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The woes of Camtasia and tutorial making

Holeeee crap. Creating this new tutorial has been quite the epic journey of fail…Camtasia (and iDVD) fail. I’m sure if you’ve ever worked with Camtasia before you will know that it tends to crash…a lot. I had a lot of crashing problems with it back when I was making the Female Hunter and The Final Charge videos, but nothing like now. I even had problems with it when I made my Liche Priest video way back in the day. Let me just say that my Camtasia is up-to-date and both of my computers are up -to-date.

One of the most annoying problems I have with Camtasia is the bug where you export a video…it goes through the entire export process, and when it finishes a dialog box pops up saying that it is finished and you can reveal the file in the finder. Clicking on the “reveal in finder” button does nothing. So I go to where I saved the file…no file. I check everywhere, no file. I check my hard drive space before and after, no change, which means it just spent 2.5 hours exporting nothing. So I say hey, maybe it just screwed up…I’ll try again. Another 2.5 hours later…nothing. So I think maybe it is the computer. I change computers, 2.5 hours later, no file. So I think it is the file itself, I change files, 2.5 hours later, no file. I think maybe if I try changing the export options…2.5 hours later, no file. Good lord. I google the problem and many other people have the same problem. Someone suggests saving the file to your documents folder…it worked for them. So I try it on both computers…2.5 hours later, no file. So I try using my PC instead of my Mac…but as you may have found out, you can’t transfer Mac Camtasia files to PC Camtasia. Boo. Guess what else, all videos recorded with Camtasia are saved as Camtasia extensions and guess what, no other program can open them…so…I HAVE to export them…but it won’t work. I had this same exact problem with my Female Hunter AND the Final Charge videos. Sometimes it would fail, and I would try again, and it would work. Sometimes it would fail two times in a row, and I would try again, and it would work. No settings would change, no files would change, nothing. I would just hit export again and it seemed to work or fail at random. Now I’m thinking, “holy crap I just spent like 2 weeks on this video and I can’t get it to export…I’m screwed.” Oh, by the way, the file I’m trying to export is only an hour long. 15 or so hours later I give up and go to bed.

I think maybe I should try breaking the file up into two smaller parts. One annoying change Camtasia made recently is that all videos recorded in a project are saved into the project file instead of being saved in another location. This means that if you duplicate the project it will duplicate all of the videos. If you don’t want duplicates, you have to go back after the fact and delete them by hand by clicking “show package contents” in the finder. An hour or two later and finally the first part exported. Let the clouds part and the sunlight shine down and burn my eyes out…something actually worked! So I tried the second part, and it too exported. Now that I have the first half of the video exported, it is time to do the last half. During this whole time I was speaking with TechSmith support, and after going back and forth with them and not coming up with a solution, they finally said “Camtasia has a known issue with not being able to export longer videos. We will try to address it in our next patch.” So if you plan to make a video that is longer than 30 minutes, be ready for an ulcer. The thing that is weird is that I was able to export much longer videos before…but I guess maybe one of the new updates screwed things up…I dunno. So you might be thinking maybe this is just a Mac issue…well I used Camtasia on my PC for the Liche Priest video, and it had just as many problems. It tended to cause my entire computer to crash while I was filming…very awesome.

So armed with the knowledge that I can’t export longer videos, I tried to export the last half of my video. I broke it into two sections and exported them, both worked. I started to listen to it and I realized I forgot to change some of the audio properties. I go back and make the fixes and then export again…surprise surprise, the bug is back and it didn’t export anything. All I did was change an audio setting and now it doesn’t export. So I leave everything the same and just hit export again…magically it worked this time. Yay for random bugs.

