Four Captivate Tips
“In general, shorter is better. If you can encapsulate your idea into a single captivating sentence, you’re halfway home.” ~ Len Wein
I always have appreciated the writing of Len Wein. He was a comic book writer and co-created one of my favorite characters, Swamp Thing. Many people know the most popular superheroes, such as Superman, Spider-Man, and Captain America, but not as many are familiar with Swamp Thing. Created in 1971 and eventually adapted into two movies and two short-lived television series, Swamp Thing tells the tale of a scientist who invents a bio-restorative formula. After getting attacked and nearly blown up, he’s transformed into the Swamp Thing, who defends the swamp and the local residents.
Swamp Thing can be described as grumpy, crabby, and short-tempered (he reminds me of my Grandpa Schirmacher, who was fun but a bit crotchety at times). Similarly, Adobe Captivate — one of my favorite tools — shares these traits.
Captivate can be a great tool for creating e-learning courses, but it has its own way of doing things. If you do things its way, Captivate is quite helpful and is a good piece of software. If you go against the flow, it can be downright irritating. To help you follow “The Way of Captivate” and have a successful Captivate e-learning project, I have four tips for you.
Tip 1: Create animations in an animation tool before importing into Captivate.
If you have a complicated animation sequence you want to include in your e-learning course, it can be time consuming and challenging to create it in Captivate. While Captivate does support some animations, it’s much easier to create these in a separate tool and import them into Captivate. In fact, Adobe Animate makes this easy; you can publish the animation in a format known as OAM and then easily import it into Captivate. Adobe has a great source to learn more about publishing Adobe Animate projects to OAM.
Tip 2: Be careful when removing linked PowerPoint slides.
Captivate allows you to import PowerPoint slides into Captivate and keep them linked, which allows you to make changes in PowerPoint and then update the Captivate file. However, don’t remove the PowerPoint slides (unless you really don’t need them in your project anymore) because doing so will confuse Captivate, and you’ll end up with blank slides in your Captivate file and need to redo your work.
Tip 3: Choose your size wisely.
Before starting your Captivate project, be sure to choose the project dimensions wisely. If you’re importing PowerPoint slides as a starting point, choose a width and height in Captivate that’s compatible with the PowerPoint file. When in doubt, choose the “From PowerPoint” option when creating a new project, and Captivate will do the work of determining what size is best.
If you have an existing project and want to import your slides into it, Captivate will do this, but the results may not be as good as you had hoped. Follow the steps below to help Captivate import the slides.
- Note your Captivate project size (select Modify > Rescale Project to determine the project’s height and width in pixels).
- Use an online calculator (such as Pixel Converter) to convert the pixels of your project’s height and width to inches. If asked for DPI or PPI, use 96 for a standard Windows display.
- Open the PowerPoint file and select the Design tab. Click Slide Size > Custom Slide Size and enter the calculated width and height. Check your presentation to make sure everything appears correct, and make any adjustments to fonts and objects as needed. Next, save a copy of your file (so you have the original to fall back on just in case).
- You can now import your PowerPoint file. Be sure import the resized copy.
Tip 4: Downsize your assets to increase productivity.
Captivate source files can become quite large and as such, are slower to open, save, and even publish. To help Captivate “reduce the bloat,” compress your media before adding them to your project.
For audio files, save them as MP3s in an audio editor, such as Adobe Audition or Audacity. When choosing the MP3 settings, compressing the files into a constant bit rate of 64 kbps is a good all-purpose setting that will work for most projects.
For images, use a program, such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP, to reduce image sizes. For most images, adjust the DPI to 72 and change the height and width to match that used in your project. Export images as JPG or PNG. Refer to TechSmith if you want to learn more about these formats.
For videos, compress them as much as you can while still maintaining the desired quality and appearance. For most videos (except ones that started life on a VHS tape), you can encode them at 800 kbps for video and 64 kbps for audio. Older videos, such as the afore mentioned VHS, require special handling. Ask your creative/tech team for help in finding the right balance of quality versus size.
There you have it. Four tips to improve your work in Adobe Captivate. It can be a great tool for creating e-learning. Play nice with it, and you will go far. Make it angry… and you may find yourself in the swamp staring at a large, green, and angry Swamp Thing.
LT2: Let’s Talk Learning Technology, Episode 6: Advanced Captivate Tips and Tricks
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