Camtasia: Slick Screencasts in No Time

A few weeks ago I reviewed ScreenFlow, a superb app that’s marked out as one of the best screencasting apps available. Today I’m going to review the other app that stands out as one of the best, Camtasia 2.

Camtasia is more well-known as a powerful screencasting app for the PC, but Camtasia for Mac is its almost fully featured counterpart built to run seamlessly on OS X. If you’re looking for a professional screencasting app, hopefully I can help you choose the right one for you.

Let’s take a look at Camtasia!

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Dealing with Prejudice

I’m going to get this out of the way right now, sometimes it’s difficult to give an app a fair hearing when something about its design doesn’t match your expectations. Camtasia is a well-designed app that happens to have a strong Windows aesthetic, it doesn’t look especially at home in OS X but that’s perhaps more to do with my preconceived notions of what a Mac app should look like than anything else.

Nonetheless, Camtasia is powerful professional app that deserves a blank slate, so here it is!

Editing a screencast in Camtasia.

Recording

The one thing that does strike you when you open up Camtasia for the first time is how simply intuitive the initial screencasting menu is. It very quickly allows you to set exactly what you want to record, giving you a handy drop-down that offers you standard size options and the option to select a Custom Region.

Tip – Camtasia also allows you to record video from a camera simultaneously, be that a built-in FaceTime HD camera or a more professional external camera you have connected.

Camtasia’s recording menu, it couldn’t be easier!

The audio options for recording a screencast with Camtasia are also intuitive to set up, it quickly recognises when you have a microphone connected via USB and offers a neat drop-down to switch between the built-in microphone and any external microphone. In addition, Camtasia gives you the option to record the system audio, either on its own or alongside the microphone. This is extremely useful for certain types of screencasting where hearing the computer audio makes everything that much easier to understand — such as a screencast that takes you through using reverb in Pro Tools.

You do need to install a small plug-in to set up recording system audio, but that’s par for the course.

Once you’ve set your options, recording a screencast with Camtasia is a simple as hitting record and waiting tentatively for the countdown to expire. To finish a recording you can simply hit Stop Recording in the menubar drop-down or use the keyboard shortcut (of which there are many, I know you’ll be pleased to hear).

Editing

Much like in most screencasting apps I’ve tested, once you finish recording the edit window immediately jumps open with your screencast ready to be tinkered with. At first launch it shows you some options for getting started and how to access any help you may need — a useful touch.

Camtasia’s helpful help menu.

The Edit window is reasonably intuitive and will look familiar to anyone who has used a video editing program before. There is a plethora of options and features available to help you make the slickest screencast possible; from basic editing of the clip itself and adjusting the volume level, to adding transitions, animations, and FX.

As in ScreenFlow, use Ripple Delete (Command+Delete) to remove sections and bring the remaining sections together.

One thing that I immediately noticed was just how light Camtasia appeared to be on audio options, until I realised that you can simply drag and drop the processes you want from the Audio FX menu onto the audio track to give you more control. This works for Video, Audio, and Cursor FX, simply drag and drop the desired effect onto your clip and edit the details in the right-hand panel. The processes you can add to the audio track include:

  • Clicking Reduction
  • Clipping Reduction
  • Dynamics Processor
  • Noise Reduction
  • Pitch
  • Lower Volume
  • Raise Volume

These allow you to easily increase the professionalism of any screencast, audio is often vastly under-edited but it makes a huge difference to the end result.

Using the Audio FX in Camtasia.

In addition to Audio FX there is also a decent range of Video FX, such as:

  • Colour Adjustment
  • Colorize
  • Device Frame
  • Drop Shadow
  • Glow
  • Mask
  • Reflection
  • Sepia
  • Remove a Color
  • Spotlight
  • Window Spotlight

Effects such as Window Spotlight allow you to easily add focus to the window you are currently using and avoid viewer distraction.

Using Camtasia’s Video FX.

As with all good screencasting software, Camtasia also comes stocked with some Cursor FX to highlight exactly what you are doing throughout the screencast. These are particularly helpful when you’re moving quickly or teaching technical aspects of an application. Camtasia includes Cursor Highlight, Cursor Magnify, and Cursor Spotlight.

In addition to the cursor effects, you can also add effects for different mouse clicks in order to differentiate them for the viewer.