You may think my bug issue is over, but not so fast there buddy. Now I am on to my crashing issues! Someone had asked me about adding captions since they have a hearing disability, so I figured I would go ahead and do it. See all those black boxes with audio waves in them that are above all of the green boxes with audio waves? That is the caption timeline. In order to write captions you have to click on one and then start typing as it plays that section of audio. Seems simple enough, until you click off of it. Crash time. It doesn’t crash every single time you deselect the caption timeline, but I would say between 20-40% of the time it will crash. Now I’m saving my file about every 30 seconds in case it crashes. Here is the kicker…in order to save you HAVE to deselect the caption timeline. If you have it selected, the save option is grayed out. BUT, in order to save you have to deselect and risk the program crashing. Kind of a Catch 22. At one point it crashed 7-8 times in a timespan of typing less than 10 minutes of captions. The other awesome thing is that it takes 1.5 minutes for Camtasia to reopen my file after it crashes (yes I actually timed it). I have autosave set to 1 minute, but still, having your program crash that many times in that short amount of time starts to add up to a lot of time lost. Oh, and it isn’t a file or computer related issue…I have tried using captions on two different computers using many different files. Maybe I am just lucky. It could be a Mac thing…maybe I should try it on my PC.

I also mentioned problems with iDVD. I wouldn’t really call it a bug, but rather just poor implementation of the program. I guess you get what you pay for (same with Camtasia). In iDVD you can make it so that it has a “Play Movie” button. BUT, it only works if you have 1 movie file. Since Camtasia wouldn’t allow me to export one large movie file, I had to break it into 5 parts. If I try to make a DVD with iDVD, I can’t make the DVD play through all 5 parts back to back. You have to select part 1 from the menu…watch it, and when it is over it will take you back to the menu where you have to select part 2…watch it…go back to the menu…select part 3…and so on. That is really annoying and something I don’t think anyone would want to deal with when trying to watch a video. I did find one bug that caused iDVD to crash. If you select something on the timeline and hit “smart delete,” half the time the program will crash. Wee! As of right now I probably won’t release a DVD version of my environment tutorial simply because I don’t want people to have to go to the menu 5 times in order to watch the whole thing.

Update Oh man…so I was able to stitch all 5 parts of my video together with Camtasia and export it as one file so that I can burn it to a DVD. I created my DVD project in iDVD, tried to burn it, and after about 30-40 minutes, I get an error saying something is wrong with the menus…the menus that COME with iDVD. So I think maybe it is just a glitch. I try again, it fails again. I try deleting the stuff out of my library/quicktime folder like people suggested…didn’t help. I deleted my entire project and created another one like people suggested…didn’t help. I tried saving to a different location like people suggested…didn’t help. So I decided to completely change the theme and bingo, it finally worked. It took 6 hours to burn one dvd because of the encoding time. The first one always takes the longest, but now it only takes 30 minutes to burn one DVD. Soooooooo, I will have DVD versions available when I launch the tutorial. Sorry, the DVD version does not have captions. If you want captions you will have to get the digital download version.

So yeah, with all of the crashing and the bugs, I have lost several days of work. Gotta love it! I should probably just invest in Final Cut Pro, but the $1k price tag is a bit steep. Maybe if I worked on videos all the time it would be worth it, but it has been almost a year since I last created a tutorial. When, you may ask, will my tutorial be finished? Well, the tutorial is done but I’m still in the process of trying to add captions. The other thing about the captions is that Camtasia will only allow the option to turn them on and off if you export it to YouTube or Screencast.com. If I want to export it as say, a quicktime file, I have to either leave them on all the time or leave them off all the time. That means I need to export two versions, one with captions and one without. This also means doubling my chance of running into the export bug. Adding captions is a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated (especially with all of the crashing), so it might be another week or so before I am finished.

8 Replies to “The woes of Camtasia and tutorial making”
  1. Sounds frustrating… I hope your problems sort out!
    I never tried working with Camtasia but if I don’t even own a Mac so I don’t think that would be a problem (Would it?).

  2. Hey bro, i just stumbled upon your page and started reading this article and I have to leave before I finished, but I saw you having issues. I use Screenflow, and I’ve never had any issues, and it was reasonably priced. Having not worked in Camtasia I don’t know what features are available, but I have heard that audio drops out after about 20 min, and several other problems. I can do a ton in Screenflow! It also can automatically export to youtube or many other formats. I’ll try to find a contact email for you to give my info if you have questions. I’m a multimedia designer. Hope things worked out!

