Smackdown: Camtasia Mac vs ScreenFlow

Screencasting is a useful tool to show people what you see on your computer screen. It’s also a great way to record PowerPoint & Keynote presentations. Therefore, screencasting is an essential element to what I call SkillCasting and sharing your knowledge.

TechSmith has introduced their premier screencasting software Camtasia:Mac. The current reigning champ for the Mac is ScreenFlow from Telestream.

Comparisons between the two are natural so I think it’s time for a good old fashion smackdown featuring the two top dogs for Mac screencasting.

Round 1: Company
Both products come from mature, stable companies. TechSmith is a leader on the PC side and Camtasia is arguably the best screen recording software for the PC. In addition to Camtasia, TechSmith also makes SnagIt which is another standard for screen captures.

ScreenFlow, previously from Vara Software, is now available from TeleStream. They’re the makers of several media applications with the most notable being Flip4Mac and Wirecast.

What I like about both companies is that their support is top notch. Both companies are active and quite responsive on Twitter and to emails. You’ll find ScreenFlow tutorials quite good and informative. I’ll give the nod to TechSmith though because their Learning Center is a little better organized.

Winner: Camtasia

Round 2: Recording
Recording from both applications is straightforward. Recording options include webcams and microphones. Both interfaces are clean.

It’s interesting to note that both applications record the entire computer screen and not just a window. I find this very helpful because it includes any new windows that might pop up or an application I may have to switch to during the recording. This means you’ll narrow the focus during the editing phase.

My experience shows both capture good video. They both allow you to record system sounds (like audio from a movie or Flash application) along with your microphone. You can use the internal microphone, or better yet, a high quality USB microphone.

One thing I did notice, is that Camtasia has a more difficult time capturing video that’s playing on your screen. So for example, if you wanted to capture part of a QuickTime video with Camtasia so your could edit parts of it, you’ll get a noticeably slower frame rate for the video.

Chip over at Absolute Presence makes the same distinction between Camtasia and ScreenFlow. He’s noticed that Camtasia handles audio capture & scrubbing better but ScreenFlow handles the video better.

Video and animation capture are pretty important to me so this is a key difference.

Winner: ScreenFlow

Round 3: Interface
You’ll notice striking similarities between the interfaces. They both utilize a dark, high-tech theme. This is similar to iMovie and most Mac users should feel right at home with either one. They both present the video canvas front and center with a timeline below it.

Camtasia interface is clean and intuitive. Effects on left are drag & drop actions for timeline.

Camtasia interface is clean and intuitive. Effects on left are drag & drop actions for timeline.

ScreenFlow interface is equally as clean and intuitive.

ScreenFlow interface is equally as clean and intuitive.

Both ScreenFlow and Camtasia offer intuitive controls and are easy for a beginner to use.

Winner: Draw

Round 4: Editing
Okay lets face it, this is where the comparison gets interesting. I’ve led the production of hundreds of screencasts and everyone thinks (including me) that we should be able to create them faster. A good editing interface and set of tools will streamline the workflow and allow us to really crank out a screencast.

Right-click options make editing video in Camtasia quite speedy.

Right-click options make editing video in Camtasia quite speedy.

Camtasia introduces a new set of video effects including transitions, filters, and actions. You’ll notice these on the left side of the interface. These effects are applied by dragging and dropping them over the clip. The most talked about action is the Smart Focus. This automatically zooms into the section of the video where the cursor or action is taking place. In my experience, I feel I always need to manually adjust the Smart Focus so I’m not getting a whole lot of value from as a time saver.

Camtasia introduces new library callouts.

Camtasia introduces new library callouts.

Camtasia does provide some quick actions by right-clicking while over a video. This attention to detail is a great time saver.

Camtasia also introduces a media library for arrows and callouts now. This makes adding clip art to your video very easy. I’d like to see a way to add scalable objects to your library because this would be a great way to add custom watermarks. Though one way to accomplish this in both programs is to use transparent png files on the top most layer.

ScreenFlow doesn’t offer as many effects. Their palette of tools is on the right side of canvas. There are two things that stand out to me though.

