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Screen Recorders for Streaming

This week, we'll begin a look at two leading screen recording packages: TechSmith's Camtasia and OPTx International's Screenwatch. Screen recorders are not a new idea. After all, Lotus ScreenCam was released way back in 1993--almost prehistoric, in the PC software world. What makes these products most different from their predecessors is their awareness of Web delivery formats.

In a bandwidth-constrained world, compressing a view of the computer display with a standard video codec will have one of two results: either pretty but bandwidth-hogging video files, or bandwidth-friendly files that resemble reading the crumpled papers you find in the dryer after doing a load of wash. The makers of both Screenwatch and Camtasia have developed special screen capture codecs to solve this problem. These codecs do a remarkable job of perfectly reproducing the computer screen image at very low bitrates – usually with no visible artifacts whatsoever.

Let's take a look at some of the basic functions the two products have in common. Each will let you capture the whole screen or a portion of it. The captured video depicts everything that takes place on the computer screen. Both products provide tools for highlighting or drawing attention to activity that's taking place on-screen. You'll be able to combine your screen movies with audio narration to go along with your slides or demonstration. The resulting presentations can be delivered in, at minimum, either the Windows Media player or RealPlayer.

Beyond that, there's a lot that's different between the two products. Camtasia looks and feels like a fairly traditional video production tool. Import of video clips and images, timeline-based editing, and copious export formats make it a great tool for the tech-savvy media creator. After you're done recording, you can lay in a voice over track, add zoom or highlight effects to your screen recording, and even add other images or videos to the presentation.

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