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Review: TechSmith Camtasia 9

Camtasia remains an indispensable tool for screencam producers. As an editor, it's ideal for beginners and even pros seeking to quickly produce simpler, business-oriented features that benefit from Camtasia's attention-grabbing effects.

TechSmith Camtasia has two components, a screen capture application and a video editor, both available on the Windows and Mac platforms. The screen capture application is ideal for all users, even those who edit the captured screencam footage in other editors. Over the past few versions, the Camtasia video editor has evolved into a highly usable tool that’s well complemented with animated backgrounds, motion graphics, icons, and music that make it easy to create engaging videos, even for projects that aren’t screencam-based. Anyone producing screencams should evaluate the latest update, version 9, and wannabe video producers seeking a simple video editor should also have a look.

In this review, I’ll run through the capture and editing applications, pointing out the highlights and potholes to avoid. Let’s start with screen capture.

Screen Capture App

When you run Camtasia, you start in the editor. Press the record button on the upper left to run the capture application. Most screen capture applications work similarly: you define the portion of the screen to capture, the capture format, and frame rate, as well as other capture elements such as audio and webcams, and off you go. Figure 1 (below) shows the Mac version of the capture app, with inputs shown on the left and configuration options on the right.

Figure 1. The Camtasia screen capture app. Click the image to see it at full size.

On the Mac, your only capture option is a .trec file, which is TechSmith’s proprietary format that maintains all pointer-related and captured audio and video separately so they all can be manipulated directly in the Camtasia editor. These files import directly into the Camtasia editor, but not most video editors. If you’re capturing for editing in another video editor, input the captured .trec file into the Camtasia editor and output an MP4 file. While it takes a moment or two, at sufficiently high data rates, the quality is indistinguishable from the original.

In Windows, you can capture either a .trec file or an AVI file which will load directly into most editors. Unlike the .trec file, however, the AVI file doesn’t capture pointer-related data, can’t include webcam input, and mixes all audio into a single audio file. So capture AVI only if you don’t plan on editing in Camtasia at all.

Let’s have a quick look at Figure 1. Each box on the left represents an input. On the extreme left is the screencam capture, currently set to 1920x1080. One outstanding feature in the Windows version is the ability to lock the capture size to the application. This snaps the application window to the exact size of the capture window, which eliminates borders at the edge of the capture window, or cutting off some of the application.

On the Mac version of Camtasia, you can capture the screen from iOS devices attached to your Mac. Otherwise, to capture Android screens on a Mac, or iOS/Android screens on a Windows computer, you’ll need a reflector app that transmits the mobile screen to the desktop. This TechSmith tutorial describes your options.

The second box from the left in Figure 1 shows the webcam capture. Webcam footage is captured as a movable, independently editable file distinct from the screencam capture. In terms of audio, the two boxes on the right of the capture bar are for audio, one for a microphone attached to the system, the other for system audio, both of which you can enable or disable, and control volume.

Push the Start Recording button to start the capture. You can pause and resume using simple keystroke commands in both versions; on Windows, when you resume, the application restores the pointer to its position when you paused, a great feature that eliminates pointer jump. On the Mac, you must manually reposition the pointer when you resume capture. In both applications, once you click stop, the captured video automatically loads into the media section of the editor.