Mac Software Review: ScreenFlow 1.2.1

Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Mac software review






In the past two and a half years, we have tested and reviewed several screen-caputre applications. The most popular screen-capture application for Mac is Ambrosia‘s Snapz Pro X. It’s by far more popular than any other screen-capture software title for Mac. Despite its popularity, Snapz Pro X is no perfect at all.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 01
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 02






Let me quickly point out a couple of bad aspects of Snapz Pro X. If you use it (v. 2.1.2) under Leopard and enable Universal Access and turn on Zoom (Command + Option + #8), you may encounter a couple of undesirable side effects. One is a divided screen. After zooming in, if you scroll up or down on a web browser, Snapz Pro X may not be able to catch up with your action. (See Screenshot 01.) It is also true that two Mouse pointers will appear. The worst part is that Apple’s Final Cut Pro does not recognize the frame rates of Snapz Pro movies correctly. Screenshot 03 shows that I have a screen-capture video whose frame rate is close to 24. And Final Cut Pro says its frame rate is 10. (See Screenshot 04.) Ambrosia has been aware of this incompatibility issue since 2005 and has not been able fix it.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 03
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 04






So how about Telestream‘s ScreenFlow? Telestream is well-known for its Flip4Mac, a QuickTime component that enables Mac users to play Windows Media Player (WMV) movies with QuickTime. We have known ScreenFlow for probably one year or so. We couldn’t use it till last July because our old main machine had OS X 10.4 Tiger installed. And using ScreenFlow requires that you have Leopard installed on your machine. Anyway, I can tell you that ScreenFlow is the first and only screen-capture application for Mac that we know is better than Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X.  






Using ScreenFlow

After installing and launching ScreenFlow, you will see a small transparent window. Let’s go to Preferences. (See Screenshot 05.) The first thing you want to do before using ScreenFlow is to install an audio driver. So switch the tab to Advanced. And click on Install Driver. (See Screenshot 06.) What is it for? This driver allows you to record audio that is running on your computer. For example, if you want to record a game play video, ScreenFlow won’t record game sounds without this driver.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 05
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 06
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 07






Next, let’s move on to the General tab. If you don’t want a small ScreenFlow icon on the menu bar, check off the top box. (See Screenshot 07.) If the Countdown feature is enabled, ScreenFlow will count numbers to 1 until it starts screen-capturing desktop action. (Screenshot 08.) You can enter any number, but it seems that ScreenFlow will count from 20 if you enter any number higher. The smallest effective number is 1. And after changing the number, make sure that you re-launch the application.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 08
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 09
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 10






Okay. If you are ready for some action, all you have to do is to click on the red button. (See Screenshot 09.) Don’t forget to check the box for Record Computer Audio if you expect to have audio running on your computer. If the small transparent window has disappeared for some reason, simply choose New Recording under File. (See Screenshot 10.) Then? The default shortcut key for starting and ending recording is Command + Shift + #2. If you press this shortcut key, ScreenFlow will stop recording desktop action.

When you finish screen-capturing desktop action, a large window will open with a video track at the bottom. (See Screenshot 11.) Note that ScreenFlow will capture the entire desktop screen. For example, the full resolution of this computer is set to 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. And ScreenFlow will capture every single pixel at first. Now, I can decorate this desktop screen by rotating it and changing the opacity level. One interesting feature allows you to change the size of the Mouse pointer. (See Screenshot 12.) You can also enable the Radar click effect.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 11
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 12
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 13






Next, let’s switch to the Media tab. ScreenFlow is just like an old version of iMovie. It will let you add audio files. iMovie doesn’t support many audio formats. How about ScreenFlow? Shown in Screenshot 13 is four audio files with different formats. Let’s see which audio format ScreenFlow reconizes and which it doesn’t. Clicking on the Add Media button, let me add an AIF audio clip. (See Screenshot 14.) Screenshot 15 shows that an audio icon has appeared on the side bar and an audio track at the bottom. If I press the space bar, the play head will proceed to the right. I can hear audio. Okay. Let me right-button-click on the audio icon on the sidebar and delete the audio clip. (See Screenshot 16.) Well, ScreenFlow actually allows you to drag and drop audio clips directly onto the timeline window. So let’s do so with an MP3 file. (See Screenshot 17.) An audio wave form will gradually appear. That means ScreenFlow can read MP3 audio files. Furthermore, Screenshot 18 and 19 show that ScreenFlow recognizes M4A (AAC) and even OGG (Ogg Vorbis) as well. (Decoding ogg audio files might require that you have XiphQT installed in Library > Components.)





