Video Capture Software Review
Why Should You Use Video Capture Software?
The top performers in our review are Movavi Screen Capture Studio, the Gold Award winner; Camtasia, the Silver Award winner; and Adobe Presenter Video Express 11, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the best video capture software.
Many of the videos you see online, in a presentation, on a tutorial and more are made with video capture software, which essentially turns your computer's display into a video camera. These programs record what's happening on your computer screen and convert it into a video file that you can watch, edit and share.
This is a very useful tool if you're a digital content creator or just looking to make a video for family and friends. You can use this software not only to make professional presentations and tutorials but to also record Skype or other VoIP calls, video games, streaming videos, and everything else your computer displays.
We've tested, rated and ranked the best video recording software available. We took into account their capture tools, editing capabilities, how easy they are to use and what help options they provide.
We also have informative articles on video capture software to help you get the most out of the program you choose.
Key Attributes of the Best Video Capture Software
The ability to record what's on your computer's display is the primary function of all video capture software applications. All of the products on our lineup create videos out of these recordings.
The best video capturing software allows you to record the entire screen, select certain regions, windows or applications to record. This is a great help in getting the footage you need for your video project.
You can use the screen-recorder tool to capture any action on your computer display – other programs, video games, streaming content – all of it. Some of the best applications even allow you to record VoIP calls from programs like Skype. This feature is great if you are a podcaster, YouTuber or any other kind of content creator that relies on collaboration through VoIP.
The best video capture software records more than what's happening on your screen, though. It can use your computer's webcam to record your face as you record your screen. This is great if you want to make a video that switches back and forth between your screen and your face. It's also good for creating a picture-in-picture effect so the audience can see your face and your screen at the same time. Some programs allow you to record from a webcam without recording the screen. This is a good feature if you want to make a "talking-head" video.
Two of the video capture programs we reviewed connect to a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet, and record their screens. This is an outstanding feature because it expands your video projects beyond your computer and allows you to insert mobile footage – which could come in very handy for a presentation or other video. We would like to see this functionality applied to more video recording software in the future.
Video is only half the story in any project. The best video capture software records audio from a microphone or captures your computer's sound. Each of the programs on our side-by-side comparison chart capture sound from one or both of these sources. The best do both, which gives you the flexibility to record your voice track and system sound at the same time. The best programs let you record audio separately in case you need to rerecord the narration or create additional audio content.
Operating your video recording software should be as simple as possible. The programs in our lineup have preprogrammed hot key controls, which are keyboard shortcuts you can use to start and stop a recording as well as pause, mute microphones and more. The best programs allow you to customize and reprogram the hot keys so you have more control over your workflow. These are great tools for quickly producing a video and reducing the need for editing after the fact.
It's extremely rare that a video comes out perfectly the first time you record it, or even the second or third time. More than half of the applications on our side-by-side comparison chart offer at least some basic video-editing tools. You can use the program's tools to trim away unwanted footage, crop the picture frame and add effects. Using these basic tools, you can cut the fluff and the flubs and keep the good stuff.
The best programs we reviewed augment your recording with other content. You can add video, sound and images. They also let you pan and zoom across your video to focus attention on what you want viewers to see. You can also add text, titles, and annotations. These tools help to highlight what viewers need to see so you can convey information in the most effective way.
Once your project is finished, it's time to export it and get it in front of an audience. Exporting is taking a project file and encoding it into a video format so it can be played in a media player or uploaded to the internet. And exporting a video is just as important as capturing and editing it. The more control you have over your project, the better you can make it.
The best video capture software offers multiple video formats. All of the most commonly used formats, MP4, MOV, AVI, and WMV, should be included. The programs we reviewed had an average of five video-file formats, with some applications offering only one format and others having 10 or more.
One handy feature found in two of the programs on our lineup is the ability to optimize your video for playback on specific devices. If you know your video is going to be watched on a smartphone, tablet or gaming system, check your export options to see if they can tailor your video for that device's unique video specifications and formats. The result will be an enhanced viewing experience for your audience. This is another feature we'd like to see implemented in more video capture applications.
Help & Support
No matter how easy each of these programs is to use, it's not uncommon to need some help understanding how to use it to its full potential. The makers of the best video capture software understand this and provide resources on their websites to assist you.
Common questions and problems can usually be solved by consulting the FAQs or knowledgebase, which contain informative articles about their software. More helpful than articles are how-to guides and video tutorials. These provide step-by-step instruction on how to use the tools and features found in the best video recording software.
If you have a customer-support issue, some companies have a toll-free number and dedicated email address. However, the best companies offer live chat on their website, which gives you instant access to a representative who can resolve your issue or open a help ticket for follow up.
Video Capture Software: What We Tested, What We Found
Ease of Use
The best video capture software should easy to learn and use – even for those with limited video-creation experience. During our testing phase, we evaluated each program's interface, workflow, stability and more. We tracked how easy it is to access the application's features and the ease with which you can learn and use common tools and perform basic tasks and hotkey functions like starting and stopping a recording. We also assessed how easy it is to use the editing tools and export a finished project.
The most outstanding applications we reviewed were not only intuitive, but also contained nearly all of the tools we look for in this category. Lower-scoring programs have fewer features, were more complicated and took longer to learn.
The most useful video capture software is worthless if the quality of the video is substandard. To evaluate the quality of each application, we created an identical test project using each of the video capture programs on our lineup.
Our video experts examined the results, inspecting the picture for imperfections like pixelation, hesitation and lag in the recording as well as visual artifact that detracts from the viewing experience.
When their analysis was complete, our video experts assigned each product a grade from A to F. The quality of the videos created by the products on our lineup ranged from excellent (A) to unwatchable (F).
Our Verdict & Recommendations
According to our evaluation, here are the best video capture applications you can buy:
Movavi Screen Capture Studio: This software has every recording and editing tool we look for in the best video capture software. It has the most user-friendly interface of all the programs on our lineup, it offers more export options than the competition, and it exports high-quality videos. It strikes the delicate balance between usability and functionality, making it an ideal choice for both novice and veteran users.
Camtasia: In the world of professional digital content creation, Camtasia is the industry standard for screen capture software. It's been around for well over a decade, and it's been refined and improved on over the years into a highly versatile program. It not only allows you to capture your screen, but it includes an exhaustive array of video-editing tools. It has more tools for enhancing your software than any other product on our lineup. The end results are as good as or better than Movavi.
Adobe Presenter Video Express 11: This program rounds out our award winners. Adobe Presenter is quite easy to use and produces decent-quality videos. It's meant to be as simple as possible and get your videos done quickly. Anyone can figure out this program with little to no problems. It does have some drawbacks, however. There are no options to edit or enhance a recording's audio. And it's the only product in the top tier that only offers a single video format export option: MP4.
The best video capture software does much more than record your computer screen: These applications provide tools that allow you to edit, enhance and share your videos. The products on our lineup can help you create a finely crafted and polished video that you'll be happy to share with an audience.