Professional Screencasting With Camtasia Studio 5 | In Depth Screen Recording Review

14 min read

Camtasia LogoCamtasia Studio was already at the top of the screen recording
software tree, and now Version 5.0 has been released and is even more
comprehensive and fully featured.

There are many other options
available when looking to make a screencast
– a movie recording of your desktop or browser-based applications – but
you’ll be hard pushed to find one that matches Camtasia Studio, with
it’s performance and feature set.

If you’re
looking to
create a quick five minute demo of something on-screen to share with a
friend, there are plenty of free or cheap options available to you,
including Jing
, which is another Techsmith product, reviewed
here back in July

However, if you want an all-in-one solution that will let you
record, edit, add titles and interactivity, create a soundtrack and
optimize your resultant video for web delivery, Camtasia Studio is
clearly as
good as it gets.

New Features

Version 5.0 adds some very welcome features
to the already well-stocked selection previously on offer. Among my
favorites are:

  • SmartFocus,
    which will automatically pan and zoom your videos for maximum
    legibility, even if you change from a very high-resolution format to
    much smaller dimensions
  • Improved editing functionality
    that allows for high precision cuts, something that wasn’t previously
    possible in Camtasia Studio
  • Easy-to-use project settings
    that make it really easy to create videos just right for iPod video,
    YouTube and blogs
    , making it really easy to get your video
    uploaded and embedded into your blog in a matter of seconds

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If I sound excited
about this, it’s because I am.

Here are the details:

Camtasia 5

Camtasia Studio Overview

Camtasia Studio 5
gives you a highly adaptable all-in-one solution for creating
audio-video screencasts that you can write to CD or DVD, share over the
web, and even play on a video-enabled iPod.

When you first boot the program you have the option of
media, recording your screen, recording video from your webcam,
recording audio narration, or opening an existing file. 

In this sense
you can begin your screencast
recording with an audio script, and edit the video to match, or start
with video and add
your narration
later as required.

Whichever way you decide to go, Camtasia Studio presents you with a
timeline whereby you can arrange and trim your audio and video clips,
add transitions, titling, and “call outs” – on-screen graphical
and annotations.

You can also orchestrate zooming and panning in, out and
around your video recording to make it as easy as possible to see all
of the details, even at smaller sizes.

Interactive Features

Furthermore, Camtasia adds interactive
so that you can create movies that include quizzes, start and stop to
point out features or ask questions, and so on, making the resulting
Flash media files an excellent way to create video training. 

specialists will be pleased to hear that content created with Camtasia Studio
Studio is also SCORM

Add to that a PowerPoint
plugin that allows you to use your presentations as the basis of your
movies, captioning / subtitling capabilities, some fantastic output
options, or the ability to create effective navigation menus for CDs.

This is means that you have a well-rounded set of tools for
putting together learning
packages, training CDs, video demonstrations, and great looking

Streamlined Interface

Camtasia Splash

Techsmith has really gone to town on version 5.0 of Camtasia Studio
and the latest additions to the tool will likely be enough to entice
existing users to go for an upgrade, while bringing newcomers into a
“professional level” screencasting

For starters the whole interface
feels a lot
simpler, less crowded and easy to use than previous versions. From the
slick looking opening dialog that you select your recording mode from,
to the very cool new crosshairs feature for choosing a region of the
screen to record, everything has been made as simple and intuitive as

Improved Recording Features

Recording Controls

As in previous versions of the Camtasia Studio,
when I am set to make a recording I can hover my cursor over windows,
and parts of an application, such as the address bar of a browser, and
Camtasia Studiowill automatically suggest a recording area for me.

Added to this I can use crosshairs to pick out an exact part
of the
screen, setting my own custom dimensions. This is great, in that it
gives me a lot of freedom to set up my recording area just as l

The only downside to doing this is that you can end up with
recordings having unusual aspect
ratios, which makes them very difficult to share on websites
such as YouTube
without seriously distorting the image.

