(Ep. 3) Best Screen Capture Software Comparison Series – Camtasia Studio

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If you’re juuust jumping into the series, then you’ll want to start with episode 1 in this series: Six of the Best Screen Capture Software – Compared (Ep. 1).  You’ll also want to subscribe so you get notified when new updates come online.

In this episode: Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio

Camtasia Studio is Techsmith’s client-side video screen capture software that’s made for Windows.  In the  features we’re using for comparing the different software in this series, Camtasia Studio came out with an overall “Mel Rank” of 3.5 (out of 5)*

  • Cursor effects/animation: 4 5 (out of 5)*
  • Multiple video tracks:  2 (out of 5)
  • Multiple audio tracks: 4 (out of 5… and only marginally, at that)
  • Animation of annotations and/or callouts:  3

* Update: March 3 – Shane Lovellette, the Product Manager for Camtasia (Studio and Mac) was kind enough to respond with a clarification.  In fact, Camtasia Studio, like it’s Macintosh brother, does indeed have a magnify cursor effect.  I’ll cross-post a follow up video to show you where that’s at.  Also, this effectively bumps the Mel-Rank of cursor effects from a 4 to a 5, which makes the overall Mel-Rank bump correspondingly from a 3.25 to a 3.5.  

Although many of you — and my friends at Techsmith — know that I’m a big fan of Techsmith’s products, I have to say that one of my biggest long time gripes with Camtasia Studio is the fact that it only supports one (1) video track and three audio tracks.  (In the video, I show some workarounds where you can get another video track.  But, for the most part, you really only get one.)

The other thing that kept me from assigning a higher overall Mel-rank is the limitations in keyframe type animation of video and callouts.

Take a look at the video above to see what I mean.  Let me know what you think.

[Related: Best Screencasting Software Series]

Best Screen Capture Software Comparison Series (Ep. 2) – Camtasia Macintosh

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If you’re jumping into this series for the first time, then you’ll want to first take a look at episode 1:  6 Of the Best Screen Capture Software – Compared (Ep. 1).  You’ll also want to subscribe so you get notified when the new updates come online.

In this episode: Camtasia (v2) for Macintosh (Camtasia 2 Mac)

For purposes of having a reasonable standard for comparison, I opted to fly above the “basic” feature sets like:  video and audio capture (duh), annotations, callouts, text overlays, and the like.  I’m conceding that each of the screen capture software programs I’ll be looking at in this series already have that ability.

Rather, what I thought would be better was to use, as a basis for comparison, those features that I don’t always see in ALL screen capture software, AND are those that I’ve found invaluable in my professional screencasts.  I also wanted to keep the list relatively short.

Features For Comparison

Ultimately, I settled on the following five simple (yet highly influential-for-user-experience) features for comparison:

  • Cursor effects and animation (e.g., being able to adjust cursor size; various options for highlighting the cursor; and so on)
  • Capacity for supporting multiple video tracks (i.e., at least 3.)  This is especially helpful for overlaying supporting visuals, websites or other guides that you otherwise verbally reference in your screencast.
  • Capacity for supporting multiple audio tracks (i.e., at least 3)  Helpful for overlaying additional or corrective narration, music tracks, hit files, etc.
  • Pixelation feature.  A simple, yet often not included, tool for masking passwords and other confidential information in video screen captures.
  • Ability to animate and keyframe (same thing?) various annotations and callouts around three axes:  x-, y-, and z-axes.

Executive Summary: How Was Camtasia for Macintosh Ranked?

  • Overall:  5
  • Cursor effects / animation:  5
  • Multiple video tracks:  5
  • Multiple audio tracks: 5
  • Pixelation: 5
  • Annotations / Callouts key-framing around 3 axes: 5

6 Of the Best Screen Capture Software – Compared (Ep. 1)

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In 5 (plus 5 more!) Tools For Creating a Screencast I listed 10 screen capture software programs you can use for video screen captures and online presentations.  But one thing we didn’t do in that article was compare them against each other.  Let’s fix that, shall we?

With this article, I’m kicking off a series that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  It answers a question I get a lot:  what’s the best screen capture software to use?  (The other one I get is, what’s the best free screen capture software?  I don’t know that we’ll necessarily set out to answer this latter one, but I will be reviewing a couple of freebies–or near freebies.)

So, over a 7-part series (beginning with this one), I’ll go on to compare 6 popular screen capture software programs.  In the video above, I list the criteria we’ll be using as benchmarks for the comparison.

Let me know if there are other criteria or features you think are worth comparing.

Creating Screencasts on the iPad Just Got a Step Closer

This Screencast Was Recorded Entirely on the iPad

Techsmith Labs (from the company that makes the popular Camtasia, Snagit and other wonderful screencasting tools) is experimenting with a new iPad app that promises to give you and me some limited functionality for recording screencasts on the iPad.  You can download right now a free iPad app from Techsmith Labs called ScreenChomp.

Although FULL screencasting capabilities on the iPad isn’t yet available (not without jail breaking or purchasing add’l expensive hardware, anyway) this app does let you record a screencast on an iPad whiteboard that’s built in to the ScreenChomp interface.

I took ScreenChomp for a quick test drive and produced the short screencast video above.  Although I edited the final production in Camtasia Mac, the video footage itself was recorded entirely on the iPad.

