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Kool Toolz: Catching Up with Screen Capturing

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Kool Toolz

Kool Toolz: Catching Up with Screen Capturing

Four products to help you seize the moment, and more

by Dennis Sellers

Camtasia for Mac


There are lots of screen capture apps available for the Mac, but TechSmith Corp. describes its new Camtasia for Mac as screen-recording, or screencasting, software. It's designed to let you create presentations, demonstrations, screencasts, training and marketing videos in HD-quality video.

Camtasia for Mac records what you see on your Mac's screen, as well as what you say, and how you interact with any web site or Mac-based application such as Keynote and PowerPoint. You can then edit the content and share it online, on http://Screencast.com, on CDs or DVDs, or via iTunes for playback on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPod.

You can combine real-world footage with screen-recorded content, including webcam and DV video camera footage to create picture-in-picture, picture-then-picture and even side-by-side presentations. Final Cut users can also combine HDV camera footage.

Camtasia for the Mac includes TechSmith's patented SmartFocus technology, so you'll be able to deliver your video at any size while still maintaining the highest viewing quality whether it's for your blog, website, or an Apple mobile device. You can add multiple audio tracks, and virtually unlimited video tracks to layer on images and additional video.

The multiple audio and video tracks can be moved and edited independently in Camtasia for the Mac. If you want to create dynamic screencasts with lots of screen action, or want to highlight a particular section, or create a fly-over effect, Camtasia for the Mac allows you to add and edit SmartFocus key frames for greater precision over zoom and pans, as well as edit key frames of any element on the timeline and change its location and properties over time.

You can add text annotations, shapes and arrows to your screencasts to draw viewers' attention to a particular area while providing more instruction, and add title and credit clips throughout to brand videos before sharing. Camtasia for the Mac produces files with all the options that QuickTime currently supports, including the playback of H.264 MOV videos in the Flash player.

http://Screencast.com

Screencast.com is TechSmith's hosting service for video sharing. Camtasia for Mac trial users and customers receive free 2GB of storage and 2GB of monthly bandwidth. Similarly, Camtasia for Mac includes the ability to share files to YouTube with YouTube account integration.

Camtasia for Mac supports Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later, including support for Mac OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard"). Web cameras and microphones for capturing audio and video are available for purchase separately. After the special introductory price of $99 (being offered for a limited time), Camtasia for Mac will have a suggested retail price of $149 with a 30-day free trial, including free training videos and technical support. The software and recommended hardware can be purchased at http://www.techsmith.com.

Voila


In May Global Delight (http://www.globaldelight.com/) released Voila, a new image capturing, annotating and sharing tool that boasts the ability to capture a region from the screen in rectangular, circular, polygonal or free hand form.

The software offers full screen capture, timed capture or menu capture. In addition, Voila is integrated with a blend of annotating tools like texts, arrows, callouts, sprays, stamps and more. You can share your work via email or iPhoto. The software supports web page and webcam captures, an organizer for image management and additional annotations like blur and flip.

Voila can also capture menus, objects, fullscreen or timed captures; you can capture these shapes simultaneously. What's more, you can rotate, resize, switch between captures or undo a selection before capturing.

Let's say you want to capture a web page. Type in the ULR of the page into Voila's built-in browser, and you can snap the current Safari page with a click. Or you can import the web address to snap without leaving your browser. You can browse any web page using the built-in browser and capture the DOM elements. Voila allows you to select more than one DOM element at a time within a web page and snap all of them simultaneously. (DOM, or Document Object Model, is a cross-platform, language-independent convention for representing and interacting with objects in XHML, XHTML and XML documents.)

Global Delight built Voila to work with all the Mac's features. For example, you can capture from your Mac's built-in iSight camera or any third party web cams attached to your computer. You can take a single snap or multiple snaps and add a variety of elements to it using annotation tools like Text, Arrow, Line, Shape, Callouts, Blur, Brush and Stamp. All the annotations are selectable and can be scaled to just about any size. If you later revisit the annotations, you can select, rotate, resize, reorganize or copy-paste across other images.

Voila lets you add metadata to your snaps. You can add titles, relevant tags and describe the information for each of the snaps.

One the most appealing things about Voila is that you can capture multiple screenshots at once. You select different portions of the screen, then adjust, rotate or undo a selection. And - voila! (pun intended) - you can snap simultaneously.

The software sports global keyboard shortcuts to capture full screens, area, windows, web pages, menus and selection captures. You change the keyboard shortcuts in the Voila preferences to meet you needs.

Voila saves all your snaps76 in a central image library and helps you retrieve your creative works at a later date. If you want to group similar snaps, you can create custom collections and drag images into them.

Voila runs on Mac OS X 10.5.2 or later, and is designed to run on any Intel-based Mac running at 1.25GHz and above. iPhoto 6.0.1 or later is required for exporting captured or annotated images.

ScreenFlow


Sometimes it comes in handy to make a screen recording of something you're doing on your Mac so you can show it to someone else. Enter ScreenFlow from Telestream (www.telestream.net/screenflow) a US $99.99 "professional screencasting studio" for Mac OS X 10.5 . Apple gave it two Apple Design Awards in 2008: Best Mac OS X Leopard Application and Best Mac OS X Leopard Graphics & Media Application.