First, I find adding a video pan or zoom to be very easy in ScreenFlow. I go to the desired place in my video and click Add Video Action. ScreenFlow places a transition type box on my timeline where I then reposition my focus. This box then acts as the “tweening” action as I pan and zoom to a new location. This gives me a greater sense of control and I’m not cleaning up after a “smart focus” that I don’t agree with.

The second feature I find helpful on ScreenFlow is the cursor control and keyboard capture.

ScreenFlow options include cursor & keyboard enhancements.

ScreenFlow options include cursor & keyboard enhancements.

I can record mouse clicks and highlight them with sonar type rings when I click or double-click. I can also create a magnifying glass around my cursor while dimming the background out. This allows a presenter to use their mouse as a pointer and focus the users attention even more than simply panning and zooming. In addition, ScreenFlow will automatically capture keyboard selections and show them on the screen. This is very useful for software training videos.

Winner: ScreenFlow

Round 5: Publishing
Both tools allow you to create export your video into different formats including MP4’s and QuickTime movies. However, Camtasia introduces direct uploads to YouTube and Screencasts.com for hosting. If you haven’t used Screencast.com, it is a hosting service by TechSmith and even gives you free space to start with. Upgrades are reasonable too so if you don’t have your own hosting, you may seriously want to consider it.

What both applications are lacking is a direct FLV output. This is necessary if you prefer to run your video in your own JW FLV Player or something. I do sometimes prefer to use a FLV file and have to use an external tool to convert my videos over. Camtasia for Windows offers this but not the Mac version.

Winner: Camtasia

Conclusions
TechSmith has introduced a strong 1.0 product to the Mac market. They are a great company and without a doubt, Camtasia will continue to get better and better. TeleStream has already announced a new upgrade for release in September ’09 that will introduce transitions, YouTube support and more. We may need to wait and compare them again in 30 days. In the meantime, I encourage you to download both applications and see which one you like best.

I’m inclined to call this dog fight a draw. But in the end the winners are all of us consumers.

Comments

  1. An excellent comparison.  Thanks for writing this and pointing out your experiences with the two programs.  I am currently deciding between the two, so this was very helpful.  You did leave out a category that most might find important – pricing.  Camtasia is currently $299 and ScreenFlow is currently $99.  Quite a difference and it seems ScreenFlow is the winner if you just need the ability to create more simplistic screencasts.  Both offer a free trial period as you suggested, which I find very generous and helpful in deciding which to go with.  Looking forward to the upgrade in September if I do purchase ScreenFlow (leaning towards that one most!).  Thanks again. :0)

    – Kerianne
    http://www.MarketingMakesMeSmile.com

  2. Scott Skibell says:

    Your are correct. I did omit the pricing aspect. I overlooked it.

    Both applications for the Mac version are currently $99. Next month Camtasia for the Mac goes to $149. ScreenFlow is releases their 2.0 version in late September but hasn’t mentioned if their price is going to change. The upgrade price for existing users is $29. It also includes a copy of their WMV converter software.

    The $299 price that you mentioned is for the Windows version of Camtasia. Yes, substantially higher in price and in my opion, an inferior product to the Mac version.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Scott

  3. Chip Dizard says:

    Great review scott and thanks for linking to my blog.  I do a lot of “non-professional” quick screencasts that I need to show clients how to do something and I think Camtasia with screencast.com is perfect for this.  I agree, we all win as customers because the competition is heating up. i can’t wait to see what Screenflow 2.0 brings.  Also don’t forget iShowU it may be down, but it’s certainly not out.

    Chip 
    http://www.absolutepresence.com

  4. Helmut Doll says:

    Very nice comparison. THank you.
    If you want to use recordings in flv player you can use the mp4 output by either tool. FLW Player does support that format.

  5. i didnt try screen flow but i wish i had a mac so i could try..

    i gotta say..for almost 200$ camtasia should come with a clean and EASY solution to audio recording!

    i want to record cubase(audion editing program) lessons and i use a monster soundcard that camtasia does not except..i was very dissapointed from the so called solutions they gave in their site.

    and im not the only one.

    why take so much money if you dont have the goods??!!

