updated 07:20 pm EST, Fri February 29, 2008
First Look: ScreenFlow
Every Mac comes with the Grab program, which can capture images of the screen that are helpful for showing others how a certain program should look or what users should see after choosing specific commands. Unfortunately still images cannot always show the complete story, just as viewing a photograph is less enthralling than watching a movie. To fill the void Vara Software offers ScreenFlow, which captures screen activity and stores it as a Quicktime movie file that users can copy and distribute to others. Such Quicktime movies, called screencasts, are useful for creating video tutorials for training or teaching.
The simplest screencast records everything that occurs on the screen, including the movement of the mouse pointer and any menus or dialogs that open or close. Users can enhance a screencast by including captured video from a Mac's built-in iSight camera, any audio from the Mac, or audio captured from a built-in microphone.
ScreenFlow can record iSight video and audio
Including audio allows users to narrate the steps captured on the screen, while video can display the screencaster's face. By explaining movements or actions as users manipulate the mouse or type on the screen, viewers can better understand as welll as follow the screencast.
After capturing video and audio, ScreenFlow enables users to play the media back as a preview. By displaying the separate audio and video parts of a screencast in a timeline, users can edit the work in progress by resizing the screen image, placing a video (captured through an iSight camera) in new location on the screen, or changing when a screen image appears or disappears from sight.
Users can store photos, video recordings, and audio recordings in a Media window to further enhance screencasts. The software supports simple drag-and-drop of items into a screencast timeline. Adding additional media to a screencast often makes the movie more visually interesting to watch, and can improve the delivery of information to viewers.
The most common use for ScreenFlow is creating video tutorials, according to Vara, and ScreenFlow can highlight the mouse in a circle to help viewers follow movement as well as clicks of the pointer. The software enables viewers to see exactly where they need to move the mouse and what they need to click in order to duplicate the actions displayed in a screencast.
Priced at $100, ScreenFlow essentially turns any Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard into a screen capturing movie studio. Users who need to create video tutorials will find a program like ScreenFlow indispensable.