ScreenFlow 4, the most recent version of the premier Mac screencasting application by Telestream, landed yesterday. We were given a look at it last week in advance of its official release and have the review for you hot off the press!
Read on to see how ScreenFlow 4‘s feature improvements, such as improved production features and Retina capabilities, stack up and whether it’s worth the hefty price tag.
Screencasts are an incredibly useful way to teach people how to use applications. A well-edited screencast can make using a new web app or understanding a computer-based task a breeze for anyone, regardless of their prior ability. A simple three-minute screencast can even take the pain out of a tech support call with your parents! They’re vastly superior to lengthy descriptions and screenshots.
Introducing ScreenFlow 4
ScreenFlow is arguably the best screencasting app available for the Mac, with Camtasia for Mac the closest competitor. It’s essentially a polished and purpose-built video editing app designed to make creating screencasts as painless as possible. Version 4 brings a host of new features that take its capabilities to a new level.
As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” ScreenFlow 4 neatly exemplifies this idea; it looks great but the true test of its design is in how well it works.
The interface design of the Edit window is clean and follows a similar design aesthetic to iMovie and several of Apple’s other apps, using many different shades of grey to create a professional interface that isn’t distracting or overbearing. While the layout is intuitive and easily understandable by anyone who has ever done audio or video editing, the use of clear recognisable icons is excellent and allows you to dive right in.
The design of the recording window is also superb — it pops up as soon as you start a new recording and allows you to quickly access every setting you need. Its default is to record the desktop from your screen but it has three other options that are worth mentioning.
- Record Video from: This option allows you to record video from your FaceTime camera or other connected device instead of recording your screen.
- Record Audio from: Allows you to select your audio source, either the Built-in Microphone or other connected device — it found my USB microphone immediately.
- Record Computer Audio: This is a simple check box that allows you to record the audio coming from your computer — you do have to install a small driver for this to work, but ScreenFlow walks you through it.
As you can see there is also a Record button and a simple help icon, as if it wasn’t clear enough.
The final button in the bottom right is a switcher that allows you to set a Timer, simply enter how long you want the recording to last and hit the Set Timer button.
You don’t need to define a capture area before recording, as ScreenFlow records your entire screen with an algorithm that gives you the highest quality recording, low file sizes, and the flexibility to record everything and decide later what to edit out.
It’s this powerful simplicity that makes ScreenFlow such as useful tool.
When you stop a recording, ScreenFlow immediately launches the editing window with all of your recorded sources placed in the timeline. It’s wise to set easy-to-remember keyboard shortcuts for starting a recording and for pausing it.
As Jeffery Way (the Nettuts+ Editor) will tell you, the best way to record a screencast is to speak clearly and take your time. Using pause gives you space to think about what you are going to say next and reduces the editing you’ll have to do later!
Once you’ve finished recording ScreenFlow takes you to the editing window, here’s where the fun begins.
The beauty of a professional app like ScreenFlow is that it allows you to keep things simple if you need, while also providing the tools to get creative should the project require it. I won’t go into the details of editing, suffice to say that it’s reasonably intuitive once you’ve grasped the idea of marking In and Out points and using Ripple Delete to keep editing time to a minimum.
What I will do is take a look at some of the features that make ScreenFlow 4 such a powerful tool for creating professional screencasts. ScreenFlow 4 introduces a few new features that help keep ScreenFlow ahead of the curve, these include:
- Nested Clips — which allow users to merge multiple elements into a single clip on the timeline, making it easier to access and edit content and apply filters and video actions.
- Chroma Key — which allows users to replace a green (or any color) background with a custom video or still image background, adding a professional look to video productions.
- Full-Screen Retina Recording — which allows you to create extremely high quality productions.
- Subtitles and Closed Captions — which allows users to create ADA approved subtitles and closed captions in multiple languages.
- Dynamic Update — a feature that offers the ability to automatically reload media that has been modified in another application, saving time and disk space.
These are all superb updates that can add polish and give your screencasts an edge, but some of the simpler features are just as important for creating a great production. Here are few of the best features of ScreenFlow 4:
- Live Scrubbing — great for easily finding the right spot for a marker.
- Easy Resizing and Scaling of the Video — remove your menu bar from screencasts, add reflection, focus on just one area of the screen, everything you could want is there.
- Powerful Audio Features — bring the level of your audio up to create a professional production, easily duck the audio under some important recorded computer sound, add effects and filters (careful with these…).
- Screen Recording Properties — increase the size of the mouse pointer, add a click, add a click effect (such as a radar lines whenever you click).
- Add Callouts — to improve your screencast ScreenFlow allows you to add callouts that highlight a certain area of the screen, or your mouse, by darkening or blurring the background. You can also zoom in to further highlight a particular action.
ScreenFlow 4 is a powerful screencasting application that is surprisingly easy to learn. It’s designed to make creating professional screencasts as quick and effortless as possible and succeeds with aplomb. It does, however, come with a reasonably hefty price tag of $99 for the full version ($29 as an upgrade). On first look this might seem steep, but it’s a fair price for such a professional screencasting application. If you have a need for an app like ScreenFlow, then chances are you need it to enhance your business or are making money directly from it — in which case it’ll pay for itself pretty quickly. You can always check out the free trial first to make sure it’s the app for you before shelling out for it.
ScreenFlow is a great example of what a well-designed app should be: the perfect tool for a particular task. It’s the powerful simplicity of ScreenFlow that makes it such an indispensable tool for screencast creation.