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i need some help here guys+gals, anyone want to try installing some of the demos and give us your impressions? see the list in part1 of the review for features we think are important.  also interested in gut-level impressions.

i'm very interested in the final verdict for this one as i want to make some 'screencasts' myself so i'll have a look at some of them over the next couple of days if that's of any use.

i've used camtasia - but not for any particulary good reason other than it's what i had and it was before all these flash based things came out (i think).

anyway, i'll try my best to give some time to testing them properly.

right, here's what i've thought so far - i may not have been entirely fair in judging these 'screencasters' on their full version capabilities but i didn't wish to get bogged down doing comparisons when some of these programs managed to annoy me within a few short minutes.

it's also difficult trying to compare the only totally free product against programs that cost around $300. there appears to be a massive gap in the market just waiting for someone to release a lower priced alternative to the current crop on offer.

firstly the ones i don't like:

viewlet builder:
forced to register on line, which i didn't do, before being able to render out a final movie file - okay, this isn't such a big deal but i wasn't in love with how the program worked. without the forced registering i would have given it more of a chance for sure - anyone who has used the program will no doubt have positive things to say about it. totally annoying but i admit i may have dismissed this one unfairly.

cheap but only if you already own macromedia flash as it has to work within it. didn't like the on screen icons it used for illustrating that mouse clicks had occurred, etc. main annoyance was the 25 frames limit on the demo version - hardly enough time to give it any real world kind of testing. only advantage is that you could edit your movie to your hearts content right there inside flash - but how much editing do you want to do when making 'screencasts'? i suspect, not a lot.

turbo demo:
i couldn't decide if i was doing something wrong with this one. the audio recording was absolutely terrible - it keeps pausing between frames so you end up with a stuttering screencast.  the menu of the actual editing program was buggy also - just appears black on my screen. loads of output options (can't do pdf with the demo) but i wonder how many people will be wanting to make a java screencast - well i suppose someone will, in which case good luck to them. in the bin it goes for me.

now, the ones i thought average:

it's free. it's good but not brilliant. if you don't need audio recording then this is the place to start. you can place annotation style text boxes and things onto the frames but they aren't anything fancy - but it's free.

i tried doing simultaneous recording with wink and the inbuilt windows sound recorder with the hope of combining the .swf and the .wav file to make a full fledged audio/visual screencast. this could still work if i could find a totally free .swf editor (maybe i didn't look hard enough). i don't see much point using this method if it's not going to be free or at least very cheap to do.

of course when wink starts recording audio itself in a future version then it will be hard to beat for the price.

instant demo:
this just seemed a bit odd. editing the movie requires exporting out frames to external image editing software. not very good if you want to edit a section of frames. bit of a weird interface too. sounds like i don't like this one at all.

i didn't think that i would find anything wrong with the big daddy. it's got loads of editing ability, all the things you would expect from the price but i found the audio editing very impractical. the movie is split into sections depending on what actions were recorded on screen - this may make it a more efficient file to compress but it means that the audio stream is also split into sections too - maybe i didn't look hard enough but it seemed impossible to rerecord an audio track for the whole movie. if it wasn't for this strange audio restriction then there probably wouldn't be anything else to complain about. i was expecting captivate to do absolutely everything you could wish for with 'screencasting' but as it didn't i'm disappointed with it.

this leaves a pretty weird bunch for what i liked:

has a potentially great feature if you don't wish to use audio in that it can automatically add bubble and text box pointers that tell you the action to perform before you see it carried out. other than that it looks nice but i didn't really go into the sound recording side of this one (i've only just discovered it does sound whilst i've been writing this).

yes, i still like this one even though it records in that obscenely large file format we know as video. to be honest i don't think the file size matters that much. you can still create relatively small files with the techsmith codec. the advantage with this capture method is that they just seem to look right and you know you aren't going to miss any frames out when you are recording movements in image editing programs. the truth is that you do have to scale down your window that you wish to record though - you wouldn't want to capture something full screen at high res. the file size probably wouldn't be worth it then. another possible advantage is that you can add annotation bubbles and other graphical helpers whilst you are recording the movie. either by pausing and adding on screen content then continuing to record or by pressing the appropriate camtasia menu buttons to add the same things whilst the action is being recorded. (i didn't get as far as doing post editing with the camtasia studio but i would imagine this to be able to add and mix or re-dub extra audio tracks if required.)

