Creating Beautiful Screencasts with ScreenFlow

Winner of the Apple Design Award 2008, ScreenFlow is a full featured screencasting application. It’s provides the full start-to-finish process for making professional quality screencasts. Having previously covered a roundup of different screencasting applications, today we’re focusing upon one.

This how to will provide an overview of ScreenFlow, and explain how easy it is to get started using the app. From hitting “Record” to exporting a finished screencast – we’ll take you through the process.

Capturing

ScreenFlow captures everything. It’s the only screengrabber I know that doesn’t have an option to just capture a portion of the screen – and for good reason. The application knows what’s going on on your desktop, so it intelligently dedicates processing power for only certain ‘active’ areas of the screen. The result is a low CPU overhead while capturing everything in full quality video. I’ve never noticed any slowdowns while capturing with ScreenFlow.

Capturing with ScreenFlow

Capturing with ScreenFlow

In addition to that, you can capture video from your iSight (so you can guide your presentation), record audio from any of the inputs, and record audio coming out of your computer. Once you’re done capturing, it’s time for editing, which then brings up the main user interface.

Editing Video

The editing interface takes up your entire screen, very much like any other video editor. Featuring time-line based editing, which includes clips and streams, the UI is very familiar for anyone who has done even a little bit of video editing.

The Timeline

Divided into streams of video and audio, ScreenFlow can have many of these stacked over one another. Think of them as Photoshop layers over one another (sheets of paper, if you’re not familiar with Photoshop). Audio plays over another audio stream if two of them collide, and video can be given a specific opacity so you can see two streams at a time.

The ScreenFlow Timeline

The ScreenFlow Timeline

You can split clips, delete bits, and move them around like blocks of ice. Just place the trackhead at the desired point, and go to Edit > Split Clip. I did find the keyboard shortcuts and moving around the blocks a little unusual at times, but it’s certainly workable. You can of course make the timeline bigger or smaller using the zoom slider at the bottom.

You can add picture frames, compatible videos, and soundtracks to the timeline. Simply drag in media into the timeline to add them there.

Resizing Video

As with most screencasts, you may want yours to be cropped right down to the app window itself. Click the Resize Canvas button at the left to crop your video to your desired size. This crops your entire document, including any other visual media you may have added to your timeline.

Adding Additional Recordings

Aside from just dropping in media into ScreenFlow, you can capture and add additional content to your project. From the file menu, select ‘Add Additional Recording’. This will allow you to grab more video of your desktop, or just video from your iSight. Once you’re done, the video will be shown as a clip in your media browser.

Adding Media to Your Screencast

Adding Media to Your Screencast

Adding Actions

The real power in ScreenFlow lies in actions. Using video actions you can change the opacity, the zoom, the rotation, the size and a lot of other properties of a video clip.

screenflow Actions

ScreenFlow Actions

Video actions behave much like keyframes do in an animation sequence. With one difference, the actions can be more than one frame long. An action covers up a certain block of your video frame, which you can extend to make it longer or shorter. Throughout that block of video, the action will perform a task of any one of several video properties.

For instance, if I want a slow zoom in effect, I will add an action, increase the length, and add a zoom of 150% to it. At the start of the action I’m at 100% zoom, in the middle of the action I’m at 125% zoom and at the end of the action, I’ll be at 150% zoom. I can change multiple properties for a video for the same action. So I can zoom, rotate, and change opacity all at the same time. This provides immense possibilities in terms of creating visual effects, and adding great production value to your screencasts.

Similar to videos, you can add actions for mouse pointer clicks, keyboard presses, as well as manipulate audio. In most cases though, you would want to apply these functions to the entire document, so there’s no need to ‘add action’. Just change the settings and you’re done.

Callout Functions

You can add callout actions to your mouse movements. Unlike traditional approaches of zooming into the video to show something up close, you can now use a callout function, to overlay a zoomed video over the full video frame. This way there are no random fast movements, and the viewer knows exactly what you’re doing. You can adjust the background opacity, add blue, and feather your callout.

Adding a Callout

Adding a Callout

Adding Text Boxes

New with ScreenFlow 1.5 is the ability to add text boxes. There’s nothing revolutionary about this, but it completes the set of editing tools. Previously if you wanted to add titles, you had to drag in bitmap images and arrange them in your timeline. Now you just add a text box and resize. You can then edit the outline, the background color, the font, and position your text box anywhere you like it.

Exporting Video

ScreenFlow uses the built in quicktime H.264 rendering engine to deliver great quality video in a small file size. Export options are very simple and easy to understand. Just stick to the presets, and specify your output size. You can also use Motion Blur to add high quality visuals while zooming in and rotating, but this might add to your output size.

Exporting Your Screencast

Exporting Your Screencast

Video Chapters

One interesting export feature, is chaptering your video. This allows the viewer to skim through topics of interest. This is usually a feature seen in audio podcasts, but would also be useful in certain video screencasts. To add chapters, simply go to Edit > Markers > Add. It will add an orange dot, along with the opportunity to add a name, to wherever your trackhead was present at the time. Move the trackhead to the next position, and do it again to add another chapter. When the time comes to export, simply checkmark the chaptering box!

What it all adds up to

If you need a professional screencasting application, ScreenFlow is where it’s at. You can create sophisticated videos, while using an easy-to-use all-in-one package. Right from capturing, to editing, to exporting your files, ScreenFlow has mastered it all.

