One of the best ways to explain a tricky task to someone—whether it’s replacing spark plugs in a car or using an image editor to clean up an old photo—is to simply show them how it’s done. Telestream’s ScreenFlow 3.0.1 can certainly help with the latter. This amazing app helps you create computer-based tutorial videos by recording your screen activity (along with narration), which you can then share online with friends and fans.
ScreenFlow opens to a very small preference panel that lets you configure your recording. In addition to screen activity (recorded by default), you can choose to capture audio from any available mic as well as directly from the computer. ScreenFlow also allows you to capture video from your iSight camera while it records screen activity—a clever inclusion that lets you connect visually with your audience rather than exist only as a disembodied voice. Clicking the record button starts a five-second countdown, and then you’re on stage.
The quality of the resulting screen recording is top-notch. I attempted to bog down the app by recording screen activity, audio from the computer, and video from my iMac’s iSight, all while playing music and 720p video files within iTunes. ScreenFlow captured it all, with scarcely a skipped frame. Impressively, screen activity and user audio and video are captured as separate clips.
ScreenFlow sets itself apart from other screen capture utilities by including a capable video editor. Once you’ve wrapped up your recording, the video appears in an editing window that is very similar to iMovie. (ScreenFlow’s user interface is cleaner and feels much more intuitive than iMovie, however.) As with most video editors, ScreenFlow supports multiple audio and video tracks, listed vertically, that flow left to right along a standard timeline. Clips can be split, trimmed, and repositioned, and like iMovie, ScreenFlow allows you to add animated transitions between clips.
At the right of the video editor, you’ll find a collection of properties that let you configure different aspects of the clips you record. Video Properties let you resize clips, adjust opacity, or add a reflection, while Audio Properties allow you to adjust volumes, apply effects and remove background noise from a clip (which can effectively remove the hum of the computer often captured by the internal mic).
However, it’s the screencast-specific properties that really add shine to ScreenFlow. Under Screen Recording Properties, you have the option to turn on and off the mouse cursor, increase the cursor’s size, and add a click effect to help your viewers see where you’re clicking the mouse. (The radar effect displays an expanding red circle that brilliantly calls attention to each click.) Meanwhile, Callout Properties let you isolate a part of the screen to further focus the viewer’s attention. You can highlight the foreground window by dimming and blurring the background, for example, or enlarge the area around the cursor as you click from place to place. It’s all handled expertly by the app. Other properties allow you to annotate your screencast with text, arrows, and shapes.
Once you’re happy with your screencast, you can export it using a variety of presets such as iPad, Web, and Windows Media. And happily, ScreenFlow can streamline your workflow by publishing videos directly to YouTube and Vimeo.
It’s also worth pointing out that you’re not limited to screen recordings. ScreenFlow can be used to annotate other video files such as movie clips or gameplay videos—all you have to do is open an empty document and add the media you want.
Macworld’s buying advice
Anyone who wants to create slick tutorial videos should seriously consider ScreenFlow 3.0.1—it’s a rare gem of an app that simply does everything right.