In the last few days I gave myself a crash course in ScreenFlow, the screen capture and editing tool from Telestream.  Overall my first impressions are very positive, though there are a few drawbacks to using it over my old approach.

For all of my previous video tutorials I used Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X, and edited in Final Cut Pro X.  But video tutorials often need something like a certain part of the screen zoomed up, a single area focused on, etc.  FCP is certainly capable of all this, but ScreenFlow makes these tasks much quicker and easier.  I also wanted to capture video from multiple streams all at once, which Snapz Pro X doesn’t do.  ScreenFlow lets me grab both the screen and the video from the iSight camera on my iMac at the same time.  It also claims to simultaneously capture external camera sources that are hooked up via usb/firewire, which is something I want to include in some upcoming projects.

I’ll be using ScreenFlow fairly extensively for the online class I’m teaching this month at Indie Game School, so I will have put it through all the paces and can give a more detailed review later this month.  But for now, here are some pros and cons that jumped out right away.

Pros:

  • Capturing multiple video/audio streams at once is saving me a ton of time.
  • A single file for each capture/project contains all the various media it uses, making it easy to move and backup.
  • In ScreenFlow I can begin editing immediately after capture.  When using Snapz Pro X I always had to wait for several minutes, even when saving the capture without compression.  This alone has at least doubled my productivity.
  • ScreenFlow was really easy to learn and use.  I was product with it within minutes.
  • The app is actually fun to use!

Cons:

  • Limited ability to choose output settings from inside the app.  But it does allow you to export a few uncompressed formats, so it could be bounced through another app like Compressor for more refined control over output format.
  • ScreenFlow is fairly “non-pro” in it’s approach to editing.  You can’t directly adjust volume on the timeline via an automation line.  And instead of “setting a key” for various parameters like opacity and scale, you create “actions”.  Actions seem to be regions with built in fades for a collection of parameters.  It works, but it makes some things a bit easier and some things a whole lot harder, all at the same time.
  • It’s a bit buggy!  I’ve had a handful of cases where the program freezes and gives me the spinning beach ball of death.  Luckily, the project file wasn’t corrupt after a force+quit.
  • ScreenFlow is somewhat clunky.  There are a lot of small usability issues that build up when you are trying to work quickly for several hours.  For instance, there are many times when I need to click on the background canvas somewhere before I can re-select the play head.  Or when adding an action or callout, the inspector does not automatically show for that specific thing, so the user has to manually select it before adjusting settings.  And some settings will cause the play head to snap to the beginning of the action, but others won’t.  Little things like this are really annoying and take me out of the flow of editing the presentation.  But some cleanup in this area would really make this application shine!

Overall I am quite satisfied with ScreenFlow for most of my current and near-term needs, even with it’s drawbacks.

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