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Review: Camtasia Studio 6

Review: Camtasia Studio 6

The last time we looked at Camtasia Studio it was on version 3.1. So with version 6 just hitting the shelves we thought it was time to take another look at the king of capture software.

What is it?  Desktop recording and presentation software
Platforms:  Windows
Manufacturer:  TechSmith
Website:
  http://www.techsmith.com
Cost:  US$299 (upgrade US$149) Prices vary per volume license. Upgrades and bundle offer available.

Although we haven't looked at Camtasia since 3.1 the classic workflow really hasn't changed: Record > Edit > Produce > Share. It could be that not everything that caught our eye is new in version 6, but I'm going to mention anything we've found that was interesting or new to us.

Installation

 

Installing Camtasia Studio 6 was straightforward and took less than a minute to complete. First, enter your registration key and choose a folder to install to. In addition to the usual install questions you are prompted to enable the Camtasia PowerPoint Add-in, and to configure your startup conditions. After that you're good to go.

 

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The whole UI now sports an unobtrusive dark grey colour scheme and the controls and iconography are simple and clear. All in all the interface seems slicker than before. Even small things like the Welcome Screen have had an update. Much like on the Macromedia/ Adobe welcome screens you can now access a list of your most recent projects, or if you are a newbie jump into a set of online training videos.

Record

I really like the new recording workflow and in particular the capture area selection interface - it's well thought out and visually well presented. Recording also seems a lot smoother to use than before. I didn't see any of the screen stuttering that I remember from previous versions. This time you get a nice 3, 2, 1 countdown and you're off.

 

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One of the big new recording features in this release is the ability to capture full HD quality video (MPEG AVC H264 Video / AAC Audio). Once you have your capture you are presented with a preview of what you recorded. You now have the option to Save, Delete, Edit or Produce your work.

 

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Edit
Clicking on Edit takes you (unsurprisingly) into the editing tool. The layout of this hasn't really changed and it'll be instantly familiar to anyone who's spent any time working with video. Options on the left, assets in the middle, preview on the right, timeline on the bottom.

What was new (to me at least) was the enforcement of Editing Presets. Before you begin editing you are required to choose how your video will be deployed. At first I felt a bit railroaded by this but after using it I can see the value in editing for a specific medium. Choosing a preset configures the preview window to display at the correct dimensions of your chosen output medium. Presets include blog, CD, DVD, HD, iPhone, iPod, Screencast.com (Techsmith's hosted screencast service), web and YouTube. If none of those float your boat then you choose to edit at the original recording dimensions.Camtasia Studio 6 Project Settings

When choosing a preset up front you also have the option of applying 'SmartFocus' to your captured video. This feature analyses your video and auto-magically creates Zoom-n-Pan keyframes to optimise viewing for your selected preview size. I'm not entirely sure how this works but it's pretty cool.

TechSmith have spent a lot of time re-building the editing environment in Camtasia 6. One of the features I found most useful is the ability to finally split the audio  track from the video track. So now you can remove accidental noises or clean up mistakes in your presentation. This gives you so much more control over the quality of your final output. 

The last big productivity enhancement in the editing tool is the introduction of Hotkeys. We're told that in user testing this feature alone sped up production time by up to 30%.

Produce
Finally on to production. This is where you output your project in your chosen media format. Or so I thought. It turns out that although you're required to choose an editing preset you don't necessarily have to output your project in the same format. You are actually presented again with the same list of presets. You are warned if you choose a different medium but I still found this workflow a little odd. User choice is a good thing but it seems weird to go to the trouble of optimising a video for a particular medium then output it to something else.

Share
In the production settings dialog you'll find a box marked 'Upload to the internet'. Checking this box will upload your video to screencast.com, Techsmith's hosted screencast sharing service. A free account is available giving you 2Gb of storage and 2Gb of monthly bandwidth. A Pro account is also available for US$9.95 a month, and that gives you 25GB of storage and 200GB of monthly bandwidth.

Overall
Camtasia has always been a great piece of software. This version feels polished and smoother running. It also offers an enhanced editing environment and some great productivity improvements.

 

About John Dalziel

John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, Actionscript.com and Ultrashock.com.

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