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A Word About
Video Frame Rates

An important determinant of final video quality (and also final video size) is the frame rate - that is, the number of consecutive images (frames) that are shot every second.

In general, the higher the frame rate the better the quality, but also the bigger the final video's size.

The following frame rates are in general use:

  • 60i fps (interlaced frames per second) is used by NTSC television. This equates to around 30 non interlaced frames per second
     
  • 50i fps is used by PAL and SECAM television. This equates to around 25 non interlaced frames per second
     
  • 30p (30-frame progressive) is a non interlaced format that produces video at 30 frames per second. It gives clarity for high speed subjects and a cinematic-like appearance and originated in the 1980s in the music video industry.
     
  • 24p (24-frame progressive) is a non interlaced format generally produced by 35mm movie cameras and it produces output at 24 frames per second - again, with high clarity and a cinematic appearance.

Most modern video games produce output at between 30fps and 60fps. But since an average 17" computer monitor can only reach 60 Hz (meaning that any performance reached by a game over 60 fps is discarded), 60 fps is an effective upper limit for ordinary people who aren't running specialised gaming systems.

For online screen video captures where there isn't much motion, rates as low as 5fps can produce acceptable results in the FLV format - but you'll probably need to use higher frame rates if you intend to use other codecs like QuickTime or Windows Media (eg: 10fps or higher)

However, some quick experimentation should soon tell you what the right frame rate is for what you intend to do, and the trade-offs you'll need to make to strike the right balance between video size and quality.

Other Video Capture Resources

Video Capture Programs
Background: A video capture program (sometimes known as a screen recorder or screencaster) is a software that will allow you to take a movie of your computer screen - or part of your computer screen - and save it as a video file.

Video capture programs are similar to screen capture programs in the sense that they allow you to take a snapshot of what's on your computer screen.

The essential difference between the two, though, is that a video capture will allow you record a full-blown movie rather than just a static image. And some will even allow you to include sound, webcam images and text annotations with your video as well.

There are a lot of uses for video captures. Some of the more popular ones include:
  • Creating training videos for software or other screen-based applications (including school, college and university tutorials)
  • Creating presentations that can be added to web pages
  • Creating videos that can be sent to tech support people to illustrate particular problems you're having or bugs you've encountered
  • Creating videos to demonstrate neat tricks you've discovered - either to send to friends or just to remind yourself later
  • Creating simple on-screen videos you can later upload to video file sharing sites like YouTube or Flickr, or even...
  • Creating video-based information products that you later sell

There are many commercial video capture programs on the market (the earliest one was probably Lotus ScreenCam in 1994 and the best known one today is probably Camtasia). But if you want to experiment with video capture and video editing before you buy a commercial product or if your video capture needs are fairly simple, then freeware products can be a great introduction into the area and/or may meet your needs completely.

So we've found six really good ones that range from extremely simple to near-commercial in their capabilities. And here they are:

 

Popular Video Capture Programs
CamStudio Open Source
CamStudio is an open-source video capture program that provides many of the features of the better-known Camtasia commercial screen recorder at zero cost. CamStudio is able to record all screen and audio activity on your computer and create industry-standard AVI video files or SWFs. The software can also add high-quality, anti-aliased screen captions to your recordings with its unique Video Annotation feature, and you can even personalise your videos by including a webcam movie of yourself "picture-in-picture" over your desktop. CamStudio also lets you use custom cursors; lets you record the whole screen or just a section of it; and lets you set the quality level to determine final file size. Yet with all these features, CamStudio is also surprisingly easy to use and most people can get productive with it in a matter of minutes. CamStudio has had a slightly mixed history (you can read about it on the site) and the most stable version to use is 2.0, but a new version 2.5 is in beta as we write this. Camstudio runs on all versions of Windows from Win95 through to XP. We were very impressed by this software and we think you might be too. Get CamStudio Open Source.

