TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8 Review






















Camtasia Studio 8 really impressed us. It now includes full editing capabilities, unlimited tracks, a very nice UI, intuitive workflow and the ability to render 720p H.264 HTML5 videos that look pretty darn good. This means you can create a tutorial for nearly any screen from laptops and PCs to smart phones and tablets.

Prior to the Studio 8 release we would only use Camtasia for screen capture and use one of our favorite NLEs for the final edit. TechSmith has really improved the integration from capture to edit and made it seamless to the point where using another program to edit the screen capture is no longer necessary.

The capture codec is improved and provides a full 30 frames/second at 720p. This makes all the difference in the world and provides for very clean renders for YouTube or other platforms.

Here's a list of the formats available in Camtasia Studio 8 when rendering your finished project.


















We instantly put Camtasia Studio 8 to use by capturing a few screens for a SSD firmware upgrade video we produced recently for SanDisk.

Using Camtasia Studio 8 is dead simple for experienced content creators and anyone with the willingness to play and experiment should quickly catch on. TechSmith makes very good use of the right-mouse-click which presents intuitive options in Camtasia Studio 8. This is a mature product that's hitting its stride and it shows in both the feature set and overall usability.

It's now possible to add interactivity in the form of a quiz in Camtasia Studio 8. Again, just a couple of clicks and you're adding questions and gates to your content. Even without using the interactive features the visual callouts and a plethora of transitions help to keep the content interesting and engaging.

TechSmith has already established Camtasia as the leading screen capture software. Now with the Studio 8 version it's on its way to becoming a very good editing program as well. The improvements in quality, workflow and interactivity all add up to a compelling release for both new and experienced Camtasia users.

Visit TechSmith for more information about Camtasia and to download a free trial.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 Review






















Adobe's Creative Suite 6 Production Premium includes a wealth of updates to Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Audition and the rest of the suite. This review will focus on the updates to Premiere Pro CS6, our main area of interest.

Premiere Pro CS6 has enough power under the hood to attract the Final Cut community that feels abandoned by Apple and perhaps a few AVID editors that are curious about what's on the other side of the wall. Long time Premiere users should be very happy with this new release.

For starters we love the new "adjustment layer". Basically you throw an adjustment layer of any length on top of your timeline, tweak the settings and effects and all layers underneath the adjustment layer will respond to the changes as if they were made individually to each layer in the timeline. This is extremely useful and a real time saver. We will use this a lot.

Next up is "Hover Scrub". It works just like it sounds. Move the mouse right and left over the thumbnails in the media browser and you can quickly find what you're looking for without formally dropping the media in the trimmer or timeline. Again, handy and practical. We also like the project view which adds small icons to media thumbnails so you know if a particular asset is already being used in the project. These little touches show that Adobe is paying attention to how editors really work.

Other nice features of Premiere Pro CS6 include the "Warp Stabilizer", "Rolling Shutter Repair" (handy for cameras like the HPX250), an improved effects paradigm, better color correction, multi-cam support and a customizable GUI which we like for a cleaner layout and elimination of buttons we rarely use.

Adobe also went crazy with the render presets in Premiere Pro CS6. The full gamut is included from smart phones and tablets to large screens and everything in between. All the right codec support and a huge selection of starting points for your renders. Setting up watch folders to encode multiple formats is real easy too. The folks at Sorenson should be a little nervous. 

We primarily worked with AVC-Intra 100 files in our test of Premiere Pro CS6. Our favorite P2 format is one of the best on the planet but it's processor intensive.  On our HP, Dell and Supermicro SSD equipped test systems with NVIDIA Quadro, 2000 and 4000 cards the experience was real time. Content loaded fast. We could easily jump around the timeline and the software felt connected to the media.  The GPU support and mercury playback engine makes for improved real-time performance and renders.  Again, when software starts feeling more like hardware that's a good thing.  

Solid, predictable performance is important for us.  CS6 is really the first version of Premiere Pro we've truly enjoyed using. Sure it was functional before but now it feels better. The tweaks to the GUI make it easier to find content and start editing right away without arbitrary steps that seemed to get in the way in previous versions of Premiere. The same can be said for adding effects and overall workflow.  In other words, the software is now getting out of the way of the work.

