ProsEasy to use interface
Powerful editing features
ConsIncluded Library Assets could be better
$299 price tag may be a bit steep for individual
You get the same question from a family member every week about how to change the font size in Microsoft Word 2007. You work for an organization where users are constantly coming to you for help because they cannot remember what you said to do with those "zip files" yesterday. You are a successful graphics designer and want to share what you know about Photoshop to attract more users to your website. Regardless of your reasons for needing to record your computer screen, Camtasia Studio 7 from TechSmith may be just what you need. TechSmith's Camtasia Studio has gotten rave reviews on many sites in the past, but what about the latest version? There have been some claims of program instability and heavy resource usage in prior editions, but how does v7 compare?
Downloading Camtasia Studio 7 is not rocket science. TechSmith seems to be very confident in their product, because they allow a fully functional 30 day trial. Of course there is the common "please give us your name and email address" prompt, but that seems only reasonable. Once downloaded, simply run the installer and a few minutes later Camtasia Studio 7 should be ready to go on your system. Upon initial startup, you will (if using the trial version) be prompted to continue with your trial, buy a license, or enter a serial number. Once the tool starts, you are given some options. You may record the screen, record voice narration, record a powerpoint slideshow, import media, or open a recent project. The way that Camtasia appears to work best is to record several screen segments, either with or without voice narration, and then import them into a master project and perform edits.
The screen recording tool is very simple and straightforward. It is assumed that if you are making a recording of the screen of your computer that you have a rudimentary understanding of screen resolution and file system navigation. Once opening the recording tool, you will see only a small dialog with a few controls and a very large red button labeled "rec" which obviously stands for record. Using this window you can select either "Full screen" to record everything on your computer screen, or you can choose from a variety of options in the "Custom" menu. Camtasia offers several which change depending upon your current screen resolution. You can choose from several widescreen options (16:9 ratio), standard layouts (4:3), a manual sizing option (dragging the lines with the mouse to the desired size), and a mode that fits the recording size to an application. You also have the option to record audio from a sound source (microphone or line in) while you are recording the screen, and you also have the option of recording video from a webcam if present. After you stop the recording, you can review your work, and then save the file to disk or discard it and try again.
Once you have recorded a segment or two, you can open the main Camtasia project editor and start assembling your clips. Camtasia offers the ability to place video clips on one timeline and arrange them as you wish. You have various options for adjusting the video clips, such as selecting and deleting segments of clips, adjusting the speed of clips, causing individual frames to display for a prolonged period of time, as well as other options.
The project editor also has three audio tracks which can be manipulated independently of each other and the video track. By default the first audio track is linked to the video track, but can be separated permanently if desired. Each audio clip can be edited by adjusting volume levels, clipping, pasting, and time shifting. The ability to adjust volume levels is very useful for fading music clips in and out, or for lowering the volume of background music while narration is being spoken.
There are other tracks available for what Camtasia labels as "Callouts." Callouts are tools used to draw attention to a specific area of the screen. Some callouts that are available are arrows, cartoon text bubbles, plain text boxes, among many others. Callouts can be set to fade in and out, have their sizes adjusted, and can be placed anywhere on the screen. You can also adjust the length of display for each callout individually.
Camtasia Studio also has a feature called the "Library" which stores preconfigured elements that can be dragged to the editor timeline. Default elements are included, and are typically used for Intro sequences with text callouts and music sequences. As it turns out, this feature can save a great deal of time if you are producing a series of video clips that you wish to have uniform Intro/Outro sequences. This is because you can create sequences on the timeline with callouts, audio, video, or images, highlight the sequence, and then save it to the library. If you are creating a series of 15 training videos, you can set up your Introduction and Exit sequences once, save them to the library, and then just drag them to each video as you work. You will likely be happier with your own additions to the library as the included ones appear somewhat "dated."
Sometimes, having good software is not enough to be efficient. You also have to have an efficient workflow wich takes advantage of the tools that you have. This is also the case with using Camtasia Studio. The first thing that you should keep in mind when creating your own recordings is to keep you clip segment short. This way you can go back and rework a particular segment without having to rework the entire recording. Of course your individual needs may vary, but a good starting point is somewhere between 30 and 90 seconds per clip. Once recorded, all of these short clips can be manipulated in the timeline of the main editor.
Another important item to consider is reviewing your work frequently. It is much easier to fix problems early on rather than later in the project. This is true for many different areas of work, but is certainly the case with creating quality screencasts. Get feedback from others after reaching a point where you think that your creation is ready to be called finished. You will find that the feedback of others is invaluable, and will keep you from making mistakes that would be embarrassing if not caught before release. Finally, when your screencast is done, release it! It can be very difficult to put your work on display for others, but sometimes you just have to take a chance and release something. Of course you will get better as time goes by, but often this is because others give you advice and help when they are able to view your previous creations.
In ClosingCamtasia Studio 7 for Windows 7 is a very useful tool for creating professional quality screencasts and videos. With superb editing capabilities, reusable library assets, and an easy to understand interface, this package can justify the somewhat steep licensing cost of $299 (USD). If you want to try it, go ahead. TechSmith offers a 30 day evaluation with full functionality.