Screencasting with ScreenFlow

Keith White
5 June, 2008
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If screen capture is important to you then ScreenFlow from Vara Software might mean the end of your long relationship with SnapZ Pro and other worthies. Leveraging the advanced graphic technologies of Mac OS X Leopard, ScreenFlow captures everything on your screen — every window, mouse move and keystroke — even the live action from HD DVD and 3D games. In addition you can record from your iSight camera or attached DV camera at the same time as the screen action is being recorded. ScreenFlow will also pick up audio from your microphone and your Mac system on the way through.

The folks at Vara like to talk about screencasting rather than screen capture. This makes sense because ScreenFlow really shines in the process of polishing your screen action for the publishing phase. Like postproduction in podcasting.

Here’s how it works. Once you’ve set up and decided on your recording options hit the record key, do your screen stuff and let ScreenFlow capture every part of it. It’s when you stop recording that ScreenFlow comes into its own. You are presented with a timeline-based video editor. Verrry iMovie. Your screen capture sits waiting in one timeline channel, your voiceover or video recording in another. You can add zoom and pan effects to any part of your recording, trim clips, add drop shadows or reflections, adjust audio levels and import existing media.

"Callouts" allow you to easily highlight the mouse as it moves. In the capture process ScreenFlow can track your cursor, mouse clicks and key strokes. This means you can add visual and audio mouse click effects, zoom the cursor and bring up an overlay showing key strokes. You can also add a callout to the foreground window — drawing the viewer’s attention by zooming up the window and blurring the background. You can even control the rate of the zoom.

Most screen capture programs ask you mark your crop area before recording. Because ScreenFlow has recorded everything you can crop your screen after recording to focus on a particular area, if that’s what you want.

If you want to get really clever you can record yourself delivering a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation. Just let ScreenFlow know which camera and which microphone you want to use, hit record and start playing your presentation. When you stop recording you’ll find yourself in a small window bottom right screen which you can move or resize as you wish. Standard video functions allow you to mark In and Out points and ripple delete to set yourself in synch with your presentation.

When you’re done there are several export options for you to choose from — in fact any video or audio codec available through QuickTime. Once you’ve selected your codecs you can further fine-tune them if you wish. Because ScreenFlow has captured your screen at full size, export options allow you to scale down by percentage or to a custom size.

There are some short tutorials on the Vara Software site and YouTube has an abundance of enthusiastic offerings. I watched the Varasoft tutes first and felt quite at home when I first opened ScreenFlow. In a few minutes I had recorded myself gliding around the screen with smoothly changing opacity voicing over the bright cursor highlights and crisp mouseclicks. I dragged in some music from iTunes and ducked its volume under my voiceover. I also brought in a graphic which I slowly faded up to full opacity as the recording finished. A quick export to DV PAL at full quality and I’m done.
ScreenFlow has exciting potential way beyond the traditional tutorial uses of screen capture. Its powerful postproduction facilities coupled with the graphic capabilities of Leopard invite creative uses of this new screencasting technology.

Vara recommends Mac OS X Leopard 10.5 or greater running on a G4 or Intel based CPU; (Core 2 Duo preferred): a Quartz Extreme capable graphics card; a supported programmable GPU for certain effects & functionality. There’s a 30-day fully-functional demo before you’re asked for $US99.

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