Saturday, November 22, 2014

Using Keynote and Automator for Rapid Screencasting

Automator-based automation in MacOS X 10.10 has a number of important improvements. New Keynote actions for Automator are among them. There are Document Actions (9), Slide Actions (9), Image Actions (2), Chart Actions (1), and Workflow Recipes (6). You can download a Master Installer for these Keynote Actions. There are also a number of Keynote AppleScript commands that can be used.
Among the Document Actions is “Present Slideshow with Narration” which more easily provides the functionality that I described in an earlier post, “
Recording the Self-presenting Presentation.” Thus, rapid screencasting of narrated Keynote presentations is now faster and easier than ever as long as you are OK with choosing only one voice for the entire narration. If not, you’ll need to use the method described in the earlier post if you want to change voices on a slide-by-slide basis. The reason that we’re so interested in screencasting here is that screencasts make excellent instructional videos to include in our eBooks and eTextbooks.
So, how fast is this? The following screencast answers this question better than any number of words.

Download the 1280 X 800 version of this video with a control/right-click
here. Choose “Download linked file as …” naming it “PresentSlideshowWithNarration” or something else that is intuitive for you.

And how easy is this? Here’s a stepwise description of what the set-up process looks like.
Download the example archive. It will have the name “” which you should unpack with a double-click to reveal a folder named, “Narrated-Presentation-Workflow.” The contents of that folder should look like this in list view:

Demo Files

2) Run the installer named “Install” It should let you know exactly what it is about to do and alert you to the fact that this operation will require the approval of an administrative user of that computer.

Install Warning

… followed by a completion message that looks like this:

Install Complete

Note that all the operations cited above are done only once. You will have the capacity of auto narrating any Keynote file containing presenter notes from now on simply by opening a Keynote file that has presenter notes and then selecting “Narrate Frontmost Presentation” from the script menu in MacOS X 10.10 just as depicted in the screencast above.

3) Unpack “” to reveal a folder named “Demo Files” containing a Keynote file named, “Wind Energy in America.key.” We’ll use this to demonstrate how quick and easy this process is once it is installed.

Before turning on your screen recording software (e.g. ScreenFlow), it’s usually a good idea to audition the narration and make any necessary changes to the presenter notes such as adding speech commands (e.g. [[slnc nnn]], and using phonetic misspelling and extra punctuation to achieve a more natural sounding narration.

4) To see how easy this will be in future, simply audition the presentation by opening this demo Keynote slideshow and then selecting “Narrate Frontmost Presentation” from Keynote scripts in the Scripts Menu as follows:

Select  Present From Script Menu

Note that Keynote Scripts are only available when Keynote is frontmost and there is at least one presentation open. Should you wish to change any of the default behaviors of this workflow, simply hold down the Option key while selecting this workflow. This will present the workflow in Automator allowing to to change any or all of the defaults. Here’s how that will appear:

Automator Workflow

Those are the essentials. From this point forward, simply start your screen recording software first and then, with Keynote in the forefront, select the Record Frontmost Presentation from the script menu, sit back, relax and listen to the narrator recite your script. When recording is done, just trim the beginning and end and you are done.

To understand
how this workflow was developed, read all about it on the iworksautomation site. Note the role of commands such as such as [[adv]]. In addition to that, you may also use the techniques described in the earlier post such as phonetic misspelling and the other text-to-speech commands that can make the narrator seem more human. The Apple document, “Techniques for Customizing Synthesized Speech” (2006) is the most complete and recent reference on the subject of improving the realism of synthesized speech that I can find. It was written for API developers, not content developers so you’ll need to read selectively.

In addition to doing screencasts for your own eBooks and eTextbooks, you might also consider student assignments that call for Keynote presentations with presenter notes. Once students have turned those presentations in and let you know which of the many MacOS X voices they prefer, a student authored eBook or eTextbook would be easily assembled from the resulting screencast videos.

1 comment:

  1. All images are missing from your blog.

    Install went OK, but I am getting errors about being unable to find the workflow document.

    Your Keynote presentation is foremost. Using OS 10.10.2