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 14
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 15
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 16


Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 17
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 18
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 19






Editing video

ScreenFlow is not an ordinary screen-capture application. It has a built-in video editing feature. You can cut unwanted frames very easily. Move the play head manually to the starting point where you want to remove a group of frames. Then choose Mark In Point under Edit or simply press I. (See Screenshot 20.) Next, move the play head to the last unwanted frame. And choose Mark Out Point or press O. (See Screenshot 21.) Now, a group of frames is blue-highlighted. Then I need to choose Ripple Delete under Edit or press Command + the delete key to remove the unwanted frames. And single audio and video tracks are both split into two parts. (See Screenshot 22.)





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 20
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 21
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 22






As I said before, ScreenFlow captures the full screen. What if I want only part of it? Suppose that I want only an area of 1,200 x 900 pixels from the top right corner. Do I have to use Final Cut Pro or iMovie to make a selection? No. ScreenFlow can handle a selected area. First, click on the Resize button. (See Screenshot 23.) Then let me enter 1200 and 900 in the text area boxes above the play button. (See Screenshot 24.) Now, an unwanted area is dimmed out. Interestingly, you can manually move a selection without changing the size. So I’ll just have to move this selection to the top right corner. (See Screenshot 25.) Finally, I need to press the Apply button. Great… The unwanted area has been cut out. (See Screenshot 26.)





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 23
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 24
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 25


Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 26






Save and Export

If you have finished editing your video, you want to save your progress, right? Let’s do so by choosing Save As under File. (See Screenshot 27.) If the destination is an internal hard disk drive, saving a file takes only a blink of eyes. (ScreenFlow creates temporary files inside the .Temp folder.) Checking the file size, it’s only 704 KB. (See Screenshot 28.) That’s quite small. And that’s only because my video is 1.5-second long. If you record a game play for 30 minutes with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, a file size can easily be 10 GB or larger.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 27
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 28
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 29






Finally, let’s move on and export a video. If I choose Export under File, an export window will appear. (See Screenshot 29.) Okay. I actually want to resize the resolution to 900 x 675 pixels. So let me choose Scale to custom size at the center. If I enter 900 and 675 in the size text areas… (See Screenshot 30.) Hold on. Let me click on the Customize button. Now, QuickTime’s Movie Settings window will pop up. (See Screenshot 31.) Taking a close look at Screenshot 31, do you realize what’s odd? I’ve set the resolution to 900 x 675 pixels. But it’s shown as 900 x 676 pixels. 1,200 pixels times .75 is 900 pixels. And 900 pixels times .75 is? It should be 675 pixels. Hmm… That’s odd.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 30
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 31
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 32






Anyway, let me set the frame rate to 24 and the video quality (quantizer) to Best. (See Screenshot 32.) I also need to correct the resolution to 900 x 675 pixels. (See Screenshot 33.) My final export settings are shown in Screenshot 34. If I press the Export button shown in Screenshot 30, ScreenFlow will begin exporting a movie. A progress bar will appear at the bottom of the application window. (See Screenshot 35.)





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 33
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 34
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 35






Our software review is not over yet. As I mentioned before, Ambrosia has not been able to fix an incompatibility issue of Snapz Pro Z with Final Cut Pro. How about ScreenFlow? Does Final Cut Pro correctly recognize the frame rates of ScreenFlow’s movies? As shown in Screenshot 36, my Final Cut Pro Sequence settings are such that the resolution is 900 x 675 pixels and the frame rate is 24. (See Screenshot 36.) I compressed my ScreenFlow video with H.264. So the video compressor is set to H.264 on the Sequence. And if I drop the ScreenFlow movie onto the Timeline window… Oh, no… Final Cut Pro fails to recognize the video stream with a red line. (See Screenshot 37.) What the hell happened? Let’s find out how Final Cut Pro sees this video clip. Screenshot 38 shows that Final Cut Pro thinks the frame rate is 29.97, not 24.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 36
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 37
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 38






What if I import a video clip whose frame rate is 29.97? Screenshot 39 shows another video clip that I exported out of the same ScreenFlow project file. The frame rate is 29.97. And I have adjusted Sequence settings accordingly. If I drop this ScreenFlow video onto the Timeline window… Good… Final Cut Pro does read the video clip correctly with no red line. (See Screenshot 40.) Yay!





