BB Flashback Express: powerful, free screen-recording program

BB Flashback Express is a free screen recording program that can capture your PC’s screen, sound, and webcam video and supports capturing graphics/animations, including 3D graphics. It offers a high degree of control over your video (output resolution, quality, file size, recording modes, mouse autoscroll, and cursor highlighting effects).

Saves resulting files as either FLV’s, AVI’s or SWF’s, and offers the ability to easily upload videos to YouTube or embed them inside a webpage.

I must admit that I almost passed over this program for a number of reasons: the “Express” (i.e. free) version has two paid counterparts, and it requires registration with a valid email to get a free license key; plus there are a number of good, free, screencasting freeware (e.g. CamStudio, Debut Video Capture), as well as well known web services like Wink and Jing.

However let me tell you from the get go that this software is simply excellent, and is in fact one of the best free programs in it’s class. It provides some excellent options than most freeware programs I’ve used do not, and it is a well thought out, well designed software.

Top 10 12 things that I really like about BB Flashback Express:

  1. Change resolution while recording: you can capture the whole screen or part of the screen and the software can automatically resize the output to a pre-set resolution. For example you can capture fullscreen and set the output size to, say 640×480 and not have to worry about resizing it later on.
  2. Can record moving graphics: from the options, you can specify whether to use the normal capture driver (for regular screen activity) or GDI/DirectX, for moving graphics and animations. I successfully tested capturing full-screen games; the results for both 2D and 3D graphics were excellent (although I did witness some choppiness with the 3D graphics, but am unsure as to what degree the settings I used contributed into this).
  3. Can capture fullscreen, a user-defined region, or a specific window: I particularly like the third one (locking on and capturing a specific window); very useful when demo-ing software and for some reason most free screen recording programs lack this option.
  4. Can record videocam input: how cool is that? I don’t have one so I did not test this.
  5. Can create AVI’s, FLV’s, but also SWF’s: The latter is notable in that BB Flashback Express provides the option to create an interactive video (see below).
  6. Can create interactive events inside a video: specifically when outputing to SWF, you can define “mouse click” events to stop/continue the video
  7. Autoscroll (keep mouse in or near center): if you decide to export only a smaller subset of your movie (for example export a movie captured at 640×480 at, say, 320×240), you can ask BB Flashback Express to track the mouse and export the area around it. Which is to say you can keep the mouse at or near the center.
  8. Cursor highlighting: you can highlight the mouse and mouseclicks so that they are emphasized on the screen (very useful for demoes). You can even edit exactly what the highlighting will look like (see image to the right).
  9. Export specific range/frames only: although this free version does not allow you to edit the video directly, you can make a note of your desired beginning and end frames and enter those into the “wizard” that pops up on the export process.
  10. Automatically upload to Youtube/web page: with your YouTube username and password. Or it will provide HTML and embed code to easily insert videos into your webpage.
  11. Hotkeys: allows you to define hotkeys for use
  12. The interface: can reside in the system tray or, interestingly, as a cool-looking strip in the taskbar.

Differences between free and paid versions: paid versions allow you to add text to your videos, to edit them visually on the timeline, and to export in more formats. There are other differences listed here. A nice set of features, but you can find freeware programs to substitute for them if you need to.

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

The verdict: simply terrific. One of the best in its class.

Version Tested: 2.6.1.1122

Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP, Vista; 32 and 64 bit.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 7.2 megs).


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Fred Thompson

    I tried to like this one, I really did. Four things keep it from being useful for me:

    1) Inability to chose the capture codec
    2) Lack of explanation of what, exactly, the compression level setting indicates and how it affects performance.
    3) Lack of ability to disable capturing the mouse pointer.
    4) It interferes with ffdshow, especially the HuffYUV format.

    This makes it less than ideal for pristine captures which are my need.

    UltraScreenRecorder, a modified version of CamStudio, also has DirectShow integration including sound but the cursor options of CamStudio are not available. VH Scrren Capture Codec gives DirectShow access but needs a capture program (VirtualDub or something similar.)

    Personally, I’d give this an 8 for effort but there are some major issues that need to be fixed. Corrupting ffdshow, even when FlashbackExpress is NOT in use indicates a very poorly constructed set of hooks. Not good.