Who needs the app? Let's count the ways - or rather the people.

One: those who need to produce demonstrations of software applications. Developers can record a demonstration of their software with audio and even separate video. They can highlight areas of interest, add text, then edit the whole thing and save it as a video. iPhone developers can also take advantage of the utility. With ScreenFlow, they have a tool to record their applications (using any iPhone simulator), and can choose a finger as a mouse pointer as they navigate around their iPhone app.

Two: teachers who want to record their lectures, tutorials, or instructions for students, or to create rich-media presentations. Educators can record their message once, and students can access the video at any time.

Three: those who need to record training sessions. For example, corporate trainers can combine a screen recorded video with Keynote or PowerPoint presentations and video conferencing.

With ScreenFlow you can record from your computer desktop, a video camera, microphone and computer audio simultaneously. Toss in the editing functions, and the finished result is a QuickTime or Windows Media movie, ready for publishing to your web site or blog.

With ScreenFlow you don't have to select an area of the screen for capture, as it sports advanced algorithms that only encode areas of change on your screen. During your screen capture ScreenFlow tracks where your mouse cursor is, when you click and when you press a key. This allows you to add mouse click effects (both visual and audible) and an overlay showing your key strokes. You can even you zoom the mouse pointer up and down.

"Callouts" let you highlight and focus in on the mouse or frontmost window. For example, want to circle the area around the mouse? You can do it.

ScreenFlow captures are instant. When you stop capturing, you can start editing. You only have to wait when you're exporting the final movie, as this requires processing.

Once your screen capture is complete, you can edit it using a timeline interface that lets you add zoom and pan effects, trim clips, add drop shadow and reflection, adjust audio levels and more. ScreenFlow introduces actions to the editing interface for modifying the parameters of your screencast over time. For example, adding a video action lets you put zoom and pan effects on your clips, while the audio action lets you adjust volume at different points in your screencast. You can also combine existing media into your screencast.

The latest version (1.5) of ScreenFlow adds the ability to add text objects to the timeline, allowing users to add titles to videos. It also adds 10 new audio effects that can be applied to the narration. This is the version that adds the ability to product screen recordings in a Windows Media video format. Direct Media Export requires a Flip4Mac WMV Studio license for $49. Telestream has announced that version 2.0 will be arriving right around the time this issue appears.

When resizing high resolution screen content into a QuickTime movie, ScreenFlow uses custom GPU algorithms to give your finished movie the best possible quality. The software takes advantage of such Mac OS X technologies as Core Animation, QuickLook, Spotlight, QTKit, Quartz Composer, OpenGL, Core Image, Automator, Core Data and many others.

ScreenFlow is Universal Binary so runs natively on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. It's a Leopard only product. A demo is available for download.

Snapz Pro X


Snapz Pro X (http://www.ambrosiasw.com/utilities/snapzprox/) from Ambrosia Software allows you to record anything on your screen, saving it as a QuickTime movie or screenshot that can be emailed, put up on the web or distributed as you wish. Think of it as Grab (the screen capture software that comes with Mac OS X) on steroids.

The software is designed for those who need to make training videos, produce product demos, create tutorials, write documentation, archive streaming video and more. In other words, it captures full motion video screens, not just static screenshots (as Grab does).

Desktop video capture utilities generally come in two varieties. Some can save video recordings of your desktop operations as you're doing them. Others save everything into memory, then postprocess the creation of the final output video files once your session is complete.

Snapz Pro X uses the second method of capture, which has the advantage of postprocessing the file, eliminating the possibility of not recording the smooth playing of video clips in your capture session. Of course you do have to wait for the video to render after you're done recording.

Once your recording is complete, you choose the video-compression format from your QuickTime-compatible codecs, along with frame rate, color depth, data rate and audio-compression settings. You even see a real-time preview of the movie as it's being rendered.

By default, Snapz's hotkey is Command-Shift-3. When invoked, Snapz appears and presents four ways to capture: entire screen, objects (such as menus and dialog boxes), selection, and movie.

The Ambrosia app supports digital audio and supports optional microphone voiceover. Snapz Pro X can save screenshots as .bmp, .pict, .gif, .jpg, .png, .tiff, .pdf, or Photoshop files with control over image compression. Screenshots can be scaled, cropped, color depth-changed, and dithered. Snapz Pro X can also add borders, generate automatic thumbnails, overlay watermarks/copyright notices and more.

Snapz Pro X costs US$69; a demo version is available for download. The software is Universal Binary so runs natively on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. Snapz Pro X requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later. A Mac running with at least an 1.25GHz G4 processor and sporting 1GB of RAM is recommended.

There's also a $29.95 version which lacks the movie capture features. It offers still image capturing only.


Dennis Sellers is a long time journalist. He started in the newspaper business, but has been in the online journalism business for the past 15 years. He's the editor/publisher of Macsimum News (http://www.macsimumnews.com)

 
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