  3. Oh hey, I am back. I was just talking to one of my other friends that is having the same export bug where it doesn’t actually create a file even though it goes through the entire process. She said she googled the problem and my blog was one of the first entries, lol.

    I had another bug rear its ugly head. The new bug creates a double recording if you hit pause. You know how you hit cmd shift 2 to start a recording and you hit it again to stop it? Well apparently hitting it again is considered “pausing” the recording. The bug happens every time you hit pause. Instead you have to hit cmd opt 2, but as you may already know, hitting cmd opt 2 doesn’t allow you to rename the files, you have to go back and rename each file by hand. Anyway, basically if you hit pause it creates two recordings. So if I recorded 10 minutes of video, it creates a 20 minute file with two recordings in it back to back. I spoke to tech support and they said “We know about the bug. Just don’t hit pause.” Awesome. So if you hit pause, you gotta go back in, find where the video restarts, split the timeline, and delete the second file by hand…for every clip. This was back in September. There still hasn’t been an update for fix for this. Which is why I now use Screenflow. I am very happy with Screenflow and I will probably never go back to Camtasia.

    I also now use Encore for my DVDs, but so far I haven’t been able to get it to work because there is a problem with my DVD drive. Haha, I have so many problems it isn’t even funny.

  4. I’ve worked with Camtasia since version 5 (now am on 8) and no… it does not crash a lot. Anyone knows that each computer is unique – combination of video hardware, drivers, DRAM, mobos, etc and the interaction of software with the machines and the operator is also unique. I am not an employee or fan of Techsmith – I would actually like to try Articulate – but Camtasia is what the office uses. Yes I’ve had a few problems with the program, but a combination of user error and limitations of Flash have been the cause. I have, though, spent several years in tech support and cringe at sweeping generalizations. Sure you googled and found lots of comments etc… whatever. But without statistics of non crashing non-buggy installations to compare to, all you can reasonably say is..”I have so many problems it isn’t even funny.” Which no doubt is true.

    • Jason – Yes, every computer is different and there are many people that never have problems with Camtasia. My experience was much different. Many of the bugs I encountered were known by Techsmith because they admitted to and knew about the bugs I was experiencing, so no they weren’t due to “user error,” they were known bugs. I have also spoken to many other people and they also encountered so many bugs that they too stopped using Camtasia. I am not making “sweeping generalizations,” I am making comments based off my experiences and experiences of others I spoke to.

      You may not have crashing problems, but I do. Statistics of non-crashing non-buggy systems don’t really matter to me because the fact of the matter is, I have problems with Camtasia. If the program never crashes for Joe Smith, fine, but that doesn’t help me because mine crashes. That would be like saying “Aspirin works for x number of people” but if it doesn’t work for me, then it doesn’t matter how many other people it works for. I use Screenflow now and I never have any issues.

  5. Daarken,

    I purchased Camtasia for Mac to create tutorials for my wife’s school district. After spending several weeks filming, editing, and tweaking the video, I too am having severe export crashing problems.

    When I try to custom export to Quicktime, I get 20% done and Camtasia crashes. Bummer, because this option really looks the best. Next I try to export directly to screencast.com, but this option gets me to 99% and then crashes every time. (tried 6 times @ 2hrs each) I have a ticket in to Techsmith, but I haven’t heard back from them as of this post.

    If I duplicate the video, and cut it down to say 10 minutes, it works just fine. I really need to keep the bookmark/table of contents feature intact, so exporting several small files won’t help me.

    I hope anyone considering purchasing this software in the future seriously considers the amount of time they will need to spend just trying to export the project they worked so hard on. If Camtasia can’t export these larger files, Texhsmith should limit movie times.

    • The last time I spoke with Techsmith about export issues they told me to simply not export movies over 10 minutes because it is a known issue. That was several years ago, so I guess they still haven’t gotten around to fixing the issue. I wouldn’t be surprised if when you hear back from them they just tell you not to export long movies. I would suggest using ScreenFlow. Since I made the switch to ScreenFlow I haven’t had any problems.

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