Updated: December 24, 2008
This article is the unofficial fourth part of the three-article saga on how to work with multimedia files. Call it a bonus if you will.
In the three original articles, we have learned a ton of stuff: We worked with Flash files; we learned how to download them and play them on the local machine, convert them to other formats, extract audio from them, and more. Next, we worked with video files; we had them split and joined and converted to other formats, we changed their format, bitrate and compression, fixed discrepancies, and recorded movies. In the last article, we manipulated audio files; we had them converted, split, joined, tagged, and mixed, we changed their gain and we recorded tracks.
Today, we'll learn how to create impressive, captivating animated screencast-like presentations that will help you deliver your ideas in a unique, highly professional manner.
What is Wink?
As said, Wink is a tutorial and presentation creation software. It allows you to capture screenshots of the actions you take on the desktop, wrap them into an animation and export as beautiful, classy Flash, PDF or even executable packages.
Furthermore, you can also place navigation buttons, decorations and comments to your presentation slides, adding depth and style to your work. Wink is an ideal solution for creating small-size, high-quality presentation. Now, before you plunge in, you may want to read the first three article ... first. Here they are:
Now, let's play with Wink.
Wink exists for both Windows and Linux (32-bit only so far). Popular Linux distributions will have it included in the repositories. Windows users will have to download the software from the official site.
Working with Wink
Wink is quite simple to use, still a short how-to should help you get started quickly.
The first step is to define the capture area. You can select an active window, the entire screen or rectangular areas (including several templates and custom sizes). You can also use the mouse pointer to define the left upper corner for the selected capture area.
The next step is to define the Hotkeys for capturing snapshots. Screen snapshots are simple screenshots of the selected area. Timed captures are movies - continuous snapshots - taken at the Capture Rate you defined earlier.
There is no need to use high numbers (like 24 frames/second) as if you were creating actual movies. Wink is smart enough to interpolate the changes, especially those of the mouse cursor, between successive snapshots, allowing you to reduce the size of your output while still gaining the smooth motion you desire.
To begin your project, click Minimize to Tray. Now, use the Hotkeys to create your snapshots. You can also right-click on the minimized icon. Capture Now will take a single snapshot. Start Time Capture will start a "movie" capture.
Once you're done, click Finish Capture to end the session.
In the Wink project window, your newly created snapshots will be displayed, in a filmroll. You can shuffle the frames, delete certain frames or add decorations, including Next, Previous or Goto buttons.
Once you're satisfied, it's time to export the project into a beautiful presentation. Click on the Render button (green arrow) to export the slides. Your best choice is Macromedia Flash (.swf).
Use the Frame Rate and Cursor Movement to adjust the final output size and the smoothness of the animated mouse motions. The defaults are quite reasonable. In any case, you probably do not need anything above 24 frames/second, because the human eye can't see it. Wink will not only create the Flash file for you, it will render a web page, with the embedded object, complete with a stylish Play/Pause button and a progress bar. What more could you possibly want.
Other output formats
You may also want to create PDF files, to be used as printed manuals.
You can adorn your slides with buttons and comments, adding depth to your work. Wink allows you quite a bit of fine detail when it comes to decorations. You'll be able to play with fonts, colors, text box shapes and sizes, timing, and more.
While you can get instant (and good) productivity in seconds, spending an extra minute or two polishing your projects can really enhance their quality and final looks.
Extras (Windows version only)
The Windows version of Wink also offers some functions that are not (yet) present in the Linux version. For example, you can also record audio and use the mouse click to capture snapshots.
In Windows, you can also save uncompressed SWF. For more information, please refer to the official documentation.
Wink is a highly useful tool. It's free, cross-platform and simple to use. It will create classy, high-quality presentations that you can use for promotional or educational purposes. And while all your peers fumble with semi-ready, 100MB PowerPoint presentations, you deliver a thunderball inside your browser. Definitely a keeper.
This concludes the fourth part of the "Working with multimedia files" saga ... I still owe you a tutorial on how to add subtitles to movies, but that's part five. There might be even part six or part seven ... Who knows? I still have a few more surprises up my sleeve.
If you have ideas or requests that concern multimedia files, feel free to email me. If you convince me, I might bake yet another tutorial.