By the way, if you were paying attention, then that bit about having edited the videos in Camtasia should generate some additional interest for some of you who are educators, screencasters and online content creators.  But, keep in mind, editing in Camtasia is entirely optional. You can actually produce, upload and share your ScreenChomp screencast directly from the iPad if you want.

Why This is Cool

I think this is a great development that’s a step in the right direction towards creating a more robust screencasting tool for the iPad.  I can already envision some online training presentations I can develop using ScreenChomp.  But, how about you?  Do you envision this helping you in any way for your online content creation projects?

What Do You Think Of Google Plus So Far?

If you’ve been wondering about Google Plus (Google+), Google’s new social network that promises to go head-to-head with Facebook, then you’ll want to take a moment to watch/listen to the interviews below.

The first is a video interview that my friend Cindy Ronzoni (CEO, Social Spread Media) conducted with mutual friends Stacey Soleil (CMO, Novimap) and Darin McClure (Corporate Media Strategist, Ready To Go Information Technologies) about Google Plus.

The second stream below is an audio interview, conducted by Robert Scoble, with Nathan Owens, an astute member of the Gen-Y demographic.

In the video interview above, Cindy, Stacey and Darin tackle the following questions:

  • What value is in Google+’s Hangout feature?
  • What value is in Google+ today for business integration?
  • The importance of your Google Profile
  • When would you say you would use Facebook vs. Google+?
  • From a practical perspective, how are you using Google+ today?
  • Can you customize your Google+ URL?
  • What are “Circles” in Google+?  What’s that all about?
  • How do you think we’ll be using Google+ six months from now?

Finally, I also found it really interesting to listen in on one Gen-Y‘ers perspective about Google+  Check out at least the first 3-1/2 minutes of the audio interview below.

Are You On Google+ Yet?

If you haven’t received an invitation yet to Google+ and want to check it out, drop me a line either through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and I’ll send you an invite.  In the meantime, if you’re already connected on Google+, let’s connect.  And, let us know what you think so far.

6 Great Suggestions For Improving Audio in Your Screencasts

This is very opportune. On the heels of my post yesterday comparing audio quality from a few of the microphones I’ve used over the last year, I then today came across these excellent posts by: Tom Johnson over at the I’d Rather Be Writing blog (What’s the Best Microphone for Screencasting), and this one by Scott Skibell over at the MacScreencasting blog (Audio and Microphone Comparison for Screencasting)

You’ll want to read Tom’s post because of the comprehensive analysis and interactive examples he gives for the effect that additional equipment, such as a mixer and an audio interface, can have on the quality of sound. But, there’s much more; it really is worth a thorough read if you’ve been thinking about those little extra oomphs to take your screencast audio to the next level.

Meanwhile, you’ll want to read Scott’s post because of ideas he gives for different types of microphones you can use for mobility (lapel microphone) and iPhone connectivity. There’s also a tip he gives for the use of a cost effective Radio Shack stereo converter for one of the mono mics he demonstrates. And, you’ll also find Scott to be a charismatic presenter with some personal touches he puts into his screencasts that I think you and I would do well to take a lesson from.

All told: my post yesterday, along with Tom’s and Scott’s articles, all listed above, give a compelling laundry list of 6 accessories to consider for improving your audio:

  • Microphone
  • Mixer
  • Audio Interface (analog-to-digital)
  • Pop filter
  • Acoustic shielding
  • and the role Music can play in screencast audio

[Demo] Do Microphones Matter in Screencasts? Here’s an interactive comparison to help you decide.

Last week I finally unpacked the Yeti.

No, I haven’t solved the mystery of the fabled furry-guy legend.  I’m talking about Blue Microphones’ multi-pattern USB mic of the same name.

Before this investment, I was using Samson’s C01U USB condenser mic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been pretty happy with the Samson.  But I’m on a never ending quest.

I’ve been on a tear lately trying to get better stereo quality with slightly deeper bass tones in my screencasts and online learning development projects.  I found the Samson was a pretty good mic, but it isn’t a stereo mic.

Meanwhile, I’ve known about Blue Microphones for a while via the favorable rep they developed with the Snowball.  It was through poking around on their site checking out the features of the Snowball that I discovered the Yeti model.  I liked it immediately because of its user-selectable stereo patterns (cardioidomnidirectional and bi-directional) and figured it would get me closer to that holy audio grail.

I know it might sound a little obsessive of me, but microphones (as one component in a list of enabling devices) really do make a difference.  As a matter of illustration, I took the liberty of configuring the audio comparison slide above.  Use the buttons on the left to compare the microphones I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last year:

I can comfortably say that I’ve been pretty happy with Blue’s Yeti; I’m comfortable recommending it… but, I fear my quest isn’t complete.

I’m now shopping for a USB I/O mixer and maybe a Reflexion Filter after that.  (I’ll let you know how it goes.  As far as mixers go, I’m eyeballing Numark’s M1USB.  But, if you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear ’em.)

Anyway, check out the demo and let me know which mic you like best.  If any of them strike your fancy, I took the liberty also of including a link to that vendor’s website.  I hope it helps you.  Meanwhile, if you can help me with any  recommendations for an affordable (under $200?) USB I/O mixer, please let me know in the comments below.  

Whatever I end up getting, you can be sure I’ll give it a review in a future blog post.