 

VidShot Capturer
If you're completely new to making screenshot videos, GeoVid's VidShot Capturer may be an ideal starter program to use. It's a very simple, easy to use screen recorder that will produce movies of anything you can see on your computer screen in no time flat. VidShot Capturer will let you make movies of the full screen, the active window or any portion of the screen that you select. You can also adjust the frame rate (up to 10 frames per second) to determine the final video's quality and file size. VidShot Capturer doesn't provide many advanced options but against this, it's very very easy to learn and will generate workmanlike videos for you in no time at all. VidShot Capturer is completely free and GeoVid make a wide range of much more advanced commercial video capture and video conversion software if you want to upgrade with the same firm - so they certainly know their stuff! VidShot Capture runs on Windows (XP, 2000 and 2003). Get VidShot Capturer.

 

AVIScreen Classic
Bobyte Software's AVIScreen Classic is another simple application for capturing screen activity either as an AVI video or bitmap images. Besides the usual options for defining the capture area that all screen video recorders have, AviScreen also has a unique feature called “follow the cursor”. Using this mode you can produce a video or image of relatively small dimensions while covering all mouse activity over the whole screen area - perfect for tutorials or for demonstrating computer glitches to the tech support department! Other nice features of this software include the ability to define shortcut keys for starting, pausing, and stopping video capture or for image (ie screenshot) capture; the ability to create compressed videos using any of up to 20 publicly-available Video for Windows (VFW) codecs; the ability to set the frame rate; the ability to set a delay time before video capture begins; the ability to determine the output folder where finished files are stored (AVI names them automatically); and a handy online manual (which also comes with the software) that takes only a few minutes to read because the software is so simple to use. AVIScreen Classic is freeware and runs on Windows NT, 2000, XP and 2003. And if your video capture needs are fairly simple this is a great program to use (PS: Bobyte also make a freeware version of their AviTricks Video Editor available on their site as well. This is a useful companion product to AVIScreen Classic if you want to extend your video learning curve). Get AVIScreen Classic.

 

Screen2Exe
One drawback of screen recorders that produce AVI or SWF files as output is the size of the final files (eg: a 1 minute video of a full screen can easily produce a 10Mb AVI file). If this is of concern - and it may be if you want to email your finished videos - then Screc Tech's Screen2Exe would be well worth examining. Screen2Exe produces .EXE files for its output instead of AVI's. It does this by using its own video codec. As a result, Screen2Exe's video files are only a fraction the normal size (typically 10% to 20% of an AVI). This software will also let specify the screen area to record; let you record mouse movements; let you add in sound from a microphone; and let you set the quality of the end product (from lossless true color mode to lossy grayscale mode through a variety of inbuilt settings, as well as the all-important frame rate). Screen2Exe runs on Windows 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista and it's freeware. It's also easy to learn and about the only drawback we could find was that you can't upload the finished product to YouTube! Get Screen2Exe.

 

Webinaria
Charlwood eMarketing's Webinaria allows you to create create Flash movies of your desktop. You can record your desktop screen movements, voice narration and webcam and upload the finished result to the web (eg: YouTube or your own web site). You can also modify the capture area from your active window to a customized area; adjust the recording quality; and edit the audio and webcam properties frame by frame. In addition, the latest version includes a video editor that allows you to save your projects and later add text, sound and web cam effects to selected frames on a timeline. Webinaria is more advanced than some of the other video recorders on this page and takes a bit longer to master because of that. But if you have advanced video recording needs or want to investigate what top-end video production is likely to involve, then this freeware (which runs on all versions of Windows from Win98 to Vista) could well be worth exploring. Get Webinaria.

 

The Jing Project
Finally, here's something completely different: the Jing Project was launched in July 2007 and it's currently in public beta. If you use Windows XP/Vista (with the Microsoft Net Framework) or Mac OSX 10.4.9 (or higher) and have a broadband connection, you can use it to instantly shoot and then upload videos from your computer screen to the web. All videos shot with the Jing Project software are hosted - for free - on Screencast.com. And after you've created a video capture in the software and uploaded it, you're given a URL that you can email to others or paste into a web page. A video on the front of the Jing Project's site explains the idea more fully (so does an FAQ on the site, and a blog). Jing Project developers TechSmith are using the Project to trial their idea and if it's a success, then a more commercialised version of the service may follow. It's unusual and slightly whacky - yes. But it's also cross-platform and if you like experimenting with new things, potentially a lot of fun! Get Jing Project.
This page last updated: 18-Aug-2008

 


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