Thankfully Techsmith has thought this one out
once the recording toolbar opens you are given the option of selecting
from a good range of preset video sizes, all of which conform to
multiples of popular embeddable video players dimensions.

This is great news for anyone that wants to create video that
the screen, or nicely translates to an Apple iPod or YouTube video player
without distortion or letterboxing.

Recording Toolbar

Snap To App

A very welcome addition to the recording features is that of
the new
“snap-to-app” functionality. If you check the appropriate box on the
requisite toolbar, your recording area will automatically resize and
move if you make changes to your application window. 

Previously, once I
started recording, the recording area was fixed, so if I moved my
application window, it would start to disappear from the frame.

Even cooler is that if I combine
the “snap-to-app”
functionality with the preset dimensions, my application window will
automatically resize to fit within the video frame.

The best way to get good results when resizing video is to
make sure
that you do it in multiples of original settings, for example, a video
of 320 x 240 pixels scales well to 480×360 (1.5 x) or 640×480 (2x).
Camtasia Studio makes such resizing work a breeze.

Two additional features have also
had a strong
impact on me. For one, there is an option to have the cursor reset its
position to the place you left it in your last recording. For the
purpose of continuity, this is a priceless addition. 

In addition,
Camtasia Studio will make sure that any pop-up dialog box that opens up
in your application will be automatically centered within your
recording area.

Anyone that has ever had to stop a screencast recording, or
drag a new
window into the recording area when it opens somewhere else on-screen,
will be thankful for this.

From these very additions I can see how Techsmith has spent a
lot of
time both talking and listening to screencasters as well as creating
their own screencasts to find out what was really needed. 

Once you
start seeing the new additions it becomes self-evident how they did a
great job on this upgrade as these are the kind of features that really
take the pain out of putting great-looking demos together.

Project Settings

Project Settings

Camtasia Studio holds my hand all
along the way,
and has a great series of integrated pointers, tips and wizards that
make the process as simple as possible.

As soon as I finish my first screen recording I am presented
with a
“Project Settings” dialogue. From there I can choose a template for my
project, selecting from web, CD, blog, iPod, Quicktime, .wmv or various
other settings, including custom parameters of my own devising.

I also have the option of a) either manually setting the video
dimensions, b) changing them, c) applying SmartFocus – another new
feature – or d) simply changing the dimensions without SmartFocus
should I wish to do my own zooming and panning.


Smart Focus

The crowning glory of Camtasia Studio 5
SmartFocus, a new feature that will automate the zooming and panning
process that Camtasia Studio does so well. I have yet to find another
application that offers this simple zoom and pan functionality, let
alone one that does it automatically.

In short, zoom-and-pan is a feature that allows you to make
the most
of smaller recording areas and focus your viewers attention by zooming
the on-screen action, and moving it as appropriate. 

This allows you,
for instance, to create videos with relatively small dimensions, like
those of YouTube,
while retaining maximum visibility and legibility of on-screen visuals
and text.

SmartFocus takes this to a new level,
and analyzes
your recording, applying zoom-ins, zoom-outs and camera panning as
required by the dimensions of your video. Furthermore, if you resize
your video dimensions, which is now possible, SmartFocus will adapt

In my work as a professional
I spend a significant amount of time manually
setting zooms and pans
both in Camtasia, and in my other editing software, and this can
quickly become a laborious task if you are working on a longer video,
or regularly creating screencasts.

The good news is that SmartFocus
works a charm. I
put it through the motions in a number of tests, hoping to catch it
out, and it kept up with my on-screen actions, creating appropriate
zooms and pans about 90% of the time.

