The video production process has come a long way — where you once might need an expensive camera, mics, and lighting, you now can get away with a simple webcam and a screen recorder. But the right video recording software is key. It can mean the difference between a pixelated video that takes days to edit and a high-resolution masterpiece that’s ready in no time. Figure out the right software for your project with our recommendations below.
How to choose the best video recording software for your project
What is video recording software?
Unlike a video camera, which usually records to a memory card in the device itself, video recording software is installed on your computer and lets you record video through your webcam or another connected camera. As you might expect, it’s ideal for computer-based projects like software tutorials, virtual interviews, and video game streams, although it can be just as useful for other types of videos.
The pros of video recording software
The video you record is going to end up on your computer for editing anyway, and video recording software removes that middle step of transferring it from an SD card to your computer’s hard drive. And since it can record multiple sources at once — say, your webcam and your desktop — it also makes software demonstrations and quick one-off video explainers much easier than with a traditional camera.
Screen recording is also great for educational purposes, especially as many universities have had to go remote. Using a dynamic video to walk students through class material is a great way to keep them engaged even if they can’t be there in person.
What to consider when choosing video recording software
These days, most laptops come with a high-resolution webcam built in, so you’ll want software that can handle that resolution at its full potential. It’s also important to use a video recorder that won’t jump, skip, or go blurry. Look for video recording software that uses higher-res video recording — 4K, 1080p, or at the very least, 720p.
A video signal that’s streamed over the internet is liable to lose some quality in the process. That’s how many apps record video — and it’s not what you want. Finding a screen recording software that can record locally to your computer or an external hard drive makes for smoother, crisper video. This is especially key with videos that run hours long, as video quality can deteriorate with larger projects.
Multitrack recording lets you capture audio and video on separate tracks for everyone on the call. This gives you more options in editing — say, if you’d like to remove crosstalk or cut between one and multiple speakers. When everything is recorded onto a single track, there’s not a lot you can do in the video editing phase.
It’s helpful to have video recording and screen recording in the same software, as you often need to switch between the two. Gamers, educators, and company trainers can save a lot of time by simply recording themselves doing the thing they’re demonstrating and then sharing it with others.
Ease of use
Some apps come bogged down with a million overwhelming features, while others are a puzzle to operate. Simple is the name of the game. The easier the software is, the more you’ll use it.
Extras such as video transcription, editing tools, and remote livestreaming are all great bonuses to any video recording product. But this all depends on what you need for your project — if you’re just starting out, you may not want to be weighed down with bells and whistles.
What’s the right video recording software for your project?
Best all-purpose video recording software: Descript
Descript records locally from multiple sources — namely, any connected cameras and your desktop — and has multitrack recording and automatic transcription. But its real benefits come in the editing process, since it allows you to cut the video just by editing the transcript and instantly clean up crappy audio with AI-powered Studio Sound.
Cost: Free version includes unlimited watermarked screen recordings and up to 3 hours of audio transcription; paid plans start at $12 per month.
Best software for remote video recording: Riverside or Squadcast
Both Riverside and Squadcast offer high-resolution video recording that saves locally to each participant’s computer, which ensures a higher quality final product. They also record in multitrack, so you get a separate file for each person’s video and audio. Bonus: you can export your Riverside or Squadcast recordings directly to Descript by hitting the “Edit in Descript” button in either app.
Cost: Riverside offers a limited free plan, then starts at $15 per month; SquadCast starts at $20 per month.
Best live video capture software: OBS Studio
OBS, or Open Broadcast Software, is a free, open-source software favorite among gamers and streamers. Its simplicity is its strength — what it lacks in extra features it makes up for in solid live video capture.
Best software for recording your screen: Bandicam
Bandicam’s flexible screen-recording features may be just the thing to take school lectures and PowerPoint presentations to the next level. You can overlay your webcam, doodle on the screen while you record, and add mouse effects to inject some excitement into explainer videos.
Cost: Annual plans start at $36.95
Best recording software in a pinch: Zoom
Everybody has Zoom, which is why it’s often the best recording option when all else fails. Just know that the video recording quality isn’t as high as the other options listed here and it won’t record all participants’ videos locally, so be prepared for some low-res, glitchy video and audio.
Cost: Free for sessions up to 40 minutes
Video recording software FAQ
What's the best video recording software for beginners?
We think it’s Descript. It’s easy to record high-resolution video locally, straight from your webcam, desktop, or both, and it’s even easier to edit it — because you do it from the transcript, not from a video timeline.
How can I record my screen?
It depends on the program you’re using. In Descript, go to File, then New Screen Recording. For other applications, first check that you have a built-in screen recorder. Riverside and Squadcast don’t currently offer screen recording, but Bandicam and OBS do. A free alternative is Quicktime, available on both Mac and PC.
Can I record a livestream on my laptop?
Yes, if you’re doing the livestream. Riverside, Squadcast, OBS, and Zoom will record your livestream to your hard drive, where you can edit it as needed. If you want to record someone else’s livestream, it gets a little trickier, as you can see in the next FAQ.
How can I record a video from the Internet?
If you’re trying to record a video on the internet, first, make sure you have permission to do so. Most screen recorders are capable of recording internet video and audio, depending on where that video is posted.
Can I record a video I'm watching on my computer?
Again, only do this if you have permission — and if you don’t, it’ll be extremely difficult anyway. Streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and HBOMax all have screen recording blockers so that all you’ll record is a black screen. If you’re trying to record something like a lecture or a livestream — again, that you have permission to record — you can use screen recording software like Descript, OBS, or Bandicam.
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