Producing a quality video that’s pleasing to the eye isn’t easy. Using an intuitive package like TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio 6 takes one layer of complexity and difficulty out of the equation. The $299 (as of 11/2/09) software isn’t well suited to people on a budget, especially considering that Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Edition costs less than half that. But whereas Pinnacle bombards the user with a mountain of features–many of which aren’t appropriate for typical users–Camtasia keeps it simple.
Camtasia Studio presents a satisfying range of cuts, dissolves, and wipes that won’t overwhelm an amateur filmmaker. Offering the ability to record video from the screen or from an attached PC camera, as well as the option to record audio narration, the app gives creative types the freedom to use whatever tools they may have at hand to pull together quick video clips. The application also allows you to embed quizzes, surveys, and other interactive content into the video when you produce it as a Flash file.
For creating training videos or business-oriented demos, Camtasia includes a top-of-the-line capture application that records the action on your computer (either the entire screen or a region you define). In our experience, though, making a screen-capture video while running processor-intensive applications can bog down a lower-performance PC.
We found Camtasia exceptional for quickly assembling videos that combine previously recorded video material, still images, on-screen text, and callouts. But when you get down to the finest levels of detail during post-production, the program neglects to give you a way to trim a cut without using a slider in the user interface. Lacking the ability to enter a precise time for a cut can be an obstacle if you’re trying, for instance, to synchronize cuts precisely to the beats of a music soundtrack.
For most people, however, such a critique is just splitting hairs: TechSmith Camtasia Studio 6 does a fine job of lining up cuts in multiple audio, video, still-image, and text-overlay and graphical-callout layers. The finished product, which you can output to virtually any file-format wrapper using any video or audio codec, compresses nicely into video for the Web, but you can set it to retain near-original quality levels if you want to produce HD video for demos or for distribution on DVD, complete with professional-looking menus.