November 7, 2008
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On November 5th, Techsmith Corp. announced the availability of Camtasia Studio version 6. Here is my take on the highlights:
There are a couple of biggies and the rest are mostly time saving features and, of course, standard bug fixes rolled up into any major release.
1. High Quality Output With Small File Size – The biggest boost consists of several new production presets that provide HD quality output at some VERY attractive file sizes. This is HD-quality video by way of MPEG-4 AVC, H.264+AAC and Flash. What does that mean? Simply superb quality and sound no matter what you are producing for (from iPod’s and iPhones to HD TV) at totally usable file sizes. And you can produce for all of them at once! For detailed technical specs check here: MPEG-4 AVC
My testing shows that videos produced with H.264 (the future of video codecs in my opinion) are nearly half the size of SWF Flash and are noticeably higher quality. Cool! Oh…and they sound better too!
All this comes by way of the presets (including one for YouTube…still testing that one) and make producing this great quality and small size a push button operation. Outstanding!
2. Unlock Audio and Video Track – The other huge modification addresses (but doesn’t eliminate) a HUGE pet peeve of mine…the fact that in all earlier versions the audio and video track of your screen recordings were “married” together. In other words, if you made a mistake in either the narration or video itself and wanted to edit it out you were basically screwed. You just couldn’t do it without jumping through several large and very painful hoops without messing up the synchronization of the audio and the video. Ouch.
In version 6 you can now “decouple” the audio from the video and move them around independently like you can in any other video editing software on the planet. Finally!
That being said, Camtasia Studio 6 will still not be my main video editor (I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum) because I have much greater control and the ability to add multiple video and overlay tracks. But for smaller, less complex projects this feature is a freakin’ godsend!
Here are some other nice little touches.
1. Redesigned Camtasia Recorder App – the user interface for the recorder is all new. Ya…kinda cool but the one thing I really love is the addition of a “Restart” button. Previously, if you wanted to trash a recording you were doing because of mistakes you need to Cancel it…and then Delete it…and then start the whole process off again. Ugly and time consuming. Now…just hit the “Restart” button. Sweet!
2. Workflow Hotkeys – Camtasia now have a bunch of Hotkeys available when editing. Need to Split your video? Just hit “S” in the timeline. Want to add a callout to the current spot on the timeline? Just tap C on your keyboard. Need a transition? Hit T. The same goes for caption, zoom, marker, split, and extend frame.
Nice…but hardly ground-breaking. I expect that the more I use them the more productivity gains I’ll experience. Techsmith’s testing touts a 30% reduction in editing time…Hmmm, OK.
3D Tilt – The Pan & Zoom function now has a cool feature that allows you to do a 3D Tilt of your video. I’ve done this for about a year now but used Adobe After Effects to achieve it. Much harder to create the clip and then import it into Camtasia. Now, you just do it right inside Camtasia Studio during editing. Nice.
Improved Effects Control – Advanced editing techniques with complete control over transition and callout fade durations down to 1/10 of a second to create more polished videos.
Import MOV File Formats – In version 6 you can now import MOV files as native content. This is handy since many video cameras use this format and now you can get that content into your project easily.
Techsmith also lists integration with Screencast.com and a free 2GB disk and bandwith account as a “feature” in version 6. Not sure what that’s about…you can get that with version 5 (unless I’m missing something).
Links to Resources:
Here are some links so you can check things out for yourself:
1 – What’s New – includes a video overview with Troy Stein (Camtasia Product Manager).
2 – Video Overview & Demo – Troy again with a more in-depth video overview.
3 – A slew of new version 6 Video Tutorials. Scroll to the bottom…
4 – User Forum Thread – here’s a thread I started on Techsmith’s User Forum RE the upgrade. Some spicy comments about the upgrade provisions and dropping FLV output!
5 – Version Comparison Chart. Pick your current version and see What’s New.
My Biggest Concern:
As I was testing the new production outputs, I was shocked to find (or more accurately NOT find) that there is no longer an FLV option for Flash! OMG! David O’Rourke (Lead Developer) says:
MP4 replaces FLV in CS6. It’s true that we were focused on the FLV format in v5. At the time, FLV was the recommended way to do video in Flash. Then Adobe changed the game by announcing that they’d reached the limits of what the FLV container could do, and that they were adopting the stardards based MPEG-4 container instead. They also announced decoding support for H.264 video and AAC audio. The MP4 output in CS6 is our response to this change. The MP4 files produced by Camtasia Studio use H.264 video compression and AAC audio compression. This combination delivers high quality at reasonable file sizes across a wide spectrum of content. In short: small files, high quality, no guesswork, standards based container, ubiquitous playback.
That’s a winning combination in my book.
OK…that’s all well and good and all…BUT:
I use several custom players that only accept FLV as the video source! Most notably is the Media Menu Producer I use for ScreencastProfits.com. OUCH! I’ll probably have to output to a lossless format (like AVI) and use Sorenson Squeeze to FLV…I think it will be an issue for many. Be advised…
Is It Worth the Upgrade Price?
Unlike some software companies which release new major number versions every two years, Techsmith typically does one every year or so. While this gets new features into the hands of users quicker, it also means that sometimes it appears that the “upgrade” is lacking in a large number of highly impactful functions. You’ll hear some complaining from users who have recently upgraded from earlier versions to v5 and feel that they are getting stuck for another $150 to go the v6.
Techsmith has historically provided some provisions for recent upgraders so contact Customer Support to see if they can do anything for you.
But for me, the addition of the new HD quality settings and unlocked audio and video are enough to justify the upgrade. For others, it basically depends on how many videos you make ( to realize the time savings) and how difficult you find it to produce quality videos at decent file sizes. But the whole FLV support thing is a potential problem…especially if you use custom players.
One thing you can do is to download and install the 30 day fully functioning free trial and give it a test run. Camtasia 6 installs in it’s own directory and Program Group so you won’t overwrite your existing Camtasia version. I actually have versions 3 – 6 installed on my computer…
I hope this review helps a bit and I’ll have much more detail (and video reviews!) soon as I continue to work through all the features and functions.
To get the MOST out of your video creation efforts no matter what version you are running, be sure to go to ScreencastProfits.com and start making more effective marketing videos!!!
Join the discussion and leave a comment or question! If I don’t know the answer…I’ll find out!