (Statement of work) outline with the SME talking the installers through the complete process from end to end. The video grabber has a setting that lets the capture monitor display a constant resolution for clearer viewing. We also used some video editing to stretch the timeline when the screen moved faster than the SME’s commentary

Once we completed the primary captures, we then blended the videos into:

  1. A series of Captivate 8 modules with SCORM compliant tracking on our LMS
  2. Video only demos with no interactions on our Vimeo Pro Act
  3. Inserts in to VILT modules done partly live by our head trainer

Deliverable scramble time

As is often the case, we ended the project with a rather mad scramble to produce a number of video training and eLearning modules to support the product release. With minimal additional training three more developers besides me were able to utilize this methodology and we made the deliverable date with quality work products.

Copyright © 2013-2014 Edward Martino, PhD. All Rights Reserved.