Free, reliable, fully functional: Pick any two.
The Internet is full of freely-available creativity software, but when it comes to recording video from your screen, the options are slim. For that task, at least, creativity in limited space faces the “pick any two” dilemma seen above. We tried CamStudio, but unexpected search extensions and whispers of malware made it difficult to trust the software. Next we tried BB Flashback Express.
BB Flashback Express is a video screen recorder developed by Blueberry software (hence BB), as a lighter, free version of BB Flashback Standard and Pro (hence Express). We used the software to produce two GIMP 2.8 tutorials over the last week, giving us plenty of time to learn its quirks, capabilities, and frustrations. Here’s why BB Flashback Express gets it right, and what you need to know before you download.
- Gives a 3-second visual countdown and a system audio cue at the start of recording
- Adds important effects like mouse shading and visual clicks
- Captures to a proprietary file format so you always have the raw file to work with, rather than a confusing slew of exported file types
- Exports to Flash (.swf and .flv) and AVI file formats
- Scales the original capture to any desired pixel resolution
- Captures audio from any selected source
BB Flashback is maintained by a team of developers interested in getting you to pay for the Standard or Pro versions. This means it has quite a few advantages over the abandoned, Source-forge hosted Camstudio project:
- Downloads reputably without bloatware or major virus vulnerability
- Records from the screen reliably and safely
- Offers technical support in the form of well-designed online help pages and a contact email
The Bad News
Again, if you can’t or won’t pay to upgrade from the free version ($89 U.S. or $199 U.S. for Standard and Pro, respectively), you’ll be dealing with some built-in limitations – many of which make the software unsuitable for larger projects:
- No editing. BB Flashback Player, the screen recorder’s editing suite, displays captures on a multi-track timeline within a separate window, promising a variety of frame-by-frame editing options – none of which are available in the Express version. You can’t add annotations within the video or zoom to a smaller portion of the screen to highlight what was done.
- Limited export options. BB Flashback Pro offers nine file types and password protection; Express offers just three.
- 10 fps capture – too slow to be used in Lightworks
- Only allows the original audio for the final edit – so you can’t re-record the narration or add a music bed.
Using the software
BB Flashback Express is great for recording simple tutorials, capturing your problems for tech support reasons, and maybe animation, but it’s not powerful enough for gaming videos, complicated software tutorials, or capturing assets for other video projects.
If you’re recording a software tutorial on your screen, I recommend capturing only the important region of the screen, like we did in the “How to Make a Newspaper Clipping” tutorial. If you do, be sure to capture a region at the appropriate pixel resolution.