bb flashback:
something about this one just made me think i was onto a winner within a few short minutes. the interface feels right. the way you can drag the direction of the bubble points around is a classy idea (give it a go), the popup thumbnails on the time-line and the adjustable playback preview speeds - all quality ideas. re-dubbing audio was simple enough to do also but i'm not sure if you could mix between the tracks. the playback buttons included with your final rendered screencast were also better than any of the other programs here as they would autohide (captivates were terrible as they actually covered parts of the movie playback). and to top it off - when i checked the '' website i noticed that Zaine had already given them i 5 star award from the Greatest Software List.

you'll notice i've not done any comparisons for compression ratios. well, this is mainly because i didn't notice any major differences that would worry me (i didn't go to great lengths to test them in this way though). the quality of the outputs from all these programs seems pretty much the same minus the audio ability. the overall feel of the editor and the way the screencast file played back seemed the most important thing to me - after all you want to enjoy the editing procedure if you have to do it and you want the final movie to look like it was done professionally to impress your audience.

if money is the main concern then wink wins it. sound isn't essential after all as you can still demonstrate what you need to do with the message boxes. but if you've ever watched a few 'screencasts' that include audio you will know that it makes a great deal of difference to how much information can be conveyed - the narrators will often explain details that would just not be practical to try and include in a soundless movie. it's also sometimes good to get a sense of the character who is doing the demonstration (some of the free movie tutorials over at use two or more commentators at a time to explain things and their personalties do add to the experience. and there's non more enthusiastic and entertaining than Russell Brown for photoshop tutorials).

so, if i could ignore the prices of these programs which would i choose? most likely bb flashback. using it felt the quickest way of working and the output was like what i'm used to seeing with real movies from camtasia. the auto bubble thing with demobuilder is a nice touch but i don't think it's something that essential - maybe if you want to create the smallest screencast possible by not including audio then this is the one to go for. and what of captivate? it does everything other than a practical overdub as far as i could see so maybe this isn't really anything to complain to harshly about.

i'll be very interested to see what mouser's final verdict is as i'm sure he will have gone over these programs with a fine toothed comb by the time of the 2nd review. with a more thorough investigation i'm sure there will be different points of interest to what i've glanced over here.

fantastic! really really nice summary.
i had the same qualms with macromedia captivate audio recording, but haven't had much to compare it with yet, so i will give some special focus to the issue of editing audio.

really really helpful to read.

it's also difficult trying to compare the only totally free product against programs that cost around $300. there appears to be a massive gap in the market just waiting for someone to release a lower priced alternative to the current crop on offer.
--- End quote ---

i could not agree more.
i was telling zaine, these companies are going to get murdered by the next version of wink, or another freeware alternative if they keep up with this $200-$400 price range.  if they were smart, one of these good one would price their app at $50 or $79 and grab the market.  its just bad markering imho, and/or the poisonous nature of capitalism.  its a shame that wink development has stalled for now..

i've been playing around with wink and reading the forum over at (you'll have to sign up to enter them).

Emilio Le Roux has made a post over there describing how to use a swf loader file to combine a wink swf file with an mp3 narration track - i've included the file. there are restrictions to what you can use (800x600 screen capture size wink movie, don't include wink navigation controls) but it appears to work quite well.

i was using 'audacity' to record the audio to mp3 (using lame encoder) as they are free to use but have since discovered this other free little app, 'step voice recorder' that will create a smaller mp3 file (though of course sound quality will be reduced).

if you are quick you can pretty much get everything in sync when you start both wink and the audio recorder going - use the mouse to click start on the sound device and press your hotkey to start wink. this should reduce the amount of messing around trying to get things matched up with your final screencast.

the controls on the winkloader don't appear to work fully but i would have thought any average user of Flash could create something along the same lines that worked better - and then of course share it with everyone for free.

it also appears that if you use the 'optimised octree' palette you can reduce the final output file quite a bit without it looking too bad.

just thought this might help anyone wishing to have a go with screencasting and keep it all free to do.

i hope that someone with a bit of flash knowledge can create a better swfloader though - that is pretty much the final link in the chain that needs fixing.

anyone trying bb flashback recorder may like play around with the output settings - it appears you can more half the size of the final swf file if you reduce the quality settings. you'll need to experiment but i would say that 256 color and 1/4 frame rate aren't worth using - the next settings up produce a better looking result without any real addition to output size (not on what i was doing anyway).


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