What’s nice is that even with SmartFocus activated, I can
adjust the
placement of the zooms created, as well as finer details, and can also
add my own should I feel that any were missed out in the automation

On behalf of screencasters the world over,
I want to give the Techsmith people a big round of applause for this

(Live) Annotation

Annotated Capture

The live annotation tools in Camtasia Studio 5
also very cool – I can draw shapes, drag and drop highlighting, boxes,
lines, arrows, and circles and even draw freehand as I record. I can
also pause the movie, add these elements in and then set it rolling

There’s even an undo feature on the annotation palette which
sits right below the video, so not only can I quickly switch tools, but
I can also get rid of any mistakes very easily.

Annotation Toolbar

Furthermore there are tools for
selecting a
particular application or window automatically, surrounding it with a
red rectangle, which is another nice way of pointing something out
on-screen. The same effect can also be applied manually. 

It’s also
possible for me to add in my own watermark or a system stamp to be
overlaid onto my video. Watermarking
is a great way of letting your video content spread virally over the
web, while still bringing back traffic to your own website.

That’s before you go into the 3D call-outs, thought-bubbles
other layouts that can be quickly added to the video as you go. Just
hit pause and you have a whole lot of annotation tools at your
disposal, and you can activate or deactivate their respective palettes
as you see fit to keep your screen clutter-free.

In short this is the
most fully-featured
set of recording and annotation tools available anywhere, and it’s
unlikely that you will ever being to make use of the huge range of
options available.

Live PowerPoint Recording

Camtasia Studio 5

Even if you don’t see yourself using Camtasia Studio for
demonstrations, it has some very nice features for recording your
PowerPoint presentations, whether you want to do that live or from the
comfort of your desk. 

Camtasia adds a simple toolbar to your PowerPoint
interface, and from there you can record your narration as you go
through slides, builds and animations.

Furthermore, if you want to add
more of a personal
touch, you can also record yourself from your webcam, and Camtasia will
automatically sync it up to the slideshow as it unfolds. 

This alone
could be very useful for trainers and educators who want to distribute
their live presentations to trainees and students after the event, or
as a distance learning solution. 

The resulting video can be played
either picture-in-picture or side-by-side with your presentation, which
is very cool.

The new Camtasia toolbar inside PowerPoint is very
with icons for recording, mic settings, webcam, picture-in-picture and
so on.

As such, even if you don’t ever get stuck into the more
capabilities of Camtasia, you can get up and running with it pretty
quickly via PowerPoint, and export the results in a variety of formats.

Improved Editing and Sound

Camtasia Timeline

One of the weaker points of
Camtasia Studio is its
editing setup, so it was nice to see that this has been somewhat
improved in the latest version. 

Certainly Camtasia editing facility
isn’t going to keep up with more popular pro video editing tools, and
to some extent I still prefer other budget solutions such as iMovie,
but it has definitely improved.

For one, the time line now uses up to 30 frames per second, and
allows you to make frame accurate cuts, which is great news for people
that might have found previous versions less precise in their ability
to trim footage. 

Furthermore, it’s possible to join, trim, split and
even adjust the speed of a clip – all of which can be very handy.

Audio has also been improved, as with the addition of a new
and very
useful audio setting that will even out volume levels while attempting
to reduce background noise. Both features are indeed very useful as
many people will be recording their narration in less than ideal (often
too noisy) studio conditions.

Media Input and Output Formats

Media Output

Getting your movies out of Camtasia
is very simple,
whether you use the nice range of presets or go for a more customized
approach. You can output your files to any of the following formats
(which pretty much cover the gamut):

This is an impressive range, and means that you are pretty
covered across most bases. 

It also means that if you want to export to
another application for any further video post-production work, you’re
going to be able to do so on Windows, Mac and possibly on Linux too, as
the broad range of video formats supported covers all pro and amateur
video production grounds.

What I don’t understand, however,
is why Camtasia
can output to this great range of formats, but will not accept only a
fraction of those video formats as source media files.

Sure, I can bring in AVI, WMV, CAMREC
and MPEG
video, but for some reason I can’t yet import in my own Quicktime
movies. For me, as someone who already uses Camtasia as part of my
Mac-based production workflow, it would indeed be very useful to be
able to import my own Quicktime clips. 

