December 1st, 2009 Desktop, Software, Tech

Price: USD$149

Still blogging? Doing how-tos on your website with screenshots and text-based explanations? Get with the times, screencasting’s where it’s at, and Camtasia is the first fully featured screencasting application for the Mac we’ve seen. In basic terms it does two things. First, it records everything you go and second, it gives you a timeline-based editor to embellish it.

Whether it’s for a presentation or walking someone through a complicated process, there’s nothing as visceral as seeing a task carried out by a user as he or she does it, and Camtasia lets you share the experience with anyone.

The first phase involves an unobtrusive floating control panel, or you can access it through the menu bar icon so it’s even more out of the way. Click ‘record’ and you’ll capture everything able to be seen and even heard. Camtasia picks up iTunes tracks playing in the background, system alerts and even a commentary if you have a system microphone.

As soon as you click to stop recording, the Camtasia file window opens, and if you edit Flash, video or music you’ll be in very familiar territory with the timeline, media bin and canvas.

You can import other pictures, sound and video footage into your project and once you have everything you want to use, it’s time to start assembling. Drag assets from the media bin to the canvas or timeline and manipulate them as you would anything else in Flash or Final Cut by rearranging, shifting, trimming or overlapping. A second tab in the media bin shows you a list of custom annotations like shapes, arrows, speech balloons and text input, so you can make visual notes to support the action.

Arranging assets on the timeline is easy. Edges snap to guides and other assets so everything flows smoothly, and two more buttons beneath the media bin give you access to almost 50 sound and video effects. They’re not just in groovy fades and tricks either, you can also set the duration and positions of zooms to focus on a certain area of your screen in the video.

So with intro theme music, rotate transitions, text-based notations or arrows to call attention, your screencast is ready to publish, and the Share menu item is where it all happens. The first choice exports an iTunes-ready file you need only drag into your video library. The next two choices let you upload direct to your Youtube or account, and the software itself handles your log-in and upload without having to go to either site. You can also publish the video as a web page, which produces the requisite flash player, video file and html. The Advanced Export menu item also gives you a choice of video formats to generate.

If you’re a newbie when it comes to video editing you might flounder for a little while as experience with a timeline definitely helps. But you’ll have fun getting used to it and in no time you’ll be leaving all your WordPress-toting contemporaries in the dust.

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