If you’re like I am, you only occasionally need to make a video of what appears on your computer screen to send to co-workers or friends. You also may want to record yourself with your Webcam and a microphone, and include them with picture-in-picture in a corner of the video you’re creating. Perhaps you want to edit your video to insert some graphics or background music. Finally, you want to publish your video on a CD-ROM or to your Web site.
This approach to screen-capture-in-motion has long been a staple of marketing departments for software product demos, and trainer programs. The grandaddy of the screen-movie programs, Lotus ScreenCam, has apparently disappeared from the IBM catalog, and there are not many other products that do the same thing. Fortunately, there's Camtasia, from TechSmith.
Camtasia offers powerful features for capturing and editing screen video and audio, and packages it in an interface that makes those features easy and intuitive to use. If the product weren’t quite so pricey -- it lists for $299 -- I’d urge everyone who doesn’t need all the features of top-tier video-creation tools to pick up a copy.
Camtasia offers an uncluttered interface for editing screen video and audio.
Click on Picture to Enlarge
The publisher, TechSmith, delivers on its promise that you don’t need to be a multimedia whiz to create compelling videos. TechSmith will even sell you a quality Webcam or microphone if you don’t have them already.
Using Camtasia is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Record what’s on your screen and, optionally, what’s being captured by your Webcam and microphone.
- Edit your video, including deleting any unnecessary elements, adjusting the timeline, and inserting callouts. You also can turn your video from a passive document into an interactive experience for your users by inserting clickable Macromedia Flash hot spots.
- Publish your final video.
You can save your video in several file formats, including AVI, Macromedia Flash (SWF), Macromedia Flash Video (FLV), Windows Media (WMV), Quick Time (MOV), RealNetworks (RM), a stand-alone executable (EXE) file, and animated GIF.
Camtasia lets you publish your video to a Web site or a CD-ROM, complete with operating menus. (The menus needn’t necessarily limit themselves to your videos. You can also give users access to other documents, such as Microsoft Word files.) While the program won't burn your file to a CD or DVD, it will save files in formats that can be used by third-party disk-creation software.
A few uses for Camtasia: With a Webcam you can use Camtasia to shoot video letters for friends and relatives. with its picture-in-picture feature you can run a Powerpoint presentation or a software demonstration and add your own commentary -- and edit the audio and video, which was hard to do with Lotus ScreenCam. With the Macromedia Flash support you can make your videos interactive, a great feature for improving software training.
Camtasia isn't a high-end package for editing your home movies or corporate videos. And it's only for Windows -- there isn't a Macintosh version. But inside those limitations there is still a world of opportunity for applying your imagination to screen-capture video.
Camtasia Studio 3
Summary: Camtasia offers powerful features for capturing and editing screen video and audio, and packages it in an interface that makes those features easy and intuitive to use.
J.W. Olsen has been a full-time technology author, columnist, editor, and freelance book project manager with more than 1000 editorial credits since 1990, and has provided computer, Web site, and editorial services to other clients since 1985. He welcomes feedback via the response form at www.jwolsen.com.