TechSmith is an old company in the technical world. It dates back from 1987 and has always been involved with screen capture and recording software for individual and professional use. Camtasia for Mac 2, however, is their second generation screen recording software for this platform.
Camtasia for Mac has a direct competitor in ScreenFlow by Telestream. Telestream comes from a whole different world. It’s specialised in broadcast and video transcoding and workflow systems. This different background bleeds through into the products. ScreenFlow 4 is a complete — albeit basic — video editing app. Camtasia 2 is first and foremost targeted at presentation.
Neither program is superior to the other. They just appeal to different markets and different usage scenarios. For example, Camtasia 2 offers the integration with a sharing platform, while Telestream joined up with Leaping Brain so that you can sell your screencasts.
The differences also work through in the apps themselves, but I’m not going to cover them any further — at least, not here. Perhaps in a different story I will.
Camtasia 2 has a user friendly interface. It’s better than its predecessor, which in my opinion, resembled a Windows program too much. Camtasia 2 integrates well with Mountain Lion, supporting drag-and-drop to import media, and a look that is really Mac-like. The way you do things is completely Mac-like too.
Camtasia’s presentation inheritance is immediately apparent from the large number of annotations you can drag to the working window and the cursor FX capabilities that really make your mouse and its movements stand out.
The interface helps by automatically showing you the most relevant parameters to set in an Inspector that here is simply called a “Properties” sidebar. It looks like the Inspector of many Mac apps, but it pops open without further intervention of the user. The Properties make it easy to change the look and feel of an annotation or an effect that lives in the working window and on the timeline.
Camtasia 2 has a great many effects, including the ability to chroma key, change clip speed and add interactive hotspots. The latter ability to add links to web pages and other documents outside the presentation further bears witness of the presentation power of Camtasia 2.
Camtasia 2 uses a timeline, but it is not the same as a video sequence — it resembles one, but it works differently. The only way in which it works the same is when you delete parts of the recording. Here, Camtasia 2 uses the same terminology as what you’ll find in Avid’s Media Composer or Final Cut Pro X. Ripple delete is a good example.
But that doesn’t mean to say it’s a video timeline. For example, you can only play using the Spacebar, not the JKL keys that are commonly used for playing in a video editing app. Or take the effects you can add. If you add a cursor FX, animation or annotation, in a video editor you’ll drag the effect (which will have a pre-defined, usually short duration) to the sequence or timeline and then adjust the effect parameters like duration and speed by dragging, sliding and what have you.
In Camtasia 2 you will add the effect across the entire duration of the recording. In order to shorten it, you’ll need to adjust it. The only way to actually change duration is by shortening the length of the bar by which it is represented in the timeline. You’ll need the mouse for this.
This is great when you have a relatively short (time length) screencast, but it complicates the workflow a bit when the screencast has a longer duration or has been made up of different clips. It’s not a huge problem, but I prefer the way it’s organised in video editing apps.
Another feature that I would implement differently is the animations workflow. As it is now, Camtasia 2 lets you add animations; lots of them. With animations, you can pretty much do anything you want, so that’s good. It allows you to add visual interest to your presentation and make something truly unique.
But the — often tiny — arrow that goes on the track you wish to animate… It could be my personal taste, but I don’t like an arrow sitting on top of any track in the timeline as in my opinion it adds visual confusion.
Nevertheless, it’s crystal clear that if you create boring presentations with Camtasia 2, it won’t be for the app lacking in features that enable you to create something eye-catching.
Exporting with Camtasia 2 for the Mac is sharing. You can export to YouTube, Screencast.com and iTunes. You can also add a captions in a separate track. To make the captions ADA compatible, TechSmith has a web page that explains how you need to set up your fonts, the size, etc.
Exporting to something else but a video output format is possible too. In Camtasia, there is an “Advanced Export” and it includes the ability to create QuickTime movies in any format. The only two things that are not included in Camtasia’s export capabilities are Vimeo and editing formats like ProRes 4444 with Alpha channel.
Better still, the “Export to Web page” option creates the movie, a Flash player with skin and all necessary HTML and CSS code to run your movie in a browser!