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.
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.
After I recorded the basic screencast, I was presented with the Editor window within each program:
Screenflow Main Window
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: with additional text box and transitions
Camtasia: 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.
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:
- User Experience
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.
Don’t laugh, they’re horrible.