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All The World’s A Screen
If you create screencasts or software training tutorials, you’ve probably been using Ambrosia Software’s Snapz Pro, which has been the go-to product for this specialized task for many years. Well, there’s a new kid in town, and it’s fair to say that Vara Software’s ScreenFlow offers some significant advantages over Snapz Pro, to the extent that it’s in a category all by itself.
The general idea behind ScreenFlow is that it captures everything you do on your Mac in real time, as you use an application’s tools and interact with its windows and dialogs. The very first thing we noticed while testing the software is that the performance is stellar—it was very smooth and did a fantastic job, even when we were using software that requires some heavy lifting by the processor, such as Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Synthetic Software’s Studio Artist, Ableton Live, and some other power hogs. Everything that happened onscreen was captured very smoothly, including playing QuickTime movies with lots of piled-on effects in Adobe’s After Effects. And then things start getting really interesting—not only can you capture the microphone’s audio input (speaking along with your demo as you record), but if you’ve got an iSight camera, the video from it can also be captured. This secondary video is automatically synced up with onscreen actions, so your talking head appears in a little window alongside your screen demo, a very nice touch.
But the real horsepower behind ScreenFlow lies inside its editing interface. The timeline-based editor will instantly feel comfortable to anyone who has spent time in iMovie, Final Cut, or any other video app. In editing mode, you’ve got a wide variety of tools for easily tweaking the captured video, adding in effects that bring polish to your final product. Close-ups, zooms, callouts, and many other types of visual enhancements that require serious work with tools, such as Adobe After Effects, are just a few clicks away in ScreenFlow.
Every time you click the mouse while recording, for example, ScreenFlow keeps track of the click, as well as the use of most of the keys on your keyboard. Press Command-C to copy while recording your Photoshop work, and when you turn on a toggle to show keyboard input while editing the captured video, an overlay automatically appears with the Command-C visual icons, a hugely useful time-saver. One issue we encountered, however, was that the Option and Shift keys did not seem to work for this feature, which is a bug that needs to be fixed ASAP. On the other hand, mouse-clicks can be visually highlighted with an instant “radar” visual effect, as well as making the cursor or pointer larger after the fact, wonderful for making cursors visible against a crowded desktop.
Once you’ve edited together your screencast, you can save it as a QuickTime movie, and we found that ScreenFlow has some coding mojo that made our output movies as clear as can be—scaling screen-captured video is often a problem for other software solutions, but ScreenFlow delivered exquisite, final-quality compressed video.ScreenFlow is chock-full of tools that really expand what we’ve come to expect from screen-capture software, and makes it quite easy to make superbly sophisticated recordings of onscreen activity with minimal hassle. It’s the new best-in-class tool.