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Summary:

If you have need to visually demonstrate your product, and you have the resources, then it just makes sense to produce a screencast. With the release of ScreenFlow 2.0, I thought it’d be useful to perform a real-world comparison review of the screencast heavyweight champ versus […]

camtasia_vs_screenflow

If you have need to visually demonstrate your product, and you have the resources, then it just makes sense to produce a screencast. With the release of ScreenFlow 2.0, I thought it’d be useful to perform a real-world comparison review of the screencast heavyweight champ versus the relative newcomer (at least to the Mac), Camtasia.

Getting Started

I started this comparison by creating the same video in both Camtasia and ScreenFlow. Both applications are very straightforward to setup and get going in creating the screencast. Camtasia gets a little bit of an edge for configuration because, unlike ScreenFlow, you do not have to install a separate audio driver.

However, once you get started recording, both applications provide you with a simple countdown prior to recording. As a primer, try to write your script prior to recording. This way, you will have a consistent experience for your customer once you complete production.

Please note, I did not try to record a screencast across multiple displays or using an external microphone. I used what most of us have — a MacBook (or a desktop) and the built-in microphone.

Basic Editing

After I recorded the basic screencast, I was presented with the Editor window within each program:

ScreenFlow main screen

Screenflow Main Window

Camtasia

Camtasia Main Window

Both programs have very similar editing experiences using a timeline. ScreenFlow has the added advantage of separating out the audio from the video portions of the recording. This is a great experience, because you can also add another voiceover quite easily. In contrast, Camtasia merges the audio and video. It wasn’t easily discoverable how to add or change the existing audio recording. With my limited skills, being able to re-record the audio as a separate track was very handy.

Enhancing Your Screencast Recording

Each has a plethora of features to modify your recording.

  • Cropping: Remove extra portions of the video that you don’t need.
  • Trimming: Remove any extra (or bad) audio/video from the timeline.
  • Playback tools: Play, reverse, fast-forward.
  • Import Media: Additional audio, video or images.
  • And a whole lot more…

What’s nice is that as you begin to explore more in ScreenFlow and Camtasia, they both provide simple video tutorials to show you how to use the features. For someone new to creating screencasts, this is very helpful.

Here are a few glimpses of the app once I inserted some text, graphics and transitions.

ScreenFlow - Inserts

ScreenFlow: with additional text box and transitions

Camtasia - InsertsCamtasia: with additional graphics, text and transitions

I did perform a little trimming (Camtasia calls this Delete or Ripple Delete) at the end of each video so that you can’t see me click/end the recordings (there is no way to avoid this, although it would be nice if both tools had this as an option). Both tools make this really easy to do.

Both applications have advanced audio capabilities. ScreenFlow has true audio ducking, or the ability to decrease the volume of one recording while another audio volume is increased. Camtasia offers audio transition effects, which offers some flexibility, but not anywhere near as rich as ScreenFlow.

Unfortunately, neither application has great iLife integration, so I can’t directly insert audio clips from GarageBand. I think this is a missed opportunity for both Camtasia and ScreenFlow.

The Victor

This is a tough call. However, I give the slight edge to ScreenFlow because of its ability to edit audio separately as well as its UI for editing different properties of a recording. I happen to prefer the overall Camtasia UI over ScreenFlow’s as it seems more like iMovie ’09 to me.

Ultimately, you have to decide which items are more important to you:

  • Features/Functionality
  • User Experience
  • Price

ScreenFlow 2.0 is priced at $99 (or $29 for an upgrade). Similarly, Camtasia 1.0.1 is currently priced at $99 (this is a promotional price, the web site shows the full retail for $149).

If you have limited funds, there is the screen recording capability in QuickTime X, a component of Snow Leopard. If you’ve already upgraded to Snow Leopard, then you have this option available. Otherwise, the Snow Leopard upgrade is $29. Please note that QuickTime X is nowhere in the same league as ScreenFlow or Camtasia. However, if you have a new Mac that includes Snow Leopard and iLife ’09 (which includes iMovie ’09), you can make some very simple Screencasts, excluding the fancier features available from either ScreenFlow or Camtasia.

The Videos

Don’t laugh, they’re horrible.

Camtasia

ScreenFlow

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  1. Thanks for the comparison, Matthew, very interesting. I personally use ScreenFlow, for many of the reasons you stated. I was surprised that you said ScreenFlow required you to install a separate audio driver. I’ve NEVER had to do that (neither with my original installation, or my just updated version 2.0). And I have several colleagues that use SF, that have not had to install an audio driver… I wonder if that is something specific with your set-up?