Audio is still a weak link for us in Premiere Pro. We liked Audition back in the Cool Edit Pro days but have since moved on to other audio editors that we simply like better.

This year could be a very pivotal one for Adobe, especially as it relates to Premiere Pro CS6. For years the post community has embraced AVID and Final Cut as the leading platforms for editing with Premiere, Vegas and Edius providing a supporting role.  That's changing.  We felt it at NAB and we feel it even more now.  Adobe is playin' for keeps. 

So what's Adobe been doing to whip CS6 into shape? Well it seems the product team is listening to its users.  Crazy, we know.  Maybe there really is something to this whole social enterprise thing that Marc Benioff touts every year at Dreamforce. But really, this is the version of Premiere Pro we think a lot of editors have been waiting for and longtime Premiere users will greet with an exultant, "Finally!"

Visit Adobe for more information about Premiere Pro and the entire CS6 lineup.

Panasonic HPX250 Camcorder Review






























We really like the Panasonic AG-HPX250. It’s a professional level product in an ergonomic, efficient and easy to use package. In many ways it’s the ideal hand-held camcorder in the 5k price range that can be used for everything from corporate video to reality TV to documentaries.

When we first got our hands on the Panasonic AG-HPX250 we thought it felt a little cheap, almost too light for a professional grade camera. However, after using it for several months we’re very pleased with the performance and grateful for the run-n-gun friendly body especially compared to its chunky ancestor, the HVX200. The HPX250 (and recently updated HPX250PJ announced at NAB earlier this year) is  better balanced and provides a variety of improvements to the buttons, i/o connections and overall speed of access to controls. The flip out LCD looks really good.  The battery pops in and out easier.  The P2 card slots are vertical.  The product team did a nice job making lots of subtle improvements compared to previous designs without losing any of the Panasonic camcorder product family mojo. It's a better product that's easier to use.

When it comes to handheld camcorders, the HPX250 and updated HPX250PJ are like the younger siblings in the family that get everything the older siblings never had. The HPX250 is the camera the HVX200 always wanted to be. Don’t be fooled by the abundant use of plastic in the design. The HPX250 packs a punch with a versatile lens, excellent low light performance and a plethora of format, codec and frame rate options. Even the built-in sound is a little better.

One of the most important features of the HPX250 is the AVC-Intra 100/50 codec support. The AVC-Intra 100 codec is arguably one of the best available on any camcorder. The full raster 1920x1080 progressive frames in a 10 bit 4.2.2 color space offers more flexibility to push the boundaries in post and makes getting clean keys much easier.

We recently tested the HPX250 using the AVC-Intra 100 codec while working on a simple “how to” video. We tested the footage on three separate workstations (HP, Dell, Supermicro) using three separate NLE packages (CS6.5, Edius 6.5, Vegas Pro 11) all running Xeons, plenty of memory and either Quadro 2000 or 4000 card. The AVC-Intra 100 codec does require a modern workstation to run smoothly and we noticed better performance on our faster systems.



On shoots that require faster turns in remote locations where the laptop is the edit suite we might opt for the DVCPRO HD codec as it’s much lighter on resources. We also like the option of using the AVC-Intra 50 codec if we think we may have a long day without the luxury of enough P2 storage. The HPX250 has plenty of options to balance quality, capacity and editing requirements.

At NAB this year Panasonic announced the microP2 card, essentially a robust storage card in the SD form factor. In spite of the antiquated PCMCIA form factor the P2 card has a large stable of “believers” that have gotten comfortable using the cards. In years of shooting with the HVX200 and now the HPX250 we’ve never had one fail. We also don’t know anyone in our creative circle that has had a P2 card fail. Flash memory has forever changed the way we capture and share our stories.

The microP2 card or some other “micro” format will have a profound impact on the professional handheld camcorder market. The lighter, better, faster, and (we hope), cheaper mantra will continue. We’re looking forward to meeting the HPX250’s younger brother.

Visit Panasonic for more information and all the specs on the AG-HPX250 and updated AG-HPX250PJ.

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