It’s very rare that I find a nice piece of payware that’s actually worth paying for. There are the handful of applications that you absolutely have to have in order to survive in the business world (Windows, the Office applications, etc.) and then there are those that are unique.
Camtasia Studio is one of the latter. As far as I can find, there is no freeware equivalent out there. For those of us that work with presentations on a regular basis, Camtasia seems like an absolutely invaluable application.
Camtasia is not only capable of capturing video directly from your desktop and allowing you to record presentation narrations, it also acts as an extremely useful PowerPoint Add-In.
After you install Camtasia, it automatically installs itself as an “Add-In” in your PowerPoint application. Then, when you open a presentation in PowerPoint, you can simply click the Add-Ins tab (in MS Office 2007 — it’s probably buried somewhere in earlier versions of Office), then click the “Record” button. Camtasia will automatically begin your presentation in full screen mode and record the entire presentation for you. You can even add a watermark to the video if you so choose.
From there, you have the option of editing the video, adding subtitles, adding or enhancing audio and much more. The subtitles are extremely easy to work with. If your PowerPoint presentation includes presenters’ notes, then you can simply click a button to import those as your video captions. Camtasia attempts to time the captions automatically (and actually does a pretty good job of it). Then, you can either drag and drop the “caption points” to re-time the captions, or you can manually create “caption points” from scratch.
If your presentation doesn’t have notes built in, you can also easily copy text from any application and paste it into the caption window.
Manually adding the caption points is easier than I could have imagined. All you do is play the video, then click on the word that you want to start the new “caption point”. Once you click, Camtasia automatically creates a caption point starting from that word.
You also get some decent control over the size of the captions. Actually, you set how many characters you want to appear across the screen, and it automatically sizes the captions for you.
When you’re all finished editing and enhancing your video, you can then export it into a wide variety of formats. I chose to export my videos to Flash. When I did so, Camtasia automatically generated titles/chapters in the video based on the PowerPoint slides. Then, I was able to set metadata, add various “about” information and I even had the choice to add a “quiz” to the end of it. I also had the option to set a custom “loading” video, but I didn’t have anything on hand to use, so I used the default.
When you save it, Camtasia automatically generates all of the necessary files for you, including the HTML file in which the video is embedded.
You can download a free, full-featured 30-day trial of the software by visiting Camtasia’s Web site.