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Submitted on
July 12, 2011


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Best way to record yourself drawing digitally

Journal Entry: Tue Jul 12, 2011, 10:05 PM
Update: Added section about CONVERTING video sessions below.

Quick bit of help here, because I'm not sure if everyone knows the best way to handle this if you want to record your progress while drawing in Photoshop, Manga Studio, Painter, whatever.

You may have tried some of the screen recorders out there like CamStudio, FRAPS, or some free ones out there. You may have noticed, or had become frustrated with, the fact that many of these programs cause a significantly huge hit on your system's performance. When you try drawing in Photoshop, your tablet response comes to a screeching halt. Then you find a program that records without impacting your drawing performance -- only to find that the resulting video recorded at about 1 frame every 3 seconds. Then you tried FRAPS, then found out that 4 minutes of video resulted in a 3.2GB file. All of these are less than ideal.

A while back, I searched all over the net for a program that encoded video from my screen on-the-fly without 1) impacting performance, 2) creating massive file sizes, and while 3) doing it a frame rate between 15 to 30 per second. It took a while, and so many programs were nothing but disappointing, but I managed to find ONE.

And it's the ONLY one I've ever found to meet those requirements: and it's Camtasia Studio by TechSmith.

It's not a free program, (and not cheap either,) but it's worth it if you intend to do this kind of stuff. I'd suggest messing around with the trial. (Hey, freddiew got through all of college by just using Adobe products on a trial basis. Works, right?) It records the whole screen with great quality, high frame rate, next to no impact on performance, and encodes on-the-fly so your file sizes are reasonable. The interface for it is top-notch as well, allowing you to quickly choose sections of the screen to record, or entire separate monitors if you need, and you can pause easily if you're taking a break. (You can set global macros that will start camtasia recorder automatically and start recording. It's great to set Pause to one of your tablet buttons, if you have one free.) What's nice as well is that Camtasia comes with it's own pretty good video editing platform for the footage you end up with. It's nothing like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, (closer to iMovie actually,) but it'll do the trick to get your stuff up on Youtube -- especially since it supports clip speed up by as much as 800%.

Camtasia was used in the recording of this video I did:… -- although the jaggedness of the video is actually caused from a badly encoded output file from Premiere. The originally looks just as good as the real thing. Oops.)

nervene also writes about his experience using LiveStream's software as an additional method. It's not as full-featured as Camtasia, but hey it'll do the job nicely since it's mostly free.
"Livestream has an option to save a local MP4 video of whatever you are streaming, and a recent update enabled it to continue storing this local file even if your connection to their servers drops; they also made the audio frame-synchronized so the files can be dropped in a video editor without audio synchronization problems (if you so wanted to).

The streaming resolution is limited to 640x480, I'm unsure if the local video file may be able to pass this; but I think this would be fine for the majority of people when taking into account that you can focus on a smaller region of your screen (cutting out borders/menus/ other things that take up real estate), and that it is entirely free. Ctrl+Q toggles showing the green border on your desktop (it could get distracting while painting).

I don't notice any performance impacts for desktop apps, some games may get a bit of a drop in FPS during intensive moments, but some games also seem particularly friendly and don't seem to suffer at all. I recorded Just Cause 2 with no perceivable performance impact for 3.5 hours @ 320x180 20FPS, 363kbps (64kbps stereo audio) and the file turned out to be 564MB. That's a relatively big file and a small resolution, but it's 3.5 hours - I was expecting at least a gigabyte based on my previous screen recording experiences. Other programs might be even better, but I was more than happy with that. I think by playing around with the FPS, resolution, and quality settings, a good balance could be found between visuals and file size.

You won't get as high a resolution as you might be able to with other programs, but what it does it does well. Some conveniences like auto-focusing on the mouse, setting at a very low FPS to do time-lapse, and undoubtedly a lot of features for more detailed control aren't there. In the end the reduction of resolution shouldn't make much of an impact if you're demonstrating a painting method, you can still see every stroke but the very smallest of pixel brushes (depending on your desktop resolution and how much screen area you are recording). At 2x scale the blur from filtering is easily tolerable unless you're trying to display small text (in which case you'd want to zoom in during menu navigation if you're doing tutorials). And of course, at least when you start recording you'll need an Internet connection to initially log in. You can set it so that it won't actually go live on the Internet if you want, I believe that it will still log the local file."

