Camtasia…tentative steps into the world of movie making

Name: Camtasia (version 7)
Cost: $100+ (there is a student version for a reduced price); 30-day trial available
Type: Download (you might be able to purchase a CD version for student use)
Rating: 3/5


Camtasia logoThere is something addictive about the ability to create a movie (video). Perhaps it’s a generation thing, as I remember the early days of the Internet, prior to YouTube. I never delude myself in believing that I’ll make real movies/animations, with a moving or compelling storyline. But, I do like the power of mixing text, audio, graphics, and movement. I teach online, so I’m often teaching synchronous sessions with audio and slide presentations. This made it easy for me to transition into video making with Camtasia, where I could combine my slides with audio and transitions. Camtasia also allows for screen capture video recording, so I can record my screen actions (e.g., showing students how to upload their assignment) and add it to a longer presentation with other graphics, audio, and text. The screen capture feature has more clarity than Jing, but Jing is free. I use Audacity to first record my audio files, which can be added individually to the movie during the development process.

Goal: A robust tool to combine graphics (e.g., PPT slide JPG), screen capture videos, audio clips, and transitions. I also wanted to add overlays to the video content, such as an arrow cued up to sync with audio or other highlighting methods.

Camtasia workspace 1

This is the workspace that you’ll see before adding files to work with.


  • Does not require Internet access since it’s software on my PC, thus increasing software stability during editing
  • It is intuitive as long as you know how to work with a timeline when editing video content. Drag and drop to add content, with icons for other features of the tool
  • Provides all the necessary files for editing in Camtasia and then uploading to YouTube; it even creates a screen shot of the first moments of the video in case YouTube doesn’t get it right when choosing the video still image (i.e., what you see before clicking Play).
  • There are tutorial videos on the software’s website.
  • There are “stock” background music and other options to add to your presentation.


  • It can’t embed links that work on YouTube. If I upload the video to my Screencast account, which has limited free storage, the links will work; but, users need Silverlight loaded in order to view the video (which isn’t usually a problem, but YouTube is more accessible). I’ve tried work arounds, but they are messy. YouTube and Camtasia need to work out their compatibility issues, or I need to see if posting to a different website is the solution (e.g. Vimeo). Camtasia 8 has not addressed these issues.
  • The timeline can be a little quirky to work with when trying to edit video screen captures and audio. I cannot seem to break the screen capture video if I want to pause it or slow it down at a certain point. [The work around I use to to add the clip twice, cut/delete portions of the video, add a jpg (e.g., screenshot) between the cuts, and then edit the videos as needed. Without transitions, the clipped videos are seamless to the audience this way.]
  • I tried a stop-motion video with hundreds of photos and the software continually crashed, to the point I gave up. I tried researching the error message, but didn’t get satisfactory responses. After spending hours taking photos of “moving” letters, I was too frustrated to figure out the software any further.
  • Very limited shape animations (e.g., arrow) are available. I could get around this by recording my PPT as a video with animations, but editing the captured video is cumbersome, so I have to rely on the software’s stock animations (e.g., appearance of an arrow or box). Free Internet tools have significantly more options to “slide” graphics/text on to the screen.

Camtasia workspace 2

This is what the workspace looks like when adding images, transitions, and audio

Insider View: Most video software has a timeline approach, where you combine graphics/video that sync with audio. Timing the audio with the graphics, video clips, and animations (e.g., arrow) is a little tedious, but this isn’t necessarily due to the software. I found that first learning the video creation process with Windows Movie Maker helped me build the skills needed to use Camtasia. Furthermore, I can use the skills gained from Camtasia when using more complex video creation tools.

Final Thoughts: Worth the cost (for the student version), as I’ve made dozens of videos for several years. The software was easy to learn once I figured out the limitations and how to create video with a timeline. I know that I have a long list of drawbacks, but I can cope with most of them. That said, there are many cheap and free video tools now available, so you may want to explore them first if your company won’t reimburse the cost of this software.


Samples: The first sample is difficult to see that it was made with Camtasia, but it started as a PowerPoint presentation that I saved as JPG files, then added to Camtasia as images.

The second sample, again, doesn’t show anything specific to Camtasia, but it includes screen captures.

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