Producing videos, while difficult at first, becomes easier and easier with practice and experience. One of the best and most well-regarded programs for video production is Camtasia Studio by TechSmith. While it is currently somewhat costly, at $299.00 per license, it offers a full suite of features for both recording screen captures and editing them together with audio to generate high-quality videos. There is a 30-day free trial available that offers full functionality. This guide covers using Camtasia Studio 7 to make videos although the most up-to-date version is Camtasia Studio 8.
Getting Started Recording the Screen
In this section, we’ll go over how to use the screen-recording application to produce screen captures for later use in the full editing suite. To get started, open up Camtasia Studio and click “Record the screen” near the top of the window.
Click on “Record the screen”
You’ll now see the screen-recording application, and the full Camtasia Studio suite will become minimized. A section of your screen will have an outline around it in the shape of a rectangle.
The area inside the outline will be recorded while the remainder of your screen will be shaded a darker color. Before we actually begin recording, however, it behooves us to examine the recording application in more detail.
Camtasia Screen Recorder
From this handy interface, you’ll be able to customize your recording parameters to your needs. You can choose the dimensions of the area you wish to record. Standard YouTube video dimensions are 1280 x 720, so you should record in that size or higher for the best quality. If you record a smaller area, then your final video will suffer from degraded quality or you’ll have to put a lot of empty space around your video when editing, which will make it look small. If you must record in another dimension, try to keep the aspect ratio of the video the same or similar.
From the audio menu next to the microphone graphic, you can choose your recording source. You can select “Record microphone and system audio” if you want to, for example, record a live session with your voice commentary in real time. If you would prefer to just record the system audio, with the intent of adding your own comments later on, then choose “Wave” or “What U Hear.” If you want to record just your microphone and you think that the system audio would merely be a distraction, then select “Microphone” from the list. If you do not wish any sounds to be recorded at all, then click the microphone graphic, and your audio will be turned off completely. To adjust the audio volume, simply move the volume slider at the right of the image of the microphone.
You can record from a webcam as well, but such recordings are beyond the scope of this guide, so we’ll ignore them entirely.
From the “Effects” menu, if you highlight the “Cursor” option, you’ll be able to choose how you want to treat the mouse cursor. If you have no reason to display the cursor, you can “Hide” it. But this can have drawbacks because you may wish to direct the viewer’s attention to something on-screen by pointing to it with the mouse, so for most uses, you should leave the setting at “Show cursor.” If you’ll be clicking on various items and it’s necessary that the audience be able to easily follow your clicks, then select the “Highlight clicks” option. This will display a highlighted graphic image whenever you click your mouse.
If you click on “Tools” and “Options…”, you’ll be presented with a window allowing you to control various aspects of the recording process. There are a couple of useful settings in the “Inputs” tab of this window.
You can choose the frame rate for your captured video. Because poker is not such a graphically intense activity as FPS games or full-motion video, you can get away with using 15 or 10 frames per second in most cases. Sometimes, like when you’re making a hand history review video in which you slowly move through a series of decision points, you can even record at fewer than 10 frames per second without any noticeable ill effects. The advantages of using a lower frame-rate are smaller file sizes and lower loads on your system. Nevertheless, you ought not to use too low a frame-rate or else you risk choppy, confusing video that seems to jump forwards, skipping important details.
Click on “Video settings…” to choose your video codec and other related options. If you’re just starting out making videos, the default “TechSmith Screen Capture Codec” is fine, but later on, you’ll probably want to investigate other codecs that can give you superior performance and video quality. The H.264/MPEG-4 codec is highly recommended by serious video enthusiasts.
Back in the “Inputs” tab, you can change your audio device and settings. The default settings are usually fine unless you are competent enough to understand the repercussions of making changes to the bitrate and audio encoding format.
There are many other options in the other tabs of the “Tool Options” window, which you can explore at your leisure. Right now, let’s get back to recording a screen capture.
Move the outlined area of your screen, i.e. the area to be recorded, by clicking on the strange symbol located in the center of the area and dragging it until it’s positioned the way you want.
Strange Symbol (with red box drawn around it)
When everything’s ready, click the big, red “rec” button. A countdown will begin, and when it hits 0, Camtasia will begin recording your screen and your audio (if audio is on). The recording interface will change to display information about the current recording. It automatically tries to move itself outside of the area you’re recording if necessary.
Camtasia recording interface
Here, you’ll see how long the recording currently is. You can delete or pause the recording with the appropriate buttons. When you’re done recording, click on “Stop” to cease recording. There will be a slight pause as the video file is generated, and then you’ll be presented with a video preview window.
You’ll be able to view the recording. You can delete it if you’re not satisfied with the results. It’s highly recommended that you make a test recording, of perhaps 20 or 30 seconds duration, to judge audio levels and quality before you start doing your “real” recordings. It’s a shame to record for 30 minutes and then find out that your microphone was unplugged for the entire duration. Once you preview the test video and confirm that everything’s good, you can delete it and proceed with your more serious work.
You can go straight to the production stage in Camtasia Studio by clicking “Produce.” If you want to edit the recording before producing, click “Save and Edit.” But if you still have more screen captures to record before editing them together, you will want to click the arrow below “Save and Edit” and choose “Save As…” You can continue the recording procedure, previewing and saving the recordings that you want to keep, until you have as much material as you need. Then it’s time to move on to the editing process.