Then don't worry, you're all set! You guys got this easy. While TechSmith does make Camtasia Studio for Mac OS X, it's not at all as necessary provided that you have Mac OS 10.6 or higher. If you DO NOT have Mac OS X 10.6 or higher, I suggest using Camtasia Studio just the same as Windows. Although, since Camtasia costs $300, I'd say just upgrade yourself to 10.6 if your computer meets the specs so you can follow this method instead:

Quicktime X. Go to your applications folder and open up "QuickTime Player." (Or Quicktime X if it's called that on your system.) Go to File and select "Start new Screen Recording" (or something like that, I don't have my mac with me at the moment to check.) Hit the record button and bam, you're all good to go.

The QuickTime Player recorder captures the entire screen while encoding on-the-fly H.264 from the leftover frame buffer of the system. This means that you will see absolutely NO impacted system performance, and the file size will be very small. iMovie can be used to easily edit your captured video to be ready to send to youtube. (or wherever else.) That's it!

You might find out that the resulting recordings from these softwares could potentially be incompatible with SOME video editing software such as Adobe Premiere. If you need these files to become compatible, you can use a video converter to change it over to a compatible format. One of the best conversion programs out there, compatible with both Mac OS and Windows, is an open-sourced community project called Handbrake.

Handbrake can convert most types of video into a number of choice formats and industry-leading codecs. This is a great way to turn those proprietorially encoded files, say from Camtasia within an AVI container, into an H.264 encoded video in an MP4 format. Handbrake is a remarkably light weight program packed full of features to make minor adjustments to the video file in terms of crop, frame rate, aspect ratio, and audio/subtitle inclusions. Based on the speed of your system, Handbrake can take advantage of beastly processors to encode video files sometimes 3 to 4x faster than normal playback. (An hour video could only take about 20 minutes or less to re-encode. It depends on the frame size.) Using handbrake, I can take a one hour recorded session from Camtasia and re-encode it with no visual quality loss to H.264. Better yet, the file size of the re-encoded video shrinks to only about 50MB from its original 524! (When they say H.264 is a remarkably efficient codec, they are NOT kidding.)

From there, you can then take your videos and import them into a wider variety of video editing suites.

Even if you don't end up uploading the drawing session you recorded by the end of the day, or by the end of the image, it still has a profound effect on your working efficiency. When the recorder is running, it has a tendency to make it feel like an audience is watching you, so you focus more on doing the work directly in front of you to "please" the outcome of the recorder, instead of drawing for a bit and then succumbing to mindless distractions.

I'd suggest testing it out, see what it can do for you and your workflow. Plus, it's a really fun thing to show people. Just don't get overloaded with recorded files. If you end up never uploading them, it's probably safe to delete them, or save them for a "Sketch Dump" sorta all-inclusive video you might piece together at some point later to consolidate those unwanted videos.

Add a Comment:
HeatherSchoff Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2014  Hobbyist
Thank you so kindly for the tips! I've been researching the best way to go with this. :heart:
debellischew Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014

Thanks for your cool review.As a professional art designer, I used a wonderful Mac and iPad drawing app named MyBrushes. The whole drawing process could be saved as drawing video and playback anytime.   It is very easy to share my creative work to others.…

slegde Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you for posting this it was very helpful!!
jutawi Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Bless you for this post :heart:
ZombieOwl Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was just trying to edit the video in iMovie, but for some reason the recording is all red when it's imported D:
I was wondering if you have any ideas?
PlanetKhaos Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Quicktime on MAC works but has a ton of lag when I record Manga studio. I only have 4 gigs of RAM on my MacBook Pro, so I assume thats my problem. How much RAM is the minimum requirement to record your monitor?
MatijaDesign Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
someone tryied ezvid?
raymitorochi Featured By Owner May 28, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Is there a free one to use that's almost good as camtasia?
speedy-painter Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013
a possible alternative is to use SpeedyPainter, it records the drawing process and allows you to export it on a video file.
fox-orian Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Is it the style of recording that programs like OpenCanvas or "Colors!" for the DS uses? That kind of "each stroke = 1 frame" type of thing? (If so, I never liked those as much as it never recorded pauses between strokes or pausing by the artist to think etc.)
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