There are a surprising number of reasons why you might want to record the activity on your computer, and the best video capture software will make it a fast and easy process. Whether you’re creating tutorials to train others in computing tasks, or want to show tech support where it all goes wrong, a video is the best way to do it.
There’s more to these applications than just recording video. The best video capture software allows you to record a voiceover too, so you can dictate instructions to your students or complain eloquently to an IT engineer. Other features to look out for include editing tools, so you can trim your video down to just the important bits, or maybe add text annotations, before sending it off. Gamers will especially appreciate this, allowing them to edit out all the times they were defeated by a videogame boss before finally getting the upper hand. If you want to take things further, we also have a guide to the best video editing software.
So whether you intend to upload your video to YouTube or insert it into a presentation, there’s a broad range of video capture software to choose from. And not all of it has to be expensive: you usually only pay once for this kind of application, rather than subscribing, but some offer short-term subscriptions that may suit those who only want to use it for a short period of time. And if it's important to get your sound perfect, we also have a guide to the best audio editing 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
Our testing showed the best video capture software lets you record in a variety of ways, including the whole screen of your computer, portions of it, different windows or applications. In addition, the software's recording function lets you capture other things including video games and streaming content, and in some cases, VoIP calls from programs such as Skype. It also helps if your video capture software lets you record your face, especially if you want to be seen via a picture-within-picture fashion on the final video as a narrator or commentator while other material also is being displayed on the video.
We especially liked software that records sounds from a microphone or your computer. Having both of these capabilities gives you considerable opportunities for creativity as you add your commentary or sound effects to what's visible on the final video.
The best video capture software permits you to edit the original content so you can get rid of footage you don't want, add special effects and do much more. 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.