Camtasia Studio 8 review

£232
Price when reviewed

Camtasia takes its time producing updates to its excellent screen-recording software – the last update was more than two years ago – but it’s usually worth the wait. The last version added a host of powerful new features, including mouse cursor tracking, and Camtasia 8 is no different.

The first big change is to the way Camtasia handles interactivity. It was possible before to create surveys, questionnaires and scored quizzes, but they could only be output as Flash productions. In this version, the output options include an HTML5-enabled custom player, which means output can be consumed not only on laptops and desktop PCs, but also mobile devices.

There’s support for the iPad and iPhone via a special player that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, and for those without their own hosting the software comes with 2GB of storage (and 2GB of bandwidth per month) on Screencast.com.

As a tool for producing learning materials such as tutorials, this gives Camtasia a significant boost, allowing producers to engage more easily with their viewers, and to get quick feedback from tutorials and other educational materials. But the new features don’t stop there. TechSmith has also upgraded the application in several other crucial areas, beginning with the recording engine.

Camtasia Studio 8

The previous version used a codec that was capable of capturing screen activity at only 15fps second; the new TSC2 codec now boosts that to a far smoother 30fps. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound particularly useful to software demo producers, you’d be right, but what it does do is dramatically expand Camtasia’s flexibility.

First, for those who regularly include video content in productions, the output will now look far more professional. Second, it opens the way to capturing a wider range of source material, from Full HD web-streamed video to in-game footage, broadening the appeal of the software dramatically.

One slight issue we experienced here was the inability to change the frame rate, so while Camtasia works beautifully with most internet video content, anything produced at 24fps or 25fps doesn’t look quite as smooth. Also, bear in mind that with one computer responsible for both decoding and encoding video simultaneously, you’ll need a powerful machine to make higher resolution recordings viable.

The last of the major upgrades is to the timeline editor, with Camtasia Studio now able to support an unlimited number of tracks rather than the single video, effects, music and audio tracks the previous version was restricted to.

Camtasia Studio 8

That’s welcome, of course, as are the improvements to transitions between clips, which mean they now overlap the beginning and end of clips, instead of elbowing them aside creating awkward gaps. Along with more tracks comes increased complexity, though, and the Camtasia timeline doesn’t feel best equipped for the job.

Yes, the grouping functions and facility to lock tracks is useful, and we do like the way elements can be keyframe-animated, with keyframes displayed in a collapsible lane just below the relevant video clip. That gives plenty of scope for creative animation, and any element on the timeline can be manipulated in this way. On the other hand, there’s no way of controlling the way tracks react when cuts and edits are made upstream.

Camtasia’s default position is to leave all tracks in place unless you choose to use the cut tool, at which point the downstream elements on the affected track close up. And, alas, the timeline isn’t the most responsive we’ve used, feeling sluggish in operation when things begin to get complicated.

Still, it’s something that’s worth putting up with given the power of the rest of the package, and Camtasia also fully justifies its price premium over rival BB FlashBack Pro – it’s a far more comprehensive piece of software with many more features. Better still, it combines its major upgrades with a bigger library of themed backgrounds, callouts and title screens, plus a selection of royalty-free audio background music tracks.

Camtasia 8’s price means it isn’t a casual purchase, but for producing the best possible quality videos and learning materials, it’s worth every penny.

Details

Software subcategory Utilities

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

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