But for now, I can only hope for
this feature to make it to the forthcoming Mac version of Camtasia Studio.

Minor gripes aside, there is a lot to be happy about.

If all of this talk of media types bores or baffles you, there
some great presets for CD, blog, iPod, web delivery and so on. You can
even preview the results before deciding and encoding the entire movie,
which is a very useful feature and one that a lot of video-based
applications should consider adopting.

If you’re trying to decide on the
right balance of
quality and compression, which is always wise if you are going to
deliver video on the web, the ability to test compression settings
before committing to the rendering of the whole file is an absolute

Fellow web videographers will know what I mean here – we are
talking about the possibility of saving a whole lot
of wasted time in the post production process.

Total beginners will also be pleased to hear that throughout
Camtasia, a very simple, helpful wizard will guide you through using
any of the core features.


Camtasia Express

I should also give a quick mention
to the new ExpressShow feature, which is essentially a SWF-based Flash
template for exporting your files with.

This isn’t well suited to full video, or longer presentations,
if you are putting out content of under 15 minutes, and are primarily
using screen recordings, this is a nice new simple feature.

Exporting with ExpressShow gives you a tidy, single SWF file
can feature your company logo, a very nice looking text caption beneath
the video, and a customized “about” box for more information, as well
as an integrated table of contents. 

The resulting player looks awesome,
and is a great way of creating branded, slick screencasts for your blog
or website.

The only downside here is that
the format is not
well suited to longer or motion-intensive video, so you need to bear
that in mind when deciding if this is the best option for you. and FTP Integration

Screencast Dotcom

Another very useful addition is
the built-in integration with the Techsmith
service, where you can host and share your high quality videos for
quite reasonable monthly or yearly rates.

You can get a 60 day trial
of the service at the moment, and after that prices range from $69.50
to $249.50 a year, as follows:

Screencast Prices

If you have your own hosting
however, the new built in FTP
functionality means that you can get your screencast uploaded to your
own server right from Camtasia, which is a very welcome addition,
cutting one more thing out of your workflow.

Excellent Tutorials

Camtasia Tutorials

Techsmith, I’m pleased to say, practices what it
and has an absolutely stunning set of Camtasia
screencast tutorials on their company website. In addition, to the good
series of screencasts covering Camtasia Studio 4
, there are
now some new great introductory
tutorials for version 5.0
as well.

I particularly like the way that these tutorials can be
right from the very first dialog box presented when you launch
Camtasia. This does make for a truly seamless introduction to the tool,
and one that places just-in-time training right where you need it most.
Other developers could learn a lot from this approach.

The tutorials themselves are very
comprehensive, well-made and boast crystal clear visuals even at
relatively large dimensions.

In short, this is a great example of the kind of support that
be standard by now – showing customers how to do something rather than
expecting them to wade through a FAQ or the index of your endless
text-based documentation.

System Requirements

For the time being at least, Camtasia Studio 5 is a Windows
application, although there is talk of a Mac version being on the way.
I’d like that to be true. For now, here are the specs:


  • Microsoft Windows XP or Windows
  • Microsoft DirectX 9 or later version
  • 1.0 GHz processor minimum ~ Recommended: 2.5 GHz (for
    PowerPoint and camera recordings.)
  • 500 MB RAM minimum ~ Recommended: 1.0 GB
  • 60 MB of hard-disk space for program installation
  • Camtasia Studio Add-in for PowerPoint requires PowerPoint
    2000, 2002, 2003, or 2007
  • Production to the Apple iPod format requires Apple
    QuickTime 7.1 or later
  • Optional: Windows-compatible sound card, microphone and
    speakers (recommended)

Playback Requirements

  • Microsoft
    Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 300 MHz processor
  • 64 MB of RAM


Camtasia isn’t the cheapest screencasting tool
you’ll find on the market, but in terms of the features you get it’s
significantly cheaper than the kind of money you’ll be spending if you
go for professional editing applications like Adobe Premiere
or Apple
Final Cut Pro
, neither of which are specific to the needs of
professional screencasting.

