If you want the best video captures, then you need the best video capture software. It’s a simple equation, as with video you get out what you put in. Trying to capture your screen with software that’s not up to the task can lead to sub-standard video, and if you’re showing your captures to someone important, then only the best will do.
We’re not talking about video editing software here, though some will have basic editing tools built-in, but software that captures the output of your computer’s screen. That could be displaying your desktop, an app, several apps, a game or a combination of them all as you work through a problem or tutorial that you want to show someone else. That may be by emailing them a video file, or uploading the result to a video sharing site.
Maybe you need to show tech support a problem that only occurs in specific circumstances, or perhaps you need to share with the world your elite gaming skills. Perhaps you’re running a training session, and need to show an entire class how to do something on a computer. There are many reasons you’d need to capture your screen as a video, and having the best video capture software on your PC only makes it easier. If you decide to capture your audio separately, make sure you look through our guide to the best voice recording software, too.
1. Movavi Screen Recorder Studio: Best video capture software overall
Movavi Screen Capture is perfect for mobile device videos. With it, you can create, edit and share polished, professional-looking videos, including recording your whole screen, a section of it, or just a portion of a window or application.
Movavi Screen Capture is designed with excellent built-in editing tools that are among the best and most comprehensive of all the video capture software we tested. You can do things like pan and zoom across video footage, add titles, captions and transitions, put in special effects and filters, turn normal movement into slow motion, stabilize the video if needed and adjust its colors. Unlike most other video capture applications, you can also improve the sound. Another benefit is that you can add other items from your computer to your video, such as putting outside video or sound into the original video and then editing that material until it's polished to your satisfaction.
You can also capture audio, either separately or at the same time, and you can create audio-only productions such as podcasts and audiobooks. Although you can optimize your video to upload to the internet, you cannot use this program to do the uploading directly, instead using your target site's upload tools. This is an unusual oversight in an otherwise first-rate application. If you have a question, you have access to a fine FAQ section, phone support, and live chat for speedier help.
- Read our full Movavi Screen Recorder Studio review
2. Camtasia Studio: Best screen capture for professionals
The industry-standard video capture software for over a decade, Camtasia has an exhaustive array of capturing and editing tools displayed using an easy-to-use interface. It also produces the highest quality videos of every program we tested.
This program can capture your entire screen, certain windows or just selected areas. Additionally, you can use your webcam to capture your face while you record, integrating it into the final result, which is great if you’re making an instructional video or other presentation.
When you’re done recording, you can not only make basic edits and enhancements to the video, but also add your own audio and outside media, plus insert titles, annotations and other text into your project. It really has everything you need.
3. Snagit: Best for occasional use
Snagit is made by the same company as Camtasia: Tech Smith. So it’s no surprise that it is an outstanding program, and a great choice for those who only record their screens occasionally. The program is mainly geared toward taking and editing screenshots rather than video, nevertheless, the video tools will get the job done for smaller tasks.
One of the most useful features in this program is the ability to take scrolling screenshots of websites you visit. This is great for projects that require you to show a webpage in its entirety.
The capture and editing tools are basic, only allowing you to trim away unwanted footage, so if you need a more robust array of video editing tools, you should upgrade to Camtasia.
4. Debut Video Capture Pro: Good value screen capture software
The easy-to-use Debut Video Capture lets you capture video either from streaming content, including Hulu and YouTube, or from footage you obtain with a webcam or DVD. You can record audio, either using a microphone for your own voice or capturing what's streaming on your screen. One interesting feature is the scheduled recording option, where you choose what you want to record and its source, the sound source, date, and start and end times.
Debut is remarkably easy to use. The functions are clearly labelled, and the toolbar shows you what there is to work with. Unfortunately, there are no editing capabilities, but you can make up for that by downloading a companion program, Videopad, which is free, and using that to edit your video.
The result is a good video, but our testing showed minor flaws as pixelation and some shakiness in the video, so the final result – while quite watchable – is acceptable, but not flawless.
- Read our Debut Video Capture Pro review
Things to Look for in Video Capture Software
Visual & Audio Capture Tools
All of the above programs will let you capture what’s happening on a screen, but the best options allow you to specifically capture portions of your screen, such as a window or a particular application. We also like the options that allow you to record your own face, via your in-built cam, as this means you can record with a picture-in-picture set-up. This is useful if you’re trying to record and upload videos of yourself playing games, for example, where you need to record your lively narration.
We also really rate the programs that allow you to record directly from your microphone or computer audio, as again this gives you a lot of creative freedom. You can then not only add commentary, but also weave in sound effects into your video.
While you shouldn’t expect the best video capture software to match the best video editing software, you should find that the top-rated programs allow you to do some small edits, like chopping off footage you don’t want and adding in music and special effects. The more editing tools available on an application, the better since it lets you make the finished video free of unwanted material or sounds and makes it look more professional.
Excellent video capture software offers multiple video formats. We found some software that provides just one format, while others offer more than 10. In this case, the more, the better. You also will no doubt appreciate the top-notch software that lets you optimize video to be played back on various kinds of mobile devices. If someone is going to watch your video on a tablet or smartphone, it's great to be able to prepare your content so it shows up well on those devices.