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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.

Editing

Figure 2 (below) shows the editor, with the Record button on the upper left. As you can see, the editor has four main windows, dominated by the preview window in the middle and timeline on the bottom. On the left are the media and effect bins, with the media bin open and showing some of the motion graphics effects that ship with the program. On the right is a Properties window for configuring clips and effects in the timeline. For example, the lower-third title in the timeline was selected for the screenshot. You see two categories of configurations on the right, visual properties, accessed by clicking the film icon on top of the window, and text effects, reached by clicking the lowercase “a.” All visual properties can also be directly manipulated by moving and resizing the clip or effect in the preview window, with alignment and positioning guides simplifying the task.

Figure 2. The Camtasia video editor. Click the image to see it at full size.

You build your project by dragging clips and effects onto the various tracks in the timeline, with most operations simple and intuitive. To trim the start or end of a clip, you drag either end to the desired location. Or, you can drag the pointer to the desired start or stop point, and split the clip, either using keystroke commands (S in Windows, Command-T on the Mac) or via the split icon located in the small icon bar on the upper left of the timeline.

The editor does a nice job keeping things simple. For example, videos with audio are presented on one track in the timeline, though you can access either track via its properties window, or separate them via right-click commands. Similarly, many motion graphics effects have multiple layers but are still presented as a single media element. You can access any element by clicking the clip, or separate all elements of the group by clicking the + sign within the group. As in most timeline editors, you can zoom into the timeline to edit a single asset or zoom out to see the big picture via the -/+ slider bar on the top left of the timeline.

You can preview your project at any time by clicking the player controls in the Preview window, or by pressing the spacebar. You can move forward frame by frame by pressing the period (.) key, and backward via the comma (,) key. Though these controls are useful, I prefer the much more intuitive (and more commonly used) arrow keys. This minor grumble aside, overall, it’s an interface that most users will quickly be able to master.

With this as background, let’s explore the media elements and effects included with the program working from the Media bin down to captions.

Media Elements and Effects

The media bin contains all content that ships with the program (Windows only) or that you’ve downloaded and separately imported (Mac). As mentioned earlier in this review, TechSmith provides a lot of free downloadable content to add to your projects, including animated backgrounds, icons (shown in Figure 3, below), motion graphics, and music, with access to partners who can provide additional media libraries for a fee. These elements add significant polish and help retain viewer interest, particularly for the short, business-oriented training and communications videos Camtasia is designed to produce.

Figure 3. Free content for downloading. Click the image to see it at full size.

Operationally, within the media bin you can present the content using text names or thumbnail images, and you can click any piece of content to open it in a preview window. You can only trim in the timeline, however, not in the preview window, which would have been nice; just in the timeline.

Moving down the panel on the left, annotations include traditional text titles, available in a range of backgrounds such as squares, circles, and speech bubbles, with complete flexibility regarding size, color, and positioning. TechSmith also includes lines, arrows, and connectors; simple shapes; blur, pixelate, and highlight effects; sketch motion effects; and a keyboard shortcut creator that you can customize for any combination of keystrokes. Like the media content, these elements add significant value to the program.

The editor includes a good range of transitions, which are easy to apply. Just click to select one, and drag it into the timeline, and the editor highlights each media element to which you can apply the effect, which includes all video clips, titles, and the like. When you drag and release a transition onto a clip, it’s applied to the beginning and end of the clip, which his helpful, and you can set the duration of either transition by dragging its edges within the clip.