REVIEW: Camtasia Studio 7.1

Camtasia

TechSmith is one of the world’s leading providers of screen capture and screen recording software—thanks largely to Snagit (£38.95), software that lets users take a “snapshot” of anything on their PC screen.

Camtasia Studio 7.1 (£230) is a different kettle of fish, allowing users to record anything moving on their Windows or Mac computer screen—including audio and live Web camera feeds. Designed for businesses needing to create presentations, demonstrations and marketing videos in HD-quality video to reach audiences online or on portable media devices, Camtasia Studio 7.1 is the ideal program for the job.

Features

Camtasia Studio 7.1 lets users create fantastic videos at a small file size, making it perfect for creating HD-quality videos that playback smoothly online in Flash, on an iPhone, or on YouTube. The latest version also streamlines its video-editing wizardry to significantly reduce the time the software takes to create content. And TechSmith has even found time to provide a lot more control over the editing of audio and video so that anyone can create great looking content fast.

Similar to screen capture software, Camtasia Studio records exactly what users see on their computer screen. Simply open the program, hit the record button, and then hit ‘F10’ when you’re done. The software even makes sharing easy with production presets (Blog, CD, DVD-Ready, HD, iPad, iPhone, iPod, YouTube and Screencast.com) so users don’t have to worry about image size/quality/rendering settings. More advanced users can take manual control of codec choices by selecting Custom Production Settings.

However, Camtasia Studio goes a lot further by capturing what users say (as long as there’s a microphone built in or attached to the computer) and how they interact with a Web site or Windows-based application. Users can then edit the interactive content and share it online in all popular streaming media formats, including HD-quality video (MPEG-4 AVC, H.264+AAC) and Flash, on fixed media such as CD or DVD, or on Apple portable media devices. Additional digital video formats can be imported, including AVI, MPEG, MPG and WMV, but frustratingly these can’t be edited.

Camtasia Studio 7.1 features a recorder that captures full-screen videos and also remembers user settings for faster re-recordings. Customisable editing hotkeys speeds things along, and the ability to edit audio and video independently and move audio from one track to another makes recording and editing a snap. Complete control over transition and callout fade durations down to 1/10 of a second lets users add polish to videos, and a tilt feature that creates a 3D perspective can add visual interest to videos.

There is the ability to import and edit any self-contained .MOV file to combine digital camera video with screen-recorded content, and Time Lapse animation fans will enjoy the 0.1 second image transition limit that helps squeeze more pictures in the same duration, thus improving the time-lapse effect.

Thankfully, when a user changes a project’s dimensions it gives the option of applying innovative SmartFocus technology. This intelligently resizes recordings around the points of screen activity, panning and zooming. Even better, it adds zoom points to a timeline and, by double-clicking on these, users can manually control the position, size and duration of pans and zooms. The end results aren’t just physically clearer, the pans and zooms are also an excellent way of making demos more engaging and intelligible.

New to version 7.1 is 64-bit codec support and a Media Library that lets users save callouts, title slides or entire sequences and reuse them throughout a project. This saves editing time, but more importantly, introduces more consistency in the final product. Copy and Paste has been improved, allowing users to reuse transitions, zooms and effects throughout a timeline, and a greater range of callouts can add a little style and clarity to presentations. SmartFocus has been improved, enhanced Cursor Effects highlight the pointer and now show left- and right- mouse-clicks, and videos can now be uploaded to YouTube without leaving Camtasia Studio.

Users concerned about accessibility will welcome support for the creation of 508 compliant closed and open captions to help viewers with hearing disabilities or language barriers better understand the content in a video. By utilising Windows Speech Recognition, Camtasia Studio now can automatically turn what users say into captions—thankfully you can fix anything missed in the transcription. In addition, users can now export audio and get it transcribed into a caption file, then import the transcription back into a video—ideal if users need to translate captions to localise.

Summary

Camtasia Studio 7.1 is by far the best screen recording software out there. The amount of audio, video and output choices—along with ease of use and superior compression—makes it a breeze to create content and then get that content out to the unsuspecting world in as few steps as possible. It is even integrated with TechSmith’s Screencast hosting service, providing users with 2GB of free storage and 2GB of monthly bandwidth. Unlike other video hosting services, Screencast retains the original quality and size of the uploaded screencast, and the user retains complete ownership and sharing control over their content.

Of course, users will have to spend time using the software to understand how to edit videos properly, but the effort is well worth the result. Worth noting is that TechSmith includes an easy-to-use demonstration video to get users on their way and there’s also a raft of documentation on the company’s Web site. Camtasia Studio 7.1’s pricing may deter individuals, and those looking to create comprehensive eLearning videos will be much better served by the rich interactivity of Adobe’s Captivate 5.5 (£635 ex. VAT), but Camtasia Studio 7.1 is a superb product for turning screen recordings into polished videos that train, teach, sell or simply entertain. Users also shouldn’t be put off by the professional look of the end product—the software is as easy to use as Apple’s GarageBand.