I just published my first ScreenCast (if you don't see it, it's because I'm split testing against the old version of that webpage, and you got the old one--sorry!) I checked out some Mac software first, but ditched it almost imediately--useless. I tried Wink next, but found it wholly unsuitable both for recording audio and for editing. I took a quick stab with CamStudio third, and I don't even remember what made it obviously unsuitable. So I downloaded the trial version of Camstasia and finally got the job done. But not without great pain...

At first, Camtasia looked like a dream come true. It did a great job of recording everything, and the editing tools are immesurably more powerful than either of the free. Or they would be if they worked. And if it didn't crash. Over and over again.

The first problem was that the visual representation of the audio was completely out of sync with the actual sound, making it completely useless. Second, when I selected sound by listening rather than visually and deleted it or inserted silence, the changes didn't get applied to the parts I'd selected. My best guess is that they only test a few audio capture data rates carefully, and the one I selected is buggy. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to get back to the default--I don't remember what it is.

I figured I'd record everthing, copy it over to my Mac for editing, and then take it back to Camtasia to output as Flash with the control widget. iMovie wasn't up to the task since I didn't capture at DV or HD resolution, but Premiere seemed to do a great job (although I had to reboot in MacOS 9 to run it--I've got an older version which is incompatible with the latest QuickTime, so I couldn't use MacOS X's Classic). But when the time came to move back to the PC, I found that Premiere couldn't export any format that Camtasia could read!

Next, I went to AfterEffects, which happily ran in MacOS X (I've got a Carbonized version). The only format it could export that was suitable for Camtasia as AVI. That turned out to be a disaster because, although I'd selected "millions of colors" when I exported, the output clearly wasn't full-color, and the compression artifacts were awful. Plus, Camtasia's output was huge--something like 45MB.

Reader Comment:
troycameronstein said:
Antone, I'm really sorry Camtasia misbehaved for you. We believe we've isolated the audio and video editing bugs you referenced and are testing them prior to releasing in Camtasia Studio 5. It would be a huge help if we could get access to your ...
(join the conversation below)

So after a lot of wasted time, I ditched the idea of editing on the Mac, and decided instead to record the video only in Camtasia, and add voice-overs a little at a time after the fact and adjust the length of the video to fit. That turned out to be a good approach, but the pain was not over yet.

I recorded about 45 separate chunks of audio, but still had trouble editing them in Camtasia. So I edited them in Audacity (happily, Camtasia had recorded them each in a separate file, so that was easy). Then I imported them into Camtasia and positioned each one at the appropriate point in the video. In some places, I needed to delete or extend video, and that's where the next pain began.

Starting a little under half way through, sometimes when I'd make a change, the video segment after the edit would play really slowly for a few seconds and then jump over some footage to where it was supposed to be. I tried a bunch of things to fix this, and eventually managed to work around the problem by adding a second or so of video before the edit where the problem had occurred...I thought.

It looked great until I exported to Flash. In the Flash output, the video problems described above were back, and were if anything even worse than they'd looked during editing. At that point, I wondered whether the entire exercise had been a complete waste. But then I got an idea.

I used Camtasia to capture the edited video by running it in Camtasia itself (where there were no problems). Then I deleted all the edited video (I duplicated the project, first--I wasn't about to totally throw all that work away!) and imported the new screen capture. After a little trimming and adjusting of the audio, I exported, and had my finished project! I'm not entirely satisfied with the audio, but I'm not going to squander any more time on it right now.

So now comes the difficult question--do I pay $300 for a buggy P.O.S. software package like this? Ultimately, I'll decide based on the effect the video has on my conversion rates, praying that either the bugs get fixed or that capturing with different settings would enable me to work around them. I've got a workable processes for dealing with the bugs, so I don't know whether I'll go through the trouble of investigating any of the other commercial options.

Given Camtasia's popularity, I would have expected the experience to be much better.