At $99 for a single-user license, ScreenFlow does not come cheap. If you are looking for a basic screengrabbing application, ScreenFlow may be overkill. You can get screencasting applications that are quite capable of producing good quality results in the range of $20-$30. If producing a regular screencast or looking for professional features, download a trial of ScreenFlow to give it a go.


  • http://www.xqlusive.nl xQlusive

    I tested the trial and was amazed how easy it is to use screenflow and edit the captures! Absolutely a must have application for creating screencasts.

  • http://www.dr-leech.com/ Leandro

    It’s great for professional screencasts, but for quick ones, like to show some issue to your coworker or similar, Jing wins. It allow you to upload directly to a FTP, their partner Screencast.com, or simply store locally.
    But well, you cannot edit anything. Just record and share.

    Is there something similar?

  • http://beautyindesign.com Rick

    Been using screenflow for a while on BeautyInDesign.com

    It’s a great app!

  • Tony

    I use ScreenFlow for training videos. It’s the best I’ve used, hands down. Jing is great for one-offs, but for anything requiring callouts, zooms, titles, etc., ScreenFlow wins by a landslide.

  • http://www.scottycentral.com Scott Kublin

    I’m also a big fan of Screenflow. My only gripe is that it doesn’t offer a way to blur out certain areas that might contain “sensitive” information.

    • Josso

      Then go ahead and contact the people behind ScreenFlow. ;)

      That would definitely be a nice feature. :)

    • Mark Bowen

      You could always add in a solid color image over the place you want to not show couldn’t you? Of course if the area is moving then that’s going to be difficult in any circumstances.

      • http://internetmarketingplan.me Jill Carpenter

        Yes, I’ve created blocks to black out things. You could also create a fuzzy transparency png file in photoshop and drop that over the areas you wish to blur.

        The new titling that was recently added is great – but you can still create your own titles again in photoshop with a png and do some nice manipulation.

  • Reuben

    Thanks for the information. Nice to know how the professionals make their screencasts. Now I only need to find a purpose to buy screenflow. :)

  • http://www.frankyaguilar.com Franky

    Is this what they use to do video tutorials???

  • Mark Bowen

    Nice post although I think you maybe meant blur in the Callout Functions section perhaps?

    Best wishes,

    Mark

    • Evan

      No, he meant Feather. It’s when there is a shadow inside, in this case inside the circle of light that surrounds the cursor.

  • digitalmonkey

    You posted the runner up for screencast softwares before. I tried about 5 from the list, ended up liking Screenflow the best. Very easy to use, look very professional and super intuitive. Great for sharing visual comments with team members online as well. Jing (free version) doesn’t compress video, 30 seconds video turns out to be about 50MB is size. How is that practical?

  • http://cgdigg.com Chen

    Camtasia studio is coming to Mac, so let’s just wait :)

    • http://www.mellowbusiness.com David Turnbull

      I’ve always found Camtasia Studio to be fair bulky on Windows though. It’d be hard to beat Screenflow’s snappiness and fluid interface.

  • http://www.sonatacreative.com/blog Stephen Olmstead

    Screenflow is definitely my favorite of the screencasting software available for OSX. I really like how straightforward and intuitive it is. The compression on the videos is really awesome too and they look great when uploaded to Vimeo.com

  • http://scraster.com John

    Scraster Professional Screencasting uses Screenflow almost exclusively. It’s the best thing going for Mac users. This is a great overview you’ve created. Thanks.

  • Jean L.

    So Camtasia is out – but the Jury is not… tested both and while they are equivalent in terms of features (more or less) the Mac version is showing really poor quality in video, especially if you have moving parts or animations in what you record. Add to that a feeling of sluggishness to Camtasia and the choice is easy to make. Go for ScreenFlow !

  • Peter Stanford

    I,ve just tried a Trial version of ScreenFlow with VDMX5 playing and both programs kept crashing ,,

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  • http://www.pbwebdev.com.au Peter

    Just investigating what screen capture software to use at the moment and it is definately ScreenFlow at the moment. Every example screen capture that I’ve seen on YouTube etc are all using it.

    Thumbs up for me, downloading trial now.

  • Christian

    Regarding Jing do not forget that even the Pro allows no more than five minutes of recording. So I am surprised it gets recommendations here.

  • http://www.thesecretgiftoflife.com Amit Desai

    After I downloaded the trial version of the software, roughly in just about an hour of time I knew, that I wanted to own this amazing piece of software. Now after using it for making a couple of screen capture videos, I think it’s Wow! All I can say about screenflow is that it’s Powerful, Easy, Fun, Stunning, Professional, Robust & Fluid all at the same time! Nothing compares to it, at least until now that is…. Just give it a try…download the trial version and see it for yourself how good screenflow really is!

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  • http://[email protected]/html Ryan Monaghan

    i love it already…amazing ;)

  • http://www.martinvaresio.com.ar/anillos.html Joyeria

    I use Podcastmaker to handle the RSS, details, and FTP to the site. It takes me less than a half hour to import the sermon audio, put it together with the extra audio, and get everything done and up to iTunes.

  • http://strategicmarketingacademy.com Katerina Williamson

    I’ve been using Camtasia, but it can only overlay 2 videos using PIP. Screenflow seems to do a lot better job at it.

  • http://www.bodybuildingstorereviews.com bodybuilding products

    ScreenFlow with VDMX5both programs kept crashing with trial versions.

  • http://www.jumpjumpbounce.com Inflatables Murfreesboro

    I love the flexibility and ease of ScreenFlow.

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