Preparing Your Media
Before beginning the editing process, you should have all your media assembled and ready to go. This includes not only screen captures, but any still images you want to use, intro/outro video clips and previously recorded or third-party audio.
You can create images or slides that you need by using very simple graphics software. The “FTR Quick Tips” series of videos use no image-editing application more complex than Microsoft Paint. Of course, if you’re familiar with more serious programs like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft PowerPoint, you can use them as well. You should save your image files in a lossless format, e.g. BMP or PNG. JPGs tend to reduce the quality of the image especially the color fidelity. Also make sure that the images are 1280 x 720 so that you can easily insert them seamlessly into your video.
For a set of attractive images that you can use when producing videos for FTR, check out these wallpapers. They are perfect for “classroom” or theory videos where you’re going to be displaying a few key points or concepts on a static background.
There’s a useful FTR intro/outro clip displaying the logo with the sound of cards being shuffled (it also sounds somewhat like sizzling bacon). Another useful file is the FTR watermark, which you can set up during the production process to be placed on top of the video. Contact the appropriate FTR personnel (or me, I guess) for copies of these files.
Editing Your Video
Once you have all your media ready for use, you’ll need to import it by clicking on “Import media” near the top of the application.
Click “Import media” to load your files into Camtasia
Once all your files are imported, drag them to the timeline on the bottom of the window to arrange them in the order you want them. At this point, a window may appear asking what dimensions you want to edit in. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, choose to edit in YouTube dimensions (1280 x 720).
Camtasia Studio with all media imported and arranged on the timeline
You can move the various video and audio media around the timeline by clicking and dragging them. You can move to a different part of the timeline by moving the pointer, and select portions of the timeline with the green and red selectors.
Timeline with a portion of the video and audio selected
Using the functionality offered by the timeline interface and the “edit” menu, you can cut, copy, paste, split and perform other useful functions to get everything arranged just the way you want it. Your audio and video segments will move together as a single unit, but if you wish to unlink them, you can click on the blue circle next to “Video1” to the left of the timeline.
In order to minimize sudden jumps from one piece of content to the next, Camtasia offers a selection of rotations, fade-ins and -outs, dissolves, wipes and other transitions. Click on the “Transitions” tab to get started. The timeline will be replaced by a series of images and arrows showing you the transition points in your video. A list of different transition effects will be displayed in the top-left of the screen.
Transitions tab of Camtasia
Simply drag and drop an effect from the list to the arrow representing the point where you want to insert the transition. You can then edit the options for that transition by right clicking the arrow and choosing the appropriate action.
Transitions tab with “Fade” applied and the right-click menu opened
Once you’re done with your transitions, click on the “Clip Bin” tab to go back to the timeline. Note that any audio you have that spans a transition will be interrupted for the duration of the transition, so you may need to rearrange it on the timeline again.
Timeline showing where a “Fade” transition has been added. Note the interruption of the audio track for the duration of the Fade
Editing Your Audio
To record additional commentary or replace a portion of the audio that did not come out the way you wanted, click on the “Voice Narration” tab. Then, move the pointer to the part of the timeline where you want to insert the recording. Select the appropriate options and click the “Start recording” button. Click “Stop recording” when you’re done. Follow the on-screen prompts to save your new audio file and insert it on the timeline, overwriting the existing audio if necessary.
The “Voice Narration” tab with pointer moved to the spot that we wish to start recording over
Once you’re finished adding any voice narrations and have placed all the audio segments in the right order, there are a couple of useful options in the “Audio” tab. Here you can fade audio in and out, change the volume levels, and perform some filtering functions to improve the quality of your sound. I highly recommend using the “Enable noise removal” setting at about 20 or 25 to reduce the impact of random background noises that may have been recorded.
The “Audio” tab with noise removal enabled with a sensitivity of 20
There are many options here for you to play with, but a thorough examination of all of them is not necessary at this point. If you are familiar enough with audio work to be interested in all of these options, you may be better served exporting your audio, working on it with a dedicated program like Audacity and then reimporting it.
Producing Your Video
Once all your video and audio tracks are configured and organized properly, you should watch the whole thing from beginning to end in the preview window to verify that everything is OK. It is then time to begin the production process. Click on “Produce and Share” near the top of the Camtasia Studio window. This will open the Production Wizard.
If you’re a novice with Camtasia, you can choose “HD” and click next to enter a filename and location for the finished video. Then click “Finish” to begin rendering. If, on the other hand, you have created a few videos already and would like to explore the interesting production options available, then you should choose “Custom production settings” to do things like change the file format or insert a watermark. Either way, once you click “Finish,” the video will begin rendering.
Be patient – the rendering process may take a while. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to watch your entire video first before rendering. You will waste a lot of time if you must render it again. After the rendering is complete, you’ll be presented with a “Production Results” window displaying pertinent information and any problems encountered during the rendering process.
Now your video is completely done and ready for uploading to YouTube!
We have only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible in Camtasia Studio, but the information contained in this guide should help to get you started producing your first few videos. Through experience and trial and error, you’ll learn how to use some of the more advanced features when you need them. Areas that a savvy user may wish to explore further include custom production settings and screen recording codecs. There are also callouts available during the editing process that allow you to cover up portions of the video or insert text over your video.