Video screen capture

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Video screen capture, also known as screencast, is an incredibly powerful way of showing off computer software. Nowadays most of us realize that people hate reading text, so in terms of impact, engagement and ease-of-use, there's absolutely no better way of making software tutorials than to upload and embed screencast on the web. There are a bunch of different programs around for video screen capture... here I have listed some of the tools I've played with.

Video Screen Capture Applications

Apple Quicktime X ..... (my favorite for Mac)

  • PROGRAM: Apple Quicktime X {**---}
  • COST : free
  • PLATFORM: Mac only, and must be snow leopard (10.6) or later
  • ABOUT : Apple Quicktime X is free to download, and then to use simply click: File >> Start Screen Recording. In the down arrow you'll notice you can use a built in microphone to narrate too (see pictures). The video itself is good quality, but there are no options for editing or anything fancy. The video can export to some common sizes, but if you need to to some basic editing (cutting frames etc) or want to export to different formats you may need to also install and pay $30 for Quicktime 7 Pro (version 7 doesn't have screen capture, but the pro version does feature basic editing functionality).
  • PROS : Good quality video, audio and is free.
  • CONS : No editing options and only does full screen.

RecordMyDesktop ..... (my favorite for Ubuntu)

  • PROGRAM: RecordMyDesktop {****-}
  • COST : free
  • PLATFORM: Ubuntu and some other unix breeds
  • ABOUT : You can install this from the Ubuntu software center and works straight away. A little tricky: you click 'save as' first to change it from you home directory, then 'select screen' (to select a window) then 'record'... then click the icon top right to pause or stop. It saves an .ogv file at 15 fps, which isn't very widely supported, but I used "Faasoft OGV Converter" on Windows (free for <5 minutes or ~$45 to buy) to convert these using: "Add File", then Profile dropdown > HD Video > HD DivX then click the big round "convert checked items" bottom. On Ubuntu some use "ffmpeg" command line too to change file format (see video) - haven't tried that one yet - but I think it's what the window one uses in the background and you can enter a command like (ffmpeg -i out-48.ogv -s 1920x1080 -r pal -b 36M -threads 2 -vcodec dnxhd -acodec libmp3lame
  • PROS : Good quality video (15 fps), audio and is free.
  • CONS : Saves as "OGV" which isn't widely supported on other platforms / video editing tools. ..... (a good choice for Windows)

  • PROGRAM: {******}
  • COST : Free ! (and no install required!)
  • PLATFORM : Windows or Mac
  • ABOUT : This is an great service, but I've had trouble on Mac (especially with Chrome) and it needs Java. If it works it's pretty cool - you can go to this website and click "Record" and instantly take video of your screen after setting the window you need. The screen recording is (I assume) temporarily stored to your desktop and then uploaded to where you can preview and then share the video with other people via a short unique URL (eg:). From that page you have options to publish it to youtube, to twitter or download the .mp4. They ask for your yahoo/google or other account to login, but so far no spam. It works on both Mac and PC, but what's most impressive is the high quality - I tested it using the "full screen" option on a 27 inch 2560x1440 screen. The only real limitation I've found is is that (a) you can't add extra tags or edit the movie in any way (not unless you download the .mp4 and use something else, and (b) a five minute limit.
    Extra notes: If you pay $9 a month you can opt to make certain videos private and other features listed on their pricing page. The frame rate is not as high as certain other video capture services but hey - keep in mind this works over the internet!
  • PROS : Free, no need to install software, videos can be instantly shared on web (on, easy and free to download as .mp4 or publish to youtube.
  • CONS : 5 minutes, no video editing options.

V Recorder ..... (works for Android)

  • PROGRAM: V Recorder {***--}
  • COST : Freemium
  • ABOUT: V Recorder is a stable screen recorder/game recorder/video recorder for android, also a powerful all-in-one video editor. It won't take the highest resolution unless you pay a tonne of money, but if you just want a single quick video this will work. I'm still looking for a better solution. Supposedly Android 10 has a build in developer feature How to Screen Record on Android, but the required flag didn't appear for me, so I had to try 3rd party and the first one I tried didn't work. This one at least worked, and has nice floating controls to start and stop exactly when you want.

Techsmith's Camtasia ..... (good but expensive)

  • PROGRAM: Techsmith's Camtasia {***--}
  • COST : $300 ! (ouch)
  • PLATFORM: Windows (Camtasia Studio) or, more recently, Mac (Camtasia for Mac).
  • ABOUT : Camtasia it a fairly powerful video capture program, with great quality capture and editing features. After choosing one of the size presets or custom size, it's easy to take the video, but the power of Camtasia is in editing the video. You can then combine any number of videos, pictures, sound and text captions/callouts, into a single project and then export to a movie file or for youtube or Techsmith's "". The most impressive editing feature however, is "smart focus" which will automatically try to zoom in and out of where you clicked and/or types (it records all key presses and mouse movement)... and you can fairly easily edit this or add your own zoom in which help emphasis where you have typed. They also have great video tutorials showing how easy it is to add a title page, transitions and other elements. The tricky thing however, is that, with the exception a few basic bitmap shapes, you'll have to collect all the images, sounds an other files you want into a folder as your project file makes relative links to this. The result can be a fairly large amount of storage used and if you move any bitmap files you've imported. I used Camtasia a while back, before it was so damn expensive and (I swear) had a better set of autoshapes! Back then (around 2008) video capture and some of these great features were available in Techsmith's SnagIt, but now SnagIt is only for image capture. Techsmith's new "Jing" is for video capture and upload to upload but doesn't have any editing features. Camtasia does have a 30 day trial option.
  • PROS : Good quality video and editing tools, fantastic autofocus and zoom feature, 30 day trial.
  • CONS : Expensive!!