    As for the incompatibility with GarageBand – I agree, that’s one area that could be improved. But the way I get around it is to record (with ScreenFlow) a separate audio track of my GarageBand music playing. Then I just drag that into a new ScreenFlow project to use as background music.
    thanks again!

  2. Matthew Bookspan Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Toni – I had to install an audio driver with ScreenFlow for it to use the computer audio. Further, at least for me, ScreenFlow would not use my internal microphone until I installed the driver as well.

  3. This is inaccurate – with Camtasia I was prompted to install a driver called SoundFlower when I selected record from microphone.

  4. Matthew, thanks for the comparison. I used to use Camtasia (and TechSmith’s Jing) on Windows, but after switching to Mac two years ago I eventually started using ScreenFlow 1.0 when it became available and have been extremely pleased with it. I have not yet upgraded to SF 2.0, so this was interesting to read. I’m pleased to see ScreenFlow has added text overlays and transitions, which were two very glaring omissions in the 1.0 product.

    Like Toni, I’ve not had *any* problem with ScreenFlow and audio drivers on either of two Mac systems (a MacBook Pro and an iMac). I just installed it and started recording right away using both the computer audio and the internal microphone. Again, though, this was ScreenFlow 1.0.

    Thanks again for the comparison.

  5. Matthew Bookspan Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Barry – I don’t recall this in v1.0.1. I will try to reproduce with a clean install. Either way, the separate audio driver should be packaged up in an installer and/or with more explanation as to why it needs to be installed. It’s an odd user experience to install bits post “install” aka “drag-and-drop”.

    Dan – thanks for the feedback. Both apps really are excellent. I think Camtasia would really take the lead if it was more in parity with its Windows sibling. I don’t expect Techsmith or Telestream to rest on their laurels, which means only great things to come for us users.

  6. Thanks for the tips on how to find this blog through Google!

    I like Screenflow, but I’ve had problems upgrading. I downloaded version 2, overwriting version 1 (not a good idea, I know), and now Screenflow takes over my whole system, slowing everything to a crawl, to the point where I can’t even launch Activity Monitor to quit it. And it won’t let me upgrade my licence. Anyone else have similar problems?

  7. Almost anyone of us at Mac OS X Screencasts uses ScreenFlow.
    It’s interface is just beautiful to use and the implemented callouts are much more usable than Camtasia. I am one of those lucky ones who have both applications installed. Recently I did a screencast for Audi and was forced to use Camtasia. Camtasia is great, the editing is much better than in ScreenFlow, but the callouts and how the callouts are actually “called” is horrible. ScreenFlow has a function to zoom in on the mouse cursor or the foreground window. Camtasia has the same functionality, but it’s 100% unusable in my eyes.

    I have to admin that SF2.0 is currently bugging me like **@#45!!! I was recording a screencast of Blogo and MarsEdit yesterday. Both screencasts have been edited (with zoom and callout and everything), but when I added my custom intro and outro movie to the screencast SF2.0 crashes on save and sometimes corrupts the file in a way that it can’t be opened anymore.

    1. Hi Zettt,

      If you’d be willing, I’d love to get more details about how we can improve the zooming functionality of Camtasia. I’m the product manager for it. Feel free to post your comments (good and bad– all are welcome) here or email me directly at t.stein at techsmith.com

      Troy Stein
      Camtasia for Mac Product Manager

    2. Hi Troy,

      May I send you a screencast on that feature?

      I was only mailing with your (I suppose) marketing team (Betsy). Didn’t know that Techsmith is interested in our/my feedback.
      That thing should be ready tomorrow.

      Thanks for your offer. It’s much appreciated.

    3. Please do! You can email it to me at t.stein at techsmith.com. Thanks!

      Troy

    4. Matthew Bookspan Zettt Friday, November 6, 2009

      Nice to have the Techsmith Product Manager responding. Great customer service!

  8. I think Screenflow is the one for me because of its better audio edits.

    But can it record video that is playing live onscreen?

    And can you crop your Screenflow image to include just the video, or a small part of the screen around it?

    1. Matthew Bookspan DJ Friday, November 6, 2009

      Yes, both Camtasia and Screenflow have this as an option. And yes, you can customize the cropping.

  9. Like Screenflow a lot. Lack of some useful features though.

  10. Matthew Bookspan Thursday, October 29, 2009

    DJ – I did not try recording video at the same time, so I am unsure.

    Everyone – it turns out that there is a mistake in this post. Camtasia:Mac does in fact separate audio from the video. It just isn’t discoverable unless you right-click the combined stream and tell them to separate.

    I do believe that both apps are quite close in functionality and expect that as Camtasia is enhanced, it will surpass ScreenFlow. Further, it’s discomforting to see the feedback here as well as on Twitter the # of folks having issues with the 2.0 upgrade.

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