Camtasia:Mac vs ScreenFlow – Video Screen Capture on a Mac

If you need to record your screen, for screencasts or client or video training tutorials, and you are on a Mac, you have a few tools available. There is the free built-in QuickTime screen recording option, or a range of 3rd-party apps. I currently use Screenium but for reasons I’ll go into, I’m currently testing both Camtasia:mac and ScreenFlow.

May 3 2013: Cult of Mac are offering a bundle that includes Camtasia:Mac for $49.99. See this page for the offer, expires 11 May 2013.

 

 Why I’m Looking For New Video Screen Capture Software

Up until this moment, my screencasts or video tutorials have been made with initially, Snapz Pro X and more recently, Screenium. Snapz Pro X is like the free QuickTime screen recorder on steroids, but I moved to Screenium when I needed a more sophisticated tool, that allowed me to use callouts, text and zoom in or highlight/obscure items on my screen. However, it always feels kind of clunky and missing some key features plus the files seem way bigger than they should be. It does however, have some great features that are NOT in either of my two test apps, such as the ability to save presets for mouse-clicks, zoom to focus window, align and distribute options plus a cut tool right above the timeline, which is useful!

What follows is not an in-depth look at their features – you can find that on their websites. This is about me as a potential customer looking at these two products and finding out which I may prefer.

Camtasia:mac

This is based on the trial version 2.3.0 which lets you use it fully for 30 days, without a watermark.

This is a huge plus as the ScreenFlow demo carries a watermark and I have not been lured into using it for any purpose beyond trialling. If I had been able to use it for my work, I think it might have been more easy to decide which I prefer, so plus one to TechSmith and Camtasia!

Download the demo here where there are both Mac and PC versions: www.techsmith.com

camtasia record

Launching Camtasia, you get a panel where you choose to record your full screen, a custom region or one of several preset sizes, plus a few recent sizes you have used. There is an option to use a built-in iSight camera or other connected camera plus various microphone and system audio settings, which requires installing a TechSmith Audio Capture Component. Press the big red button and you are off, until you pause or stop recording. Once you stop, the edit suite opens, with a panel offering tutorials – another helpful feature.

camtasia edit paneI’m not going to spend too much time on the interface, only to say it is very intuitive and the dark colours make it easy to focus on the content.

On the left there is a section for adding media, effects, annotations (including Sketch Motion or animated elements), transistions etc and clicking on each title reveals the contents or options available. You simply drag these on to your recording in the main central window and whatever you have added will appear where your playhead is at in the timeline below. An indicator appears at the bottom of the callout/effect and opening this up lets you change the duration of whatever you just added. Multiple items appear stacked above eachother and the hide-away feature keeps the timeline clean and manageable. Animations can be retimed by dragging the start and end of the arrow that appears on the object in the timeline.

timeline visual cuesThe right-hand side has a context-senitive settings panel which lets you save presets for some of your callouts and text. This is a very useful feature and it will enable you to save a house-style for your movies.

The timeline allows multiple audio and video tracks, with audio and video from a Camtasia recording in a single track. You can spilt these to their own tracks if you want. It would be nice if there was a visibility/toggle on-off for hiding tracks on the timeline. There are options for caption and marker tracks to help manage your editing.

Edit-wise, there are plenty of useful cursor, video and audio effects and there is a SmartFocus animation for setting up basic zooms and pans. (I find this isn’t as smart as I would like and don’t use it.) The timeline also has visual cues for the mouse-clicks, which is again, useful. One great feature is the Interactive Hotspot effect. This means you can embed clickable URLs and pause buttons in your movies – excellent!

interactive hotspot

Camtasia is also capturing keystrokes during recording. To show them in your screencast,  drag a Keystroke Video FX on to your video and chose one of the available styles. You can also add them manually as Annotations if you prefer.

When it comes to sharing your movies, there are plenty of options including YouTube upload, iTunes, building a web page with a Flash movie and Screencast.com (free account needed) for when you know the target will not be able to play Flash on their device. There are also standalone QuickTime movie options and captions and markers can be exported too.

Overall, this is a great application, easy to use with plenty of customisation and sharing options.

I’m rating it 10/10 (since Shane at TechSmith showed me how to display keystrokes!)

 ScreenFlow

I’m using the demo of ScreenFlow 4.0.3. This exports watermarked videos (see my note at the top of the page) and can be downloaded here: www.telestream.net

Starting a recording with ScreenFlow, you get a panel like this:

screenflow recording

You record your whole screen and decide during the edit what you show.

screenflow properties panelWhen you finish your recording, the edit window opens, looking very much like iMovie. It’s powerful and although I found it to be not as intuitive as Camtasia, I dare say that for some this may provide the solution for editing more than just your screen recordings. With plenty of video and audio filters, transitions and features like adding space before video on the timeline, freeze frames and the like, this is a well-rounded video editor. (All of these features are in iMovie so I guess this will be down to individual preference.)