Camtasia for Mac is an excellent application that allows you to make professional screencasts with relative ease. The selection of effects and processes is good, while the options for recording cover every possible need. It could use a little more polish on the interface, but as a practical tool for making screencasts, Camtasia is a great choice!

Camtasia vs ScreenFlow

So you’re in the market for a screencasting application for the Mac and you want it to be professional? I’ve got two options for you; Camtasia for Mac 2 and ScreenFlow 4.

Here’s the difficult part, deciding which one is right for you.

Price

Let’s start with price, seeing as that’s high on anyone’s list. Neither of these apps are cheap, but what do you expect from professional tools? Both Camtasia and ScreenFlow are pretty evenly matched on price, currently retailing in the Mac App Store at exactly the same price.

Functionality

Both apps have a wealth of functionality, and are perfectly matched on what they allow you to record – they’ve got everything covered. As for editing options, both offer some depth but I believe that ScreenFlow has the edge. Still, they both offer extremely useful editing features such as chroma keying and large selections of callout and cursor effects.

Design

Camtasia and ScreenFlow are both very intuitive and have manageable learning curves. If I had to decide between them I would probably say that I prefer ScreenFlow’s design, mostly due to the fact that Camtasia uses both a left and right sidebar where ScreenFlow uses just one (on the left) — I like ScreenFlow’s efficiency!

Overall I’m left with the feeling that Camtasia for Mac 2 just isn’t quite as polished as ScreenFlow 4.


Summary

Camtasia for Mac is an excellent application that allows you to make professional screencasts with relative ease. The selection of effects and processes is good, while the options for recording cover every possible need.

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  • AchrafL

    Used Screenflow for a while, Camtasia seems awesome.
    Hope to win this to give it a try ! :D

  • http://basementjack.com Jack

    Just my 2 cents.

    I own both ScreenFlow 4.0.1 and Camtasia 2.3. I use them for doing training videos at work – I don’t consider myself a pro, but I have spent a fair amount of time in them.

    First, I think both are great products and at this time, both lack a few features, meaning there really isn’t a 10/10 product.

    Overall, I’m strongly leaning towards Camtasia as the better product.

    Screenflow’s UI is confusing at times, for example try adding a video action and setting the scale, then move the playhead out of the video action and set the scale again – and pay attention to what is selected when you make changes and observe the results – it’s not very mac like.

    Screenflow’s marker system isn’t nearly as good as Camtasia – in Camtasia, you can add a marker to media – this is great because if you need to slide your whole production back by 30s to add an introduction, the media based makers in Camtasia will slide with it. (Camtasia can also use those makers as a table of content for some exported file types)

    There’s more that I like about Camtasia, but it’s not perfect, In screen flow 4′s favor (vs Camtasia 2.3) are that Screenflow lets you hear audio when scrubbing which is great when editing. And ScreenFlow has a feature to blank out the desktop when recording which is great for hiding icon clutter. Screenflow also has an option to export to vimeo directly, whereas Camtasia doesn’t and instead includes an option to share to screencast.com.

    One feature both programs lack: the ability to do synchronized voiceovers (iMovie has this feature) – both tools let you record an audio only track, but its not synchronized with the video, you have to do that yourself.

    Lastly and this might be the deal breaker:
    Camtasia seems to be more efficient when recording –
    I did what I call a window drag test –
    recording full screen on my 1680×1050 display, and moving a window up and down following a U path.
    Camtasia was the winner – peaking at about 30% CPU
    ScreenFlow peaked at around 50%
    (By comparison, the free screen recording that you get with Quicktime peaked at 117%!)

    So if you need to keep that CPU low to avoid having fan noise get into your recording, Camtasia is the clear winner.

    Upgrades:
    One last tip – both of these programs are seeing very rapid updates – Buy these direct from the manufacturer and not from the apple App Store! That way you’ll be eligible for upgrade pricing when a new version comes out.

    I have paid for one upgrade with Camtasia from V1 to V2 at $50
    I have paid for two upgrades with Screenflow at $30 each.
    So the Camtasia upgrades are a bit more, but they seem to pack more into each paid upgrade.

    I hope this helps!

  • Michael

    Thanks for the comparison Jack.

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