    • Samer

      Fred, some responses
      (1),(2) It didn’t occur to me that the capture codec would be an issue (it probably isn’t for 90% of users). I am not sure if it even is capturing compressed video.
      (3) The mouse pointer can be removed when exporting (effects/highlight cursor, then uncheck the two boxes).
      (4) The FFdshow issue: I think the program installs FFdshow. If you already have it installed I wonder if you can do an advanced install and ask it NOT to reinstall FFdshow.

      Sorry I cant give more value added feedback than that.

  • FredThompson

    Compression level and format become important is quality is important. Basically, the less effective the codec and the higher the compression, the more you get mosquito noise artifacts, similar to highly compressed JPEG.

    I didn’t look during install, either, to see if installation of ffdshow can be disabled. It shouldn’t install it by default. ffdshow gets updated quite frequently.

    You’re right, most people probably don’t care about the capture method used.

  • Kelvin

    I had to give this a huge thumbs up. I teach high school math, and have been using a tablet pc in my classroom for the last 2 years. I have been searching for a simple, freeware method to create screen casts of lessons and tutorials so that teachers could post them online. This works wonderfully, and it’s a user-friendly interface for my less techie colleagues. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Kelvin

  • http://www.ciber.com Tom Williams

    Dude, check this software out (Wink).

    It’s Total Freeware and it’s main purpose is for creating tutorial related or “How To” videos.

    Works in Windows and Linux.

    http://debugmode.com/wink/

    Introducing Wink…

    Wink is a Tutorial and Presentation creation software, primarily aimed at creating tutorials on how to use software (like a tutor for MS-Word/Excel etc). Using Wink you can capture screenshots, add explanations boxes, buttons, titles etc and generate a highly effective tutorial for your users.
    Here is a sample Flash tutorial created by Wink. Click the green arrow button to start viewing it. ——–>
    (More tutorials created by Wink users and companies can be found at the User Forums.)

    This is a good example of how you can create tutorials in Wink, by capturing screenshots, mouse movements and specifying your own explanations with them. And all this in a standard Windows-based UI with drag-and-drop editing makes it very easy to create high quality tutorials/documentation.

    It is estimated that Macromedia Flash Player is installed in more than 90% of the PCs. Using Wink you can create content viewable across the web in all these users’ desktops. Similar applications sell for hundreds of dollars, while Wink is free with unrivaled features. So spread the word about Wink to your friends.

    Sample: Click the green button to play

    Features

    Freeware: Distributed as freeware for business or personal use. However if you want to redistribute Wink, you need to get permission from the author.
    Cross-Platform: Available for all flavours of Windows and various versions of Linux (x86 only).
    Audio: Record voice as you create the tutorial for explaining better.
    Input formats: Capture screenshots from your PC, or use images in BMP/JPG/PNG/TIFF/GIF formats.
    Output formats: Macromedia Flash, Standalone EXE, PDF, PostScript, HTML or any of the above image formats. Use Flash/html for the web, EXE for distributing to PC users and PDF for printable manuals.
    Multilingual support: Works in English, French, German, Italian, Danish, Spanish, Serbian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese and Simplified/Traditional Chinese.
    Smart Capture Tools: Capture screenshots automatically as you use your PC, based on mouse and keyboard input (great time saver and generates professional captures).
    Performance/Quality: Creates highly compressed Flash presentations (few kbs to few hundreds of kbs, much smaller than competing commercial products) ideal for using on the web.

    Tools:
    Navigation buttons to move to next/previous/random frames in the presentation, you can use custom bitmaps for these buttons (full transparency/alpha channel support).
    Callouts and shapes for displaying text explanations. The inbuilt Callout Editor is used to create custom shaped callouts as you want.
    Intuitive drag-n-drop editing of the frame, callout, cursor, navigation buttons and the title elements.
    Advanced features like templates, cursor editing, palettes, background images, control bars & preloaders for the flash output etc.
    Completely PC and Web ready with exports to PDF, HTML, SWF and EXE formats.
    Innovative compression techniques applied to reduce filesize of output Flash file. Generated flash file plays in Flash players from version 3 and above, giving you widest array of target audience.
    Uncompressed output to allow you import the output of Wink into other Flash editors.

  • Graham

    Are you sure this is free? It says in the license that it’s a 30-day trial.

    Once the 30 days are up, will I have to upgrade to a standard license to keep using this software? Or can I continue recording after 30 days? It just sounds fishy to me.

    • Samer

      Very sure. Click on the program page link under the compatibility section.

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