For a small project of mine I want to record short screen-casts which show features of my program. Currently, I'm using a small app on my Ubuntu box which creates directly animated gif output. The drawback is, that gif has some limitations in the number of colors. If you inspect some of the gifs you may note that although it looks great, it's not perfect, especially when you look at the aliased fonts

animated gif

There are some handmade solutions, for instance the demonstration on the sublime-text site. To have something that nice, you first need to record your screen completely lossless. Most screen-casting programs I know unfortunately do compress the video.

Question: I have Ubuntu and OSX at my disposal, what (if possible free) screen-casting solutions exists which let me create lossless videos?

Extra credit for programs where I can select the region or window to record and turn off audio.


To make it clear what I mean with lossless: Usually, videos are compressed with a method which is perfect for natural images/videos but horrible for images/videos having sharp edges and one-colored structures. I made two screen-casts and zoomed a small part so that those effects are visible. The first one is done with gtk-recordmydesktop with highest quality and the artifacts in the gray area are clearly visible

enter image description here

The second one is done with the small Record your Desktop tool which saves gif files directly and takes the exact pixels of the screen without compression.

enter image description here

What I want is a screen-caster which saves its videos in this raw format without the limitations of gif.

Possibly related questions:

  • I deleted my answer suggesting gtk-recordMyDesktop since it's full quality is not lossless. I just wasn't sure if it did or not. I don't have a Linux machine to test on unfortunately. Now I know, thanks for letting me know it didn't fit your needs. – AJ Henderson Jul 4 '13 at 16:51
  • @AJHenderson I would be glad about any program either Linux or MacOSX. Especially for Mac there seem to exist a lot of small tools but I have to time to try them all and they kind of never advertise can record lossless. – halirutan Jul 4 '13 at 17:12

FFmpeg with a lossless codec is one solution. I recall a comparison of different codecs which concluded that Apple Animation (known to ffmpeg as qtrle) gave the best quality for screen-recording.

ffmpeg -f x11grab -r 25 -s 1024x768 -i :0.0 -c:v qtrle output.mov

Stop it by opening its terminal while it is running and pressing q. Obviously change the resolution (1024x768 here) to match your own. For selecting a section of your screen, see how to grab the screen on the ffmpeg wiki.

It is possible that the ffmpeg which comes with your Linux distribution does not have the qtrle codec included. In this case you have to download and compile your own version.

  • I heard about Apple Animation as well. Let me try this. – halirutan Jul 4 '13 at 21:43
  • +1 Works perfectly. Let's wait whether someone comes up with a non-commandline program. Otherwise, this will be my accepted answer. – halirutan Jul 4 '13 at 23:21
  • If no-one suggests anything and you really want a GUI frontend, it seems to me that this would be a simple task for someone with GUI-making knowledge (i.e. not me :v), so you could probably find someone who would be willing to whip a simple frontend together in half an hour for a reasonable price, maybe even on chat.SE – evilsoup Jul 6 '13 at 16:31
  • This won't work on OS X, this is sad. – Sarge Borsch Nov 11 '14 at 4:57
  • Well, just want to thank you again for this answer. I'm using OBS with the qtrle encoding to create a perfect .mov file. Then I extract the frames and use image magick to build a very small and incredibly nice animated gif. The advantage of OBS is, that you easily set output resolution and which window or part of the screen you want to record. It lets you combine several recorded regions and audio easily. Rarely seen something like that on Linux! – halirutan Aug 23 '15 at 11:55

Alternatively, pipe your screen output to a second computer to record, using a device like a Blackmagic Intensity. It supports capturing to a totally uncompressed format (make sure you have an SSD or a RAID setup to record as the bitrate is very high).

So the computer you're doing the work on should have dual monitor output - mirror the display so one output goes to your monitor, the other to a PC with a BlackMagic PCIe (or USB 3.0) card in it, that records the output. Use DVI/HDMI, not VGA.

Note, the Intensity only supports video-type resolutions, so a res like 1024x768 or 1024x1024, etc. is no good - 480p, 720p, 1080p, etc. are what you'll need to mirror your display at (21" 1080p LCDs are $99 now anyways).

Then you can edit & compress the raw video any way you like.

  • Hehe, I thinkt this is way overkill but +1 for the answer. I need something quick which I can use when I have developed feature the make a screen cast. – halirutan Jul 10 '13 at 0:21

I had very similar requirements and eventually found on Claquette.
It's an OS X app that uses a lossless codec. While it doesn't allow you to define a screen area before recording, it has a crop feature that allows you to select a region after the recording is finished. Audio can also be turned off. Movies can be exported in various formats (including h.264, ProRes and Animated GIF).

  • 1
    Seems like a good little program. Currently, I'm doing my small gifs with Kazam which comes with Ubuntu. Then I'm using a small script built from the accepted answer to create small and high-quality gifs. +1 – halirutan May 16 '17 at 1:25

On OS X, seems like ScreenFlow can record in lossless (not by default, but this can be enabled in settings). Unfortunately, this application is not free. Still looking for free alternatives…

Important update!

This applies only to Screenflow 4.5.3 (and maybe some earlier versions). In Screenflow 5 this feature is gone. They advertise like they can do lossless recording, but this is a blatant lie: the "lossless" mode is using Apple ProRes, which is not lossless (and I tested the output, it indeed has artifacts), and there's no way to select some other codec (in Screenflow 4.5.3 the lossless mode is achieved by using "Animation" codec, which is qtrle, in Screenflow 5 there's no way to do this)

So… good bye, sweet prince.

Update 2

ffmpeg also can record the screen, if you learn how to use it properly.

  • Btw, I bought ScreenFlow back when you posted you answer. Even if I'm not using it for creating the small animated gifs this question targeted, it is still a very nice screen-caster that has a lot of nice features. – halirutan Aug 23 '15 at 11:51
  • ^ btw, one can choose only one from "gif" and "small". gif is a very inefficient compression. – Sarge Borsch Jun 17 '17 at 8:44

Here's a non-command-line option.

Try Collaaj (http://collaaj.com). Works on PC & Mac. It doesn't work on Ubuntu, but since you mentioned you have OSX, this should work just fine. I think it should do what you asked for and more. Such as region selection, selecting inputs etc.., and it also lets you upload and maintain your recordings on collaaj.com for anytime access. They have a nice set of videos here - http://collaaj.com/videos

  • Can you really record the windows of your screen with this tool? I only saw that they scroll through powerpoint or pdf files. Furthermore, I need to extract the frames of the video, which means I need to be able to store the videos locally. It seems this tools uploads it directly to share it, right? – halirutan Jul 10 '13 at 0:17
  • Halirutan, 1. yes, on PC & Mac, you can record entire screen. You can even change settings between 720P and 1080P, you can also do screen+camera at the same time. – Video Junkie Jul 18 '13 at 23:49
  • Halirutan, regarding your second question, Collaaj stores videos locally in mp4 format, in addition to giving you an option to upload to the cloud and share as a URL. Its very comprehensive. – Video Junkie Jul 18 '13 at 23:50
  • This video explains clearly - collaaj.com/9rE17cT – Video Junkie Jul 18 '13 at 23:57

If you need something less complicated try rec, which is mine :) https://sites.google.com/site/joopeter/

It is also free, lossless but more efficient and accurate!

  • As I wrote, I have OSX and Ubuntu at my disposal. Your program is for Windoze XP and above. – halirutan Oct 29 '13 at 12:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.