Debut Video Capture: video-record screen activity and/or capture video from external devices

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Debut Video Capture is a free video recording software that can capture video and audio from any USB device, and can also record anything that is displayed on-screen such as a video that is playing or a user’s visible on-screen activity. Supports a wide variety of output formats and encoders.

I was recently faced with the need to make videos of a user (me) interacting with a site that we’ve created at work. This presented me with the opportunity to do some research and find a good screen-recording program; the last time I’d posted something like this was the Krut Computer Recorder way back in April 2007, but since then there seems to have been a proliferation of good free options.

I decided to post this program because it is simple and straightforward, extremely easy to use, and offers a good number of output encoders and formats. Here are more notes on this program:


  • Input sources: you can record any input coming from a USB video input device (including a videocam with USB input). You can also record your visible screen or a sub-section of the screen.
  • (Another) Debut ScreenshotDefining an area of the screen to record: is extremely easy; click on the “select a desktop rectangle tool” and draw a rectangle anywhere on screen. Debut will only record that area and any visible events that take place within it. Alternately you can click the “capture the whole desktop” button to record the entire screen.
  • Output: can output in a variety of formats, including AVI, WMV, ASF, MPG, 3PG, MP4, MOV, and FLV). You can use a number of encoders which the program – I believe – installs (including DV video), as well as any encoders that you might have installed on your system (e.g. I installed an Xvid encoder and was easily able to use it to encode video screen captures with Debut).
  • Editing output: you can resize the output video on the fly while recording and/or change the framerate to something that you set manually.
  • Video effects: you can apply a number of filters on-the-fly (black and white, negative, sepia), and also have the option to change output color settings (brightness, contrast, gamma).
  • Text annotation: also supported is adding an on-screen text message that is present across the entire video. You can choose it’s on screen placement, alignment, whether or not to use a background color, font, font-style, and font size, etc. The program also allows for variable date and/or time stamping.
  • Hotkeys: you can define hotkeys for most program functions. This is useful when you do not want the program dialog to be visible on screen, and therefore can minimize it and control Debut using the keyboard.
  • Other options: include pre-determining the recording time, sending a recorded video on completion as an email attachment, uploading to an FTP server, recording to multiple drives (including network drives), and running an external program, command based or otherwise, after recording to process the resulting file.
  • Audio setup: the first time the program runs it will present an “audio setup wizard”. There are two sources of audio: internal audio and an audio input device such as a microphone. If you are not interested in the latter you can dismiss this dialog and probably not need it again (if you need to re-run it later you can).
  • Debut Installation screenInstallation: please note that the installer for this program will present the option to download and install a number of other programs as well. Most of these programs are non-freeware trial versions. For the purposes of this review I unchecked/disallowed all of these and simply installed the Debut Video Capture software only. If you do not know what the other programs are that are on offer I suggest you not install them.

Wish list (or how this program can be even better):

  • Selected area: the option to dim the screen around the selected recording area and/or the ability to (optionally) draw a frame around it. Would be great. Also the option to point to an open window and have its dimensions be automatically selected as the screen-capturing area.

The verdict: I really like this program because it presents just the right amount of features and options while still managing to be extremely straightforward and easy to use. The output formats comprise those that 99% of users will ever need (including FLV and MP4 for Ipod/PSP).

The developers of this software are making it available for free in the hope that you will like it and want to add some of the other, related for-pay software that they have on offer, which is fair enough. Just be mindful when installing to pay attention to those checkboxes that will download and install other software that in fact you might not want.

Version Tested: 1.34

Compatibility: Windows 98/2000/XP/2003/Vista .

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 416K).