How to make CamStudio work (use AVS)

How to make CamStudio work (use AVS)

Screen capture video is a big thing these days, and it’s getting bigger.  There are a few reasons that creating screen capture videos is so popular.  Some that are interesting to me include:

  • Fast to produce and deploy
  • No cameras, lighting, extensive editing, color correction, etc.
  • For software/websites it’s the most effective way to illustrate a process
  • Easy to make regular presentations more effective online

There is plenty of software that you can use on Windows and Mac to create screen capture videos.  On Windows the best known software is Camtasia Studio by Techsmith.  On Mac the ScreenFlow software seems the best choice.  These products cost $300 and $100 respectively, which can turn out to be a lot of money for someone that’s just getting started.

The good news (at least for Windows users) is that an open source program called CamStudio is available.  One of the greatest things about CamStudio is it’s lossless codec which stores the video in a what that doesn’t lose any quality. Well, I suppose it’s great until you want to upload it to your website, and that’s where I kept getting stuck.

Software by Jacek Pazera (also open source and freeware) can be used to convert video into flv and mp4, which have small sizes and can be played inside flash.  This reduces the drain on your resources (like bandwidth), and increases the size of the audience that can see your video (flash has a very broad distribution).

So, the big problem I have is that putting these two free software solutions together just doesn’t produce a good output.  The resulting video looks horrible and is unusable.  So I was disappointed that I couldn’t use CamStudio for screen capture videos.

In desperation, I tried the $15 upgrade to use TechSmith’s Jing product.  That’s basically a very watered down version of Camtasia Studio.  That worked OK and produced MP4 videos that would work great for the internet.  Two big problems with Jing are the 5 minute limit on screen capture videos and the fact that you can’t pan while recording.  Another bummer is that there’s no way to resize the video.

For example, say you make a screen capture video in 720p HD, but you also want a shrunk down version for low bandwidth visitors.  Jing doesn’t have a way to do this.  Again, Pazera ends up making the video unusable.  So, almost at whits end, I considered purchasing the $300 license to Camtasia, but as a last ditch effort, I decided to give AVS video converted a shot.  Turns out it worked fantastic.  I’ve never seen video convert and look so good (almost no visible quality loss).  I can resize, convert from avi to flv, mp4 and back and forth.  Anything!

The good news is that AVS is $30.  That’s 90% savings over Camtasia Studio and the outcome for my projects is comparable (especially since my hyperthreaded P4 at 2.4GHz can’t even make use of the watered down features of Jing, so how could it use all of Camtasia Studio.

So, my final workflow for creating screen capture videos is:

Other software that I mentioned, but that I don’t use for screen capture (but you might like to use it):

An Example

Hopefully this helps you with your screen capture.  And if you’re curious to see what one of my screen captures looks like using the CamStudio/AVS combination, take a look at this post on Maintain Fit: Exercise charts and graphs.  Notice that there I produced a downsampled version for direct playback and an HD MP4 version for download.  Both came from the same lossless AVI source produced by CamStudio.

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