There are no presets for canvas size, you pick your own and the editing begins. All of the properties (text, video, annotations, mouse) are housed in a single tabbed side panel. The whole interface is very lean and on a 27″ monitor, unless you learn the many keyboard shortcuts, there is a lot of mousing over to the edge of the screen. It just feels like they need some commonly-used options within easier reach, on the transport bar perhaps.

Each property is added by clicking a button at the bottom of the panel and current settings can be saved as defaults, although there are no custom preset options. This is something I like and use in both Screenium and Camtasia, along with the mouse-click options. Here, you get to show them as red radar rings or inverted. Those are your options. If you a demoing a screen item with a red colour scheme, the mouse won’t be as visible as the radar rings should make it. Saving and customising presets is a big deal for creating personalised movies. I would love to see them included in ScreenFlow.

The timeline allows for plenty of tracks and double-clicking shows a floating dialog clip inspector panel, where clip speed can be adjusted. This is handy and I would love this to be extended to allow for fast editing of callouts etc.

screenflow clip inspector

Did I mention I’d like more choice for callouts? Saving a default thickness for your strokes isn’t flexible enough to cover the needs of ellipse/box, line and arrows. This means extra work. One default I do like is for transitions, and these can be applied to the beginning and ending of a selected clip with a single keyboard shortcut.

When it comes to sharing your movies, there are a number of Presets which are customisable and you can also add some of your own. There is also YouTube & Vimeo upload, plus a Flash option which generates a directory containing an HTML5 page with an embedded .fv4 file and a skin which you choose for your movie.

I really do like ScreenFlow and want to use it, but I’m just finding there are so many things I want added or improved. It feels smoother and more ‘grown up’ than Camtasia, and the support from Telestream is excellent.

At the moment, I’m rating it as 8/10.

Both products are the same price ($99) and I’ve already seen one ScreenFlow update since I began my testing. In summary, if ScreenFlow could include my wishlist (below) then this is the product I would use. Based on the current versions of both apps, Camtasia is my preference, and I have used it for several client training videos already, but I haven’t parted with any money yet!

Telestream – I would be delighted to give ScreenFlow 10/10 if the next round of updates included:

  1. Animated annotations (I’m currently building my own in Motion and importing them as media.)*
  2. Mouse-click timeline markers (currently in both Screenium and Camtasia).
  3. Colour change for radar clicks (ditto).
  4. Canvas presets (as in Camtasia).
  5. Call out presets, not just a single default one (currently in both Screenium and Camtasia).
  6. Fade-in/out transitions on callouts, with a more intuitive drag to change length option, as on annotations.
  7. Custom keyboard shortcuts.
  8. Floating panels for actions, would speed up the workflow!
  9. Icons for quick access to main actions on transport bar.
  10. Get rid of the watermark in the demo – let people get to used to using it to create screencasts and you’ll have a higher conversion rate!
  11. Volume slider on audio track clip inspector with better ducking controls (maybe keyframes?)
  12. Option to add callouts and actions to a spare track above the video/audio track they were added to.

* I do want to finish on a plus for ScreenFlow, so back to point 1 above; unlike Camtasia, ScreenFlow supports the ProRes QuickTime codec with alpha transparency. Although this format creates much bigger files than the Apple Animation codec, the quality is far superior, and in the case of the animated elements I mentioned having created in Motion, the difference is noticeably and significantly better.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Shane

    Thanks for the great post! I just wanted to point out that Camtasia does record keystrokes, and you can expose them by adding the Keystroke Video FX. Simply drag the effect on to your screen recording and it will generate keystroke callouts where you used a command type keystroke in the recording. You can also add keystroke callouts manually by selecting Annotations, and choosing the keystroke tab.

    I hope this helps!
    Shane

    • Stuart

      Thank you Shane – I have updated my review and score accordingly. As I can recolour the Sketch Motions, I’m happy to give this a 10/10 rating!

  2. Martin

    Very helpful!. I have iShowU HD but it doesn’t have any editing options really. You don’t mention it but can you record from the iSight camera with Camtasia? (I think you are saying that’s the one to go for.)

    • Stuart

      Indeed you can. Built-in iSight camera is one option but it will also detect a connected USB camera. There’s more details on the features here: Camtasia mac by TechSmith.

  3. Jody Heath

    Hi, I couldn’t function without some sort of screen recorder. For me, it is Camtasia since I have a PC. If I had a Mac, though, I would be very tempted to get Screenflow. The learning curve seems greater; but with great luring curves come great features. I’ve written a comparison post with some of the more popular Screenflow and Camtasia Videos. Blog comments appreciated: http://southernprofit.com/how-to-record-computer-screen-camtasia-vs-screenflow/

    • Stuart

      I prefer Camtasia too. Where are the comparisons in your blog post? You don’t write about ScreenFlow or have any videos – have I missed something?

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