Impossible to record window only

  • 1
  • Problem
  • Updated 2 years ago
  • (Edited)
Hey all, I doubt that the devs read this but I'm disappointed enough that I feel like I just have to write about it.

I'm making YouTube videos for a channel that teaches programming (C++). And one of the things that is really important to me and my listeners is that I show code and concepts side by side.

So I do this by having Visual Studio open in full screen, and then I have a second program called Smooth Draw 4 that I use to draw and illustrate concepts right as I explain them in code.

Camtasia does not support this use case almost in any capacity and it looks like there's no plans to do so. In order to build a video like this, I had to:

1) Record my entire video with only visual studio up, giving pauses and markers for where I thought I would need to do some drawing.

2) Re-record a second track on top of the old video with SmoothDraw4 open on top of visual studio. This required constant flipping back and forth, pausing my talking so I could have time to draw what I needed to, etc.

3) Crop out the edges of the second track so it just looked like a drawing overlay (the desired effect).

The result? Editing hell. I had to edit out the context switching, extend frames, speed up clips dramatically, it was an awful, awful experience. It took over 12 hours to produce a 7 minute video.

So today I had a different idea. I saw the "Lock to Window" option and got excited! All I needed was another piece of software that would record only the window and I'd be golden!

I wouldn't need to edit out context switching, I wouldn't need to record both separately, I could just freely switch between then and draw/switch between Visual Studio and SmoothDraw4 without having to worry about anything. It would be trivial to sync them up and edit at the same time.

I downloaded OBS which supports this feature and their program worked perfectly. I did a little test to see if my theory worked and as I was watching it back I was so happy! Until I tried context switching. I then found out that, Camtasia just locks the resolution to whatever application was last in focus? Unbelievable. Everything in that window gets recorded and there's no way to just get the window.

This is a basic, basic feature - guys. How did I pay $300 for recording software that doesn't support this when OBS has it for free.

Honestly, I've been happy with just making simple videos with Camtasia so far. But now that I'm needing something that's a little more advanced, I can't use your software anymore. I might use it to edit and just record everything with OBS, but to anyone who needs to do video compositing, I cannot recommend Camtasia to them.

I'll be doing a video review about this as well, but I wanted to post my grievance here as its going to cost me a lot of time and it has already cost me a lot of money.


Well I came up with another workaround. I can run two instances of OBS (cannot do that with Camtasia either, lawlwtf), and set the output file to a different location in each instance. On one instance I set the top level source to Visual Studio and on the other instance I set the top level source to SmoothDraw4.

Success!! I produced two videos and now i just need to sync them!

I dragged them into Camtasia 9, and was again disappointed. The performance is so laughably slow its unusable. Trying to cut one of those mp4s by just selecting a timeline and holding shift + dragging takes about 5 - 10 + seconds with a lot of mouse wiggling before it will actually cut.

Its even too slow to just move the clips up and down the timeline, with stutters and lag aplenty. Each mp4 is only 30 MBs. So... no excuse here.

System Specs
- Intel i7 7700k
- 64GBs DDR4 RAM
- 1TB NVME Samsung 940 pro
- GTX 1080ti

Its time to find a different piece of software that supports what I want. Which is one of two things

- Either the ability to record a specific window
- Or the ability to edit MP4s in a reasonably performance manner.

If anyone has any suggestions of good editing software, I'm all ears.
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Joshua Sanders

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  • frustrated, sad

Posted 2 years ago

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kayakman, Champion

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have you tried using Camtasia Recorder's ScreenDraw, or Epic pen, to do the drawings?  I've used both to do drawing associated with software applications I was screencasting tutorials for
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Joshua Sanders

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Yeah, unfortunately it can't replicate the style I want. I use a black background with neon colors. It helps visually to be able to associate colors with certain drawings. So I may color code different concepts to make them easier to differentiate.

I'm actually trying to see what Adobe Premiere can do for me. It seems I may have outgrown what Camtasia offers. We'll see if I can get what I want with Adobe. Though its really unfortunate because I really like the user experience of Camtasia.

EDIT: Adobe won't give me what I need either. (sigh) OBS seems to be the only way to get record programs.

I'll still need to use Premiere to edit though, as Camtasia is just too slow.

Actually, I'm going to end up doing what Kayakman suggested. There's 3 problems for me with using the ScreenDraw mode.

1) I can't use my black background that I feel is really effective at popping out the colors
2) I don't see a way to modify colors to be the ones I use
3) Once you toggle out of screen draw, your drawing is gone forever.

Problem 1 and 2 I can deal with I suppose. Problem 3 might be worked around in editing. In my mind the edit for this would involve these steps:

1) If I wanted to show a previous drawing, I would need to go back in the timeline
2) Cut a section where I had the drawing up
3) Copy that frame and drag to a higher z-ordered track
4) Crop the frame to only show the picture part (for me, the section on the right hand side)
5) Drag to the part in the time-line where you need it where it can act as an overlay.

I can probably do this. Its better than what I had to do with the previous video I made. Still, feature request stands.  I can deal for now though.
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Dave O'Rourke, Senior Software Engineer

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Hi Joshua,

First of all, I'm sorry it's been such a rough experience so far.   We do appreciate your candid feedback, as this helps us to improve the product.

Camtasia records the pixels that you see on the screen.  We use a different method of recording the screen than OBS, and this method does not allow us to record windows that are hidden or occluded by other windows.  I can see how that would be useful in your case where you just want to cut quickly between the two.

The "Lock to window" menu option in the Recorder simply helps you keep the recording area rectangle locked to a window.  It's just there to help you size the recording area precisely.  It is not a different recording mode.  It sounds like you were hoping that would allow you to record just a single window, no matter where that window moves.  But that's not what it does at all.  I'm sorry if that was misleading.

As for the severe performance issue with OBS recordings, I'm not seeing that.  I tried making a recording as you suggested, with 2 instances of OBS, one recording Visual Studio, and the other recording SmoothDraw 4.  I changed the output format to MP4, but otherwise left the defaults.  By default OBS tried to record both windows at 1920x1080 (my screen dimensions) and 60 fps, but it dropped many frames from the 2 resulting MP4 files.  Are you able to post a sample OBS MP4 that isn't working well in Camtasia?  If so, I could try it on my machine to see if I get similar results.

Again, thanks for the feedback.  I hope we can find a workflow that gets you the results you're looking for in a shorter time.