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


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).

  • When you install this it also places links to the other available programs all over the place. In your start menu, on your desktop. I found it to be nagging and annoying.

    It looks and operates like a direct rip-off of AMCap.

  • Samer

    It places two directories in the start menu that you do not need. Unless you opted to install other software during the installation process, these two directories contain other – empty – subdirectories.

    All you need to do is delete these two directories from the start menu (called “NCH Software Suite” and “Video Related Software”) and the issue is gone forever.

    BTW I did see AMCap before, but was scared off from trying it by the “buy this program” text under the download button (which, on second examination, seems to pertain to some advanced options).

  • CT

    I have to try this one out – I’ve been using “Wink” for my ‘Show and Tell’ presentation/instructional videos, but this seems to have many more output options.
    Should be handy for websites with Flash-Based Video Players, where the entire interface is Flash-Based, such as MSNBC, etc. – These are always ‘Tricky’, because capturing the Flash Video usually captures the Interface only, without the actual content.

    I’m NOT suggesting or condoning copyright infringement, just ‘Fair Use’ as allowed in the U.S. at least, to make the content ‘Portable’, without needing Internet access! 😉

    Hmm, gotta check out “AMCap” too!

  • Fred Thompson

    Look at VH Screen Capture Driver 2.1.4 as a way to hook into the low-level screen output.
    The UltraVNC (yes, the eternal RC …) folks have a modified version of CamStudio that uses their screen driver hooks. I don’t know if they’ve fixed the CamCodec size limitation of 2G. You can use TechSmith’s lossless capture codec so this isn’t a big deal. I use Flash video for just about every presentation now because it preserves the proper luminance range. Most general media players clip to TV-safe luminance. That’s why white screen captures don’t play properly with them.

  • Ola

    I wonder how the Quality vs. Size ratio stacks up.
    I come to think about it, has anyone seen a Screen recorder comparison, anywhere. I don’t recall ever to have seen one.

    For example, how good is Debut Video Capture compared to – for example – Jing, Camtasia’s free online service.
    Free: 2Gb/2Gb free space/transfere.
    + recordings can be saved on your computer.

  • Fred Thompson

    Quality is a function of lossiness of the capture codec, frame interval and system speed. Don’t capture to the system drive. I have modified PowerPoint presentations to run at 1/10 speed in order to get pixel-perfect captures of the content. Embedded video needs to run slower, too. Real-time capture can be more tricky. Jing is like any other web-based app – TANSTAAFL.

  • zzzrabbit

    I’ve not used any software for creating videos of screen actions yet.
    What would be the consensus here of how this stacks up CamStudio?


  • notis

    mm…on mac I use Macvide ScreenCap , may be anyone else use this prog??

  • The DataRat


    Installed the program, then -when I tried to run it- got a message window saying the “trial version”
    had expired, and I’d have to pay for the full version. Clicking cancel shut down the program !

    Went to uninstall it in Vista’s Programs-and-Features, and got an option to “downgrade” to the
    free version. Which I did. But damn confusing !


    The PC Rat


    • Samer

      @ PC Rat: this seems like a new scheme. Wasn’t the case when I first reviewed this program I don’t think.

  • John Mfanimpela Chambers

    I have personally been using this Debut Video capture software for over 2 years now (2013) and I find it extremely easy to install (removing those check-boxes offers) and use. The quality-size ratio seems good (when compared to CamStudio at least) and it does Not lose its settings each time I install a new codec or system restore or hyper-V or some new audio program like CamStudio does. And the fact that it really is FREE without trial expiries or stamps, makes it the program of choice. I would just wish that it could also allow one to record screen while recording from camera as well into ONE video such that you may have the camera recording as a piece positioned for example on the right corner/edge – perhaps this feature is with the full version?? Thanks. chagbert .