Using the Right Tool for the Job

by William Guth

Up until recently, voice over Powerpoint has sufficed for home-based, low-budget creators when it came to producing lecture videos, downloadable presentations, and animated demonstrations. The ubiquitous Microsoft software, while clunky, is familiar to most people, somewhat easy to use, and absolutely, positively, the wrong tool for the job.

Yes, you can add photos, and upload videos to Powerpoint slides. You can also add or record audio content onto slides, though you cannot edit it. All these functions, while convenient, result in oversized output files, some of which are proprietary and thus cannot be uploaded to platforms like YouTube and Vimeo or to LMS systems like Canvas.

How is Camtasia Different?

  1. Camtasia allows you to record on-screen demonstrations with voice at the same time. Excellent for how-to videos, recording actions and movement, or displaying and acting on web content that is critical to a viewer’s understanding of the content.
  2. Camtasia allows you to record and edit webcam or premade footage, adding human presence to your content, even when you don’t have access to professional camera equipment, a crew, or high cost software like Avid, Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premier.
  3. Camtasia allows you to import, edit, and piece together media from different sources into a combined, fluid presentation, rather than sending your users piecemeal to content and media within a course site or externally sourced from the Internet.

Cool Features

Using Camtasia, home-based creators can create and edit good-looking, great-sounding, transferable/shareable content without a background or experience in video production, audio recording, or editing. The interface and built-in tools are simplified, user-friendly versions of professional editing tools, and users of any technical ability can access Techsmith’s logical and easy-to-follow demonstration videos and well-documented support sites.

  1. Help & How-To.Techsmith has created excellent documentation and how-to videos to ensure users hit the ground running with their software, as well as understanding the process of basic production – start to finish.
  2. Annotations & Callouts. Help you direct viewers attention to where it needs to be.
    • Highlighter Effect
    • Arrows
    • Shapes
    • Blur
  3. Cursor & Click Effects. Make what you’re doing with the cursor stand out and show where and when to click.
  4. Animations. Draw focus to specifically relevant areas of the screen.
    • Zoom (in & out)
    • Pan (right, left, up, or down)
    • Fade (in & out)
  5. Video FX. Add clickable interactive hotspots. Speed up or slow down speed.
    • Drop shadow
    • Sepia tone
    • Spot lighting
    • Reflection


Comes in different versions for PC and Mac. The PC version is far more feature-rich, and for that reason, more expensive. As NU SPS faculty, however, you will be able to access either at no charge. One potential concern to keep in mind is that instructors collaborating on a project would both need to record and edit on the same platform.

Are there other tools out there?

Camtasia is not the only tool of its kind out there that we recommend for instructors. Screencast-O-Matic and Apple Quicktime are user-friendly, hit-the-ground-running softwares too.

Screencast-O-Matic is a web-based tool with similar capabilities and cool features, which comes in both a free and paid version for $15 annually. The free version is limited in terms of features and each video that you export has a Screencast-O-Matic watermark baked in. It can get in the way of content in the lower corner, if you’re not careful.

Support for Screencast-O-Matic is community-based, and members have gone to great lengths to create excellent How-To videos and learning methods. Most importantly, you can output your videos in transferable file formats that are uploadable to YouTube or directly to your LMS. Unfortunately, there are no editing capabilities using the free version, so you must get everything right in one take.

Apple QuicktimePro is free on all Mac products and only $29.99/year for PC users. The file format is transferable, and you can import them into Screencast-O-Matic or Camtasia, and continue to manipulate recordings from there. Quicktime has limited clip editing features, which is better than no features at all.


In Techsmith’s own words, “Camtasia is more than a simple screen recorder, Camtasia gives you the freedom to truly customize and edit your videos. Record on-screen activity, add imported media, create interactive content, and share high-quality HD videos that your viewers can watch anytime, on nearly any device.”

How do I gain free access to Camtasia as an NU SPS Course Developer?

Once you have determined a need to create video content for your course, consult with an NU SPS instructional technologist for instructions on installing Camtasia and applying one our of software licenses for your Mac or PC.

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