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Free screencasting – easy; free video editing – not so much

by Kelly Walsh on January 31, 2010


My quest for free tools to combine video clips to produce tutorial clips hasn’t yielded the desired results, but I’ve learned plenty along the way.

This is the final post in a series focused on creating video tutorials using free applications. Over this last week I’ve attempted to fill in the “missing piece” in the video production tool set I’ve been trying to put together – the editing application (a tool to let me combine video clips, trim them if needed, and more).


A ‘Dead End’
Unfortunately, after more effort than I care to admit to, I was not able to find a free editing tool that would effectively assist me in the production of video tutorials . I was able to combine and edit clips with some tools, but each time, the quality of the original clips was diminished to the point that the text on the screens in the clips could no longer be read. I guess this is one of the primary qualifiers that differentiate free tools from paid tools in this category.

Free Screencasting – Easy
The good news is that it was easy to find free tools for screencasting. There are plenty of tools available today on the Internet that enable users to capture screen activity and audio to create brief tutorial presentations. I took a quick look at a list of tools in this post. I used Jing, Debut Lite, and Screenr and found them each to be very useful (I briefly reviewed Jing in this post, Debut Lite in this post, and discuss Screenr below). I look forward to using these excellent tools to create brief tutorial clips, but it appears that I’ll need to purchase a paid tool like Camtasia if I’m going to get the editing capablities I seek (more on Camtasia below).

While continuing the search for editing capabilities this week, I spent some time with a few additional tools, and want to share a little about my experiences with them …

I tested Screenr, which is a web based tool that creates MP4 files which can be left on their site and accessed via a URL or embed code, and can also be downloaded. Screenr markets itself as a tool for creating screencasts for Twitter, and they make it quick and easy to capture screencasts and tweet them, but these files can certainly be shared elsewhere.

The quality of videos created using Screenr is excellent, and I appreciate the simplicity of the app, and the fact that there is no need to install anything on your local computer to use it. I’ve embedded an example of a simple test video I created below (click the Full Screen button, next to the Volume button at the bottom of the video window, and check out the crisp resolution of this clip!):



I took Camtasia for a trial run (they offer a 30 day free trial), to confirm that it does what I needed. It does. I was easily able to combine video clips (even different formats) without losing quality. Camtasia appears to be capable of a whole lot more. I found the interface easy to use – it’s reminiscent of Windows Movie Maker. I’ll probably review Camtasia more in depth in a future post.

Utilities for file conversions, and for combining files
Oh. My. God. The number of utilities, free and paid, available for converting or combining video files is ridiculous – just do a search for “combining video files” and look at the results listing! I tried a number of free utilities, including the Aiseesoft MP4 converter and others (I ended up uninstalling them and can’t remember their specific names – there are a lot of similarly named products out there!). Sadly, my experience with each of those that I tried was disappointing. Several didn’t work under Vista, others either scrambled some clips or lost audio, or some just didn’t seem to work. The bottom line here is to proceed with caution – many of these free utilities will not necessarily do what they promise.

It’s definitely time to move on to another topic! Next week I think I’m going to update my popular “6 Examples of Using Twitter in the Classroom” post. This is a major topic of interest – I get a lot of search traffic on this post. It’s been 7 months since this post was originally published, and there are plenty of new stories and examples to share. After that, we’ll move on to something new.

As always, if anyone has anything to add about video editing, creating tutorial presentations, or anything else relevant to this post, please comment and share. Thanks!

Related post(s) (if the above topic is of interest, you might wish to check out …):
Testing free video editing tools (and techniques)
Screencasting with Debut’s Lite Version
Comparing 12 Free Screencasting Tools
Creating brief instructional videos (and more) with Jing

Using Internet story telling tools in education


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Vania March 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Good blog post. I definitely love this site. Thanks!

Don R. February 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I’m pretty sure that Wink had either plugin or something else for the sound.

@ K.Walsh
Thanks for your review!

Oliver January 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Camtasia is the best!
$299 is not cheap but this soft well worth it!
Wink is good too but there is no sound option as I remember.

Jerry P. December 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Quite old but still interesting article!
For screencasting tool with editing capabilities after recording, I particularly suggest ActivePresenter ( ).
You just need the Free edition for creating video tutorials.
It save the video in a lossless codec so editing will not downgrade video quality. You have to export (make the conversion) to popular lossy video format after editing though (AVI, WMV, MP4, FLV, WebM…)

N. Patterson February 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Pixetell is a visual communication product for professional communications that includes screencast recording. Free screencasting tools are ideal if you want to deliver to the masses via YouTube, but what if you want a private communication, 1 to 1 or 1 to a few in your company or with clients? Pixetell is designed for this and there is a free trial at Pricing is very inexpensive at $9/mo.

video commerce February 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I really found this article to be helpful and extremely informative. I appreciate you taking your time to do your research and informing us on being effective when it comes to video commerce.

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