    • Scott Skibell says:

      Alon,

      I wish you had a Mac too. Everything is just easier. I think that explains some of the Camtasia issues too. With all the different sound cards, drivers, and patches, it’s hard for companies to keep up.

      On Windows I definitely recommend Camtasia. But more importantly, I recommend a Mac. It just works.

  6. ich möchte das haben

    • Brennan says:

      Hi Scott:

      Wondering if in the time since this post was first published Camtasia or Screenflow has made any improvements to surge ahead of the other.

      Thanks

      • Scott Skibell says:

        Brennan,

        There is a new version of ScreenFlow that is getting ready to come out. Hopefully it be out soon.

        I’m not sure either have “surged” past the other. I prefer ScreenFlow from a workflow standpoint though. The new update will have some nice improvements too.

        You can even use Camtasia & ScreenFlow as multi-camera editors which is something not even the new Final Cut Pro X will do.

        I don’t think you can go wrong with either but I lean towards ScreenFlow.

  7. i couldn’t find on screenflow how to show my face on the screen while recording. any idea?

    • When you begin recording in ScreenFlow, you get the heads-up display. The 2nd checkbox says “Record Video From” with a drop-down containing your available webcams. Select your iSight cam to start. With it checked, ScreenFlow will record your Mac’s screen AND your iSight webcam of you speaking. When you complete your recording, you’ll have two tracks in your ScreenFlow media bin. One will be the desktop recording and the second will be the iSight. Drag both to your timeline to begin editing them.

      You can reposition your iSight camera, resize, and change the opacity to make it invisible. Add a Video Action to change the opacity back to 100% to make it visible again.

      Holler if you still have questions.

  8. Hi Scott, and thanks for these reviews. It’s now November 2011, and I still can’t find out why the Mac version of Camtasia is so different from the C version. Is something missing?
    As a Mac user, I’m now inclined towards Screenflow, but I’ll try the free trials first.

    Cheers
    Alan

    • Alan,

      The Mac and PC versions of Camtasia are completely different. They share generic functionality and name only in that they both happen to be screencasting software from TechSmith.

      Camtasia:Mac is a good product. You should try the free trial download and test it out for yourself. I’d also take advantage of the free ScreenFlow trial. Compare them for yourself and see which is best for your needs. Compare the interfaces and workflows. You’ll see that they are indeed similar. Any real differences maybe a bit more “under the hood” if you will.

      While I can’t confirm it, I’ve heard that Camtasia:Mac handles audio better. For me, I’ve found ScreenFlow handles video a bit better. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to edit my videos with ScreenFlow. I’ll stack 3 videos into ScreenFlow and editing between all 3 tracks. Your mileage may vary though.

      Try out both downloads. Like I said in my post, having these two heavyweights in the space helps us tremendously. In the end, it’ll come down to personal preferences.

  9. Clive Williams says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive comparison Scott. Camtasia seems to be the most commonly found screencasts online, but Screen Flow has some really hot features. I think my mind is made :)

    Clive
    http://www.promojones.com/

  10. Hi Scott, Excellent comparison. One question. I am using PC. ..what all things (software+equipment) I need to prepare a decent tutorial (software / General purpose) Thanks.

    • Reji, on the PC, I’d go with Camtasia and a decent USB microphone. If your computer doesn’t have a webcam, you may want to consider the Logitech C910. It’s got pretty good quality. Lon Naylor does some really good Camtasia tutorials and he’d be a great resource for the PC based Camtasia. I’m all Mac.

      Hope this helps a little.

  11. Ali Erenkol says:

    Hi,
    Can you start a project in Windows Camtesia and later on transfer it and work on it on Mac Camtesia or vice versa? Thanks in advance.

  12. Awesome comparison. I’m was preparing to compare these two platforms on my own when I stumbled upon your post. Obviously, this gives me some great insights to move forward with. I appreciate your effort! Thanks!

  13. This post was perfect!! Just the information that I needed to make a decision (to go with Screenflow). I’m off to buy the software and start making first communion how-to videos.

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