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Using the Wacom Companion for Creating Lecture Videos

By: Mich Donovan

For as long as we’ve been creating video lectures for the Online Courses project technology has been as much of a challenge as it has been a solution. From connecting all the different devices and cords and adapters, to operating the software, the DIY approach is not always the most intuitive or efficient. With that in mind, I wanted to see how much technology I could cut out of our standard process and still make a good video.

Wacom Companion

Cue the Wacom Companion. It’s a PC and a pen/touch tablet in one. Nearly identical in design to the Cintiq 13HD included in the kits, the tablet is the top of line for its kind. It’s weight (3.9 pounds) is probably a bit too heavy to hold for the duration of a classroom lecture, but it is no heavier than an average laptop and is just as convenient to travel with. The tablet itself works just like a normal PC, with USB and display ports, headphone jack, and Bluetooth for those who’d prefer to use a physical keyboard (if you plan on using this tablet as work PC, a physical keyboard is essential).

Since the tablet is a PC running Windows 8, it took me some time to adjust from my long-standing Mac background. However, between the use of Camtasia instead of Screenflow (a Mac only software) as well as the native PC version of Powerpoint, I found the actual process of recording to be streamlined. Camtasia and Screenflow are actually quite similar but the real benefit is the integrated pen tool of Powerpoint. As you change slides, the annotations are saved if you go back to them. The annotations can be individually erased rather than entirely. And best of all, turning the Wacom pen around to use the “eraser” naturally erases the pen marks on the screen.

Using the pen as an everyday mouse, which can take some getting used to, is a great way to navigate through software and puts much less stress on the hand over time than a mouse. The screen only responds to the pen’s touch so you can comfortably rest your wrist on the device without worrying about unwanted interaction.

More than anything else, the pen’s ease of use is why you’d invest in this tablet. By cutting out accessories like a webcam, tripod, light, etc., you’re restricting yourself to a certain type of lecture. The tablet-only approach really only works best with annotation-heavy lectures, or white-board lectures like Khan Academy. If you plug in a webcam to capture video for a PiP lecture, you’re partly defeating the purpose of this accessory-free process. Even then, maintaining eye contact with the camera is particularly difficult because the content is now further away from the camera lens rather than directly beneath it.

At a total of $2,427 it is simply more expensive to create the same lecture using the Companion than it is the normal kit. This is mostly due to Camtasia Studio being about three times as expensive as Screenflow. You’d be spending more to do less but better and more efficiently. The Companion is primarily designed for graphic designers who need a lot of control in the pen’s utility and most of that control goes to waste for the primitive uses of recording annotated Powerpoint lectures. While not yet evaluated for this purpose, a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 could probably achieve the same result at a lower cost.

However, for those in market to take their graphic design on the go, the Companion is a great product. Its a bit liberating to get the full functionality of the Cintiq while not being tethered to an outlet or desk. I just wish I had more excuses to use it that way.


  1. Hi there. I have a Cintiq Companion and I have been trying to make videos with Audio (for tutorials) and the Audio is just horrible because of the fan. Do you know if there is a way to have an external microphone or something? I don’t see a port for adding a mic. Thanks!

    1. Hi – thanks for your post. We connected our usual USB logitech webcam and Blue Snowflake microphone for use
      with Camtasia – worked fine. Those are generally better than microphones that use audio inputs.

    1. Excellent video! I like your use of the highlighting tool to bring attention to certain parts of the screen. While your handwriting is clear and legible, you might want to consider either writing a bit larger or zooming the screen some in Camtasia Studio. We find a lot of our viewers watch videos on smartphones where the screens are quite small. Additionally, you might consider using a PowerPoint in “widescreen” mode versus “standard” – this would get rid of the empty space on the either side of the video and give you more room to write.

      1. Thank you for your tips. I can definitely try zooming the screen in camstasia.

        I agree with your point of using widescreen instead of standard mode. We started with standard mode. Now we are using widescreen.

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