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 39
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 40






We have one more concern about ScreenFlow. Does it screen-capture a game play? Making a game play video is not so easy if the resolution is set to something smaller than the full screen. If you set the resolution to, say 800 x 600, when in fact the full screen size is 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, then the video will be projected on the first 800 x 600 pixels from the top left corner. And many screen-capture applications for Mac and Windows fail to recognize this active screen correctly.





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 41
  Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 42






Okay. I just reinstalled Spore on my computer. (Electronic Arts released the game in September, 2008.) Let’s see how ScreenFlow sees the active screen if I set the resolution to 960 x 600 pixels. Screenshot 41 and 42 show that ScreenFlow captures the active screen without blinking frames. Now, all I have to do is to cut out a selection of 960 x 600 pixels from the top left corner, right? A final sample video is posted below.






Conclusions

We have seen a couple of minor problems with ScreenFlow. One of them is that ScreenFlow doesn’t calculate the resolution correctly. A bigger problem is that ScreenFlow movies are not completely compatible with Final Cut Prol. Even when the frame rate of a video is 24, Final Cut Pro sees it as 29.97.

Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X is most widely used screen-capture application for Mac. But things will probably change. There are many advantages in using ScreenFlow over Snapz Pro X. Even when you enable Universal Access and turn on Zoom, the video screen won’t be divided under ScreenFlow. ScreenFlow also works well with games. We have tested it with several games. So far, ScreenFlow captures the active screen without blinking frames.

Finally, let me mention one feature that we wish Telestream to add to ScreenFlow. Not all users need the full screen. Sometimes, they need just 1,200 x 900 pixels from the top left corner. When you need a selection of the entire desktop area, ScreenFlow captures the full screen. That’s fine. But it will be nice if ScreenFlow dims out an inactive area so that the user can tell where the working area is. Snapz Pro X and some other screen-capture applications have such feature. (Screenshot 43.)





Mac software Telestream ScreenFlow
Screenshot 43






Sample QuickTim movie






Click on the button to watch a sample video with a selected area. VTC





  • Developer: Telestream (http://www.telestream.net/screen-flow/overview.htm)
  • Developer’s location: 848 Gold Flat Road, Suite 1, Nevada City, CA 95959, USA
  • Latest version: ScreenFlow 1.2.1 (Universal)
  • System requirements: PowerPC or Intel processors running Mac OS X 10.5.1 or higher
  • Prices: US$99.00
  • MacHouse recommendation: Telestream’s ScreenFlow is not so cheap. It’s about 1.4 times more expensive than Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X. But ScreenFlow is much more useful than the most popular screen-capture application for Mac. ScreenFlow even allows users to save project files and to export videos with different frame rates, different resolutions, different settings. ScreenFlow is not just a screen-capture application. It allows users to edit movies by cutting unnecessary frames, rotating the screen, adding media clips. It’s quite an impressive software title. ScreenFlow gets MacHouse’s Buy-It! recommendation.






    ScreenFlow is a product of Telestream, Inc.
    Spore is a product of Electronic Arts.






    Related articles:

    Video Tutorial: Making Desktop Video with ScreenFlow 01
    Mac Software Review: Screenium 1.0
    Mac Software Review: Screenflick 1.6.2
    Mac Software Review: Screen Mimic 2.1
    Mac Software Review: iShowU 1.44
    Screen Capturing Software for Mac





    Click for Mac software product review
  • This entry was posted in Apple & Mac and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

    One Response to Mac Software Review: ScreenFlow 1.2.1

    1. Sterling says:

      Thanks so much for review. I was looking for screencasting advice on twitter. This answered my questions. Will be picking up Screenflow.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.