Studio 5
costs $299.99

For an educational
the price drops to $179.00

If you are upgrading
from a previous edition
, you pay $149.00

I think not only that this is a very fair price point, but
that this
is also one of the few times, where I definitely feel that the few
hundred dollars spent for Camtasia is money well spent. Techsmith gives
you also the chance to find out for yourself with a fully
functional thirty day trial


I don’t have much to say in terms
of the
limitations or drawbacks to using Camtasia Studio 5, and have been very
impressed with what I’ve seen in my testing of the software.

Many of the things that I might consider drawbacks will be
seen by
the vast majority of users as positive qualities. This is largely due
to the fact that Camtasia Studio 5 manages to tread a fine line between
extensive functionality and excellent usability. 

Beginners will find
the experience a comfortable one, and yet there is still plenty of room
for power users to push the application to its limits.

Personally, in my work as a professional
, I use Final Cut Studio

as my weapon of choice. The reasons for this are several – for one
thing Camtasia Studio still hasn’t made it to the Mac OS, which I use
almost exclusively. Thankfully, there are rumours that a Mac version of
CS5 is on the way, and I would be very happy if this were the case.

Editing, transitions and call-outs have improved in Camtasia
5, as have its audio recording features. 

When held up against Final
, Soundtrack
and Motion
it doesn’t compare, but given that these professional tools require
extensive training, very deep pockets and significantly more
long-winded workflow, it’s really like comparing apples and

It’s also worth bearing in mind that these expensive tools
won’t add
interactive flash components, such as the quizzes and call-outs
Camtasia is capable of producing.

At $299 Camtasia Studio 5 sits in a different
and at a different price point to the more basic screencasting
applications, and this will be the make or break point for most buyers.

However, if you intend to create product demos, tutorials,
information products or video marketing materials for yourself, this is
a rather small investment considering the features that have been
packed into Camtasia Studio 5.

Review Summary

Studio 5
is a very nicely featured, all-in-one tool for
creating fantastic looking screen recordings, and a whole lot more

Here is an application that, with relative ease, will let you
together your own professional looking screencasts complete with audio
recording, titles, transitions, zooming and panning and web

If you haven’t used Camtasia before,
there is an excellent
amount of support

both within the application and at the Techsmith website, with its
range of video tutorials on getting the most out of the tool. 

There is some
learning curve involved compared to simpler tools like Jing Project,
but the difference in results are more than worth it.

For those considering the upgrade from previous versions,
there is
still much to entice you into parting with another $150, including a –
for me – revolutionary feature that will automatically resize, and then
zoom and pan into the important goings on of any screen

alone is worth the price of admission and will save a lot of
post-production time for those trying to optimize their videos for the
small playback sizes of YouTube or iPod video.

In short Camtasia Studio 5 is
matchless as an
all-in-one tool for those looking to create professional looking video
tutorials, product demonstrations and the kind of tech support that
makes customers very happy.

To go beyond Camtasia’s own capabilities you’ll be looking at
very expensive professional video editing tools like Final Cut Studio,
a steep learning curve and a much lengthier production process.

Here at Master New Media, Robin and I have long placed
Camtasia as
our official screen recording tool of choice. With version 5 I have
only more reasons to keep using it, while having a lot more fun,
greater reliability, options and the only pro- engine to create
screencasts worth of this name.

Highly recommended.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to learn more about Camtasia Studio 5, you might
want to check out the following links:

Originally written by Michael
for Master
New Media
and titled “Screen
Recording: Professional Screencasting Gets A Better Camera – Camtasia
Studio 5 In-Depth Review
” on 15 October 2007. Some
Rights Reserved