You may not know it, but your Mac is a video instruction video factory. Seriously.
Whatever is displayed on your Mac’s screen can be captured in a movie, saved to your Mac, and sent to or used by others to view whenever you want. Even better, some Mac screen video capture utilities can record live audio narration. Others can capture an iSight video and audio simultaneously in a single movie.
Video Capture Tools
There are plenty of ways to get video into your Mac. A digital video camera. Your Mac’s iSight camera. Even cell phones can capture video. Your Mac captures a different kind of video stream. The Mac’s screen.
Think of these utilities as a behind-the-scenes, behind the screen video recorder.
Whatever is on your Mac’s screen at the moment can be captured and played back as a movie.
Even better, the tools to capture the screen as a video range from simple to complex, and some add features such as picture-in-picture video (your Mac’s iSight camera inside a video of the Mac’s screen).
Why capture a Mac’s screen and save it as a video? Training videos. Instruction videos. On-demand presentations. Demonstrations. How-to videos. Which screen capture video tools do the best job? Here are our favorites:
The slickest of the screen video capture tools might be Camtasia.
This feature laden screen capture tool not only captures what’s on your Mac’s screen, but also captures the iSight video on your screen—a sort of Mac picture-in-picture. Think of the possibilities.
While your Mac records the screen it also records your audio you inside the iSight video. That means you can narrate the video in real time, live, and have it recorded to a movie for easy distribution.
Camtasia also features editing capability, and effects, making it a mini-video production application. Once you’ve created an on-screen video masterpiece, the video can be exported for web sites, mobile devices, YouTube, iPods and iTunes.
One of our long time favorites is the affordable iShowU. It comes with a bunch of pre-sets so you don’t have to worry about configuration.
You can record the whole screen, or any part of the screen and in nearly any size or shape. Create a capture rectangle on the screen, click the Record button in the Menubar, and begin recording—both audio and video.
You can pause and resume, capture the mouse pointer or not, and change quality with a click. The iShowU HD Pro adds more features, including ability to record using iSight or an external video camera, instant upload to YouTube, and a timeline of video clips.
Midway through the video screen capture food chain is Screenium. Simplicity with power is Screenium’s claim to fame.
It’s intuitive for point and click, yet comes with full keyboard controls. Video recording can be time delayed or time limited. I like the multi-track audio recording capability and the ability to drop in context captions. There’s picture-in-picture and HD recording, too.
This modestly priced utility captures the Mac’s screen up to 60 frames per second, records any portion of your Mac’s screen, records video, and records audio from external sources.
Screenflick captures key presses and mouse clicks which can be highlighted as they are pressed so the viewer can see the action step by step.
This may be the easiest to use of all the screen capture utilities, and is priced more for the budget minded.
Bonus: Screen Flow
Also at the high end is Screen Flow which is billed as screencasting software. Features abound. Title effects are built in, as is the ability to record from other sources, either video or audio, or both at the same time.
ScreenFlow provides a bunch of 2D and 3D video transitions, and features a quick publish to YouTube option.
There’s even freeze frame and pausing. The latest version offers an all-in-one Flash video presentation output which can be uploaded to a web site—HTML, video, and Flash player components are all handled by ScreenFlow.
The caveats are basic, too. You need a powerful Mac to gain all the functions.
Some effects and features are limited to Macs with dedicated graphics cards. Dual monitors are not supported. PowerPC Mac users will not have all functions, either. It’s time to upgrade.
Regardless, all five of the Mac screen capture utilities have a few things in common. In a couple of clicks you can record whatever is on your Mac’s screen, and save it as a movie for iPhone, iTunes, the web, or sharing.
All these video screen capture tools have their pluses and minuses, but I like specific capabilities more than others. Picture-in-picture is handy. So is editing. Customizing cursors is a plus, as is highlighting keystrokes or mouse clicks. Screen Flow has live audio scrubbing, which I find a necessity.
You can download each for a trial to determine what’s best for your needs. The prices and features vary, of course, but each has basic features most of us need.