Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Camtasia 2018 Review

Camtasia 2018 $249

(upgrade $99.50)

Camtasia is one of the best-known and best-liked screencasting programs for Windows and Mac. It gives you the ability to make video recordings from your computer monitor and edit them on a multi-track timeline. I reviewed the last major version of Camtasia (version 9) back in 2016. The new release, Camtasia 2018, adds on some new features and optimises some existing features. So let’s see what’s changed…

That’s Camtasia 9 in the background (top-left) and Camtasia 2018 in the foreground. At first sight, nothing much seems to have changed. You need to look more closely to spot the differences… 
One of the big changes, according to Techsmith, is the improved Library. The Library is a panel where you can store reusable assets – video and audio clips, backgrounds, animated objects, intros and outros and so forth. In Camtasia 9, the Library shared a tabbed panel with the Media clip panel. In Camtasia 2018 it’s been given its own panel with a few extra capabilities. For example, you can now have multiple named libraries, you can manage assets by moving selected elements from one named library to another, you can enter text to search for an asset and you can automatically import libraries from Camtasia 9.1. Well, up to a point. I found that the Library importer failed with my Camtasia 9.1 Library. It also failed when I explicitly exported the 9.1 Library and then attempted to import it. I got around this problem by selecting portions of the old Library, exporting those to a Library zip file and then importing them.

The Library now has its own dedicated panel (show at the left) and it it includes various assets such as the animated background that is being previewed here.
Some additional assets are provided with this release. And if you need even more pre-designed intros, outros, backgrounds and music clips you can buy access to 600,000 additional royalty-free assets for $199 a year.

User-defined theming is another new feature. This lets you define the colours and fonts to be used for elements such as text and speech-bubbles. Then, when you add an element to the timeline you can select a theme from the properties panel to apply the preset fonts and colours to it. There is no way to set a default theme, however – one that atomically applies settings to elements as they are used. There is a theme called ‘Default’ but even that has to be applied on an element-by-element basis.

Themes let you define colours and fonts so that they can be applied quickly to text and callouts
There are a few technical improvements and optimizations too. There is an option to render at a higher frame-rate than before. Camtasia 2018 supports up to 60 fps (frames per second) whereas the maximum for Camtasia 9 was 30 fps. The rendering efficiency has also been improved with Techsmith claiming a speed improvement of up to 50%.

Camtasia 2018 can render at up to 60fps. Previously 30fps was the maximum.
Naturally, Camtasia 2018 retains the features from its previous release. If you are not familiar with Camtasia, let me summarise briefly. The software includes a screen-capture tool that lets you grab images of your entire screen or a screen from a selected monitor, it can lock onto a single window or it can record a user selected rectangle on screen. It can simultaneously record from a webcam so you can overlay the screen recording with a ‘talking head’ video. It includes transitions to join together clips using blurs, fades and so on. It has ‘behaviours’ to let you add bouncing and sliding movements to clips or text. It has annotation tools to add highlights, boxes, arrows and speech bubbles. And it has a small but useful range of video and audio enhancement tools to remove background hums from audio, colours from video (for Chroma key/green screen effects) and so forth. For a more extensive overview see my reviews of Camtasia 9 and Camtasia 8.

I recorded myself in front of a green screen. By using the ‘remove a colour’ (Chroma key) option I was able to remove the background. This is not a sophisticated Chrome key tool but for ‘talking head’ screencasts it does the job quickly and pretty efficiently.

Final Thoughts…

So it’s been a two-year wait for this new edition on Camtasia. Has it been worth it? Well, I have to say that the software has changed very little since the previous release. The addition of 60 fps support is welcome and changes to the library and themes are also useful. But in all essentials Camtasia 2018 looks and feels just like the previous release. Arguably, of course, that is no bad thing. If something does a good job and users like the way it does it, why change it? Camtasia remains my preferred screencasting software on Windows. I also like the Mac version (especially its ability to swap recordings easily with the Windows version) though it has to be said that on the Mac, Camtasia faces stiff competition from Screenflow.

Even so, I am surprised that the existing features have not been expended to a greater degree. Why are there no extra transitions, video effects, audio effects, annotations and behaviours for example? If you already have Camtasia 9 and are wondering whether or not to upgrade, frankly, I would hesitate. Unless there is something among the new features that is a “must have” for your work, the $99 upgrade cost seems to me to be a bit steep for a product that has changed so little.

If, on the other hand, you are not an existing user and you considering buying a screencasting suite, well, in that case I would certainly recommend Camtasia. But bear in mind that Camtasia is a screencasting application that does ‘pure’ (camera-recorded) video editing as a bonus. If your main requirement is to create videos from camera recordings then you should invest in a general-purposes video editor such as PowerDirector. PowerDirector, and some other general-purpose video editing packages, also provide screen-recording capabilities. So if you don’t do much screen-recording a package such as PowerDirector might be a good all-rounder. But if screen-recording is your main requirement and you want a fast, simple and efficient package, Camtasia remains my first choice.

For more reviews of screencasting and video editing programs see here: