The online video I have on my site is a major selling point. To put things in perspective: 83% of the people who visit my site watch the video. My product is a bit difficult to explain in words and very easy to explain visually, thus, a good video is a necessity for me.
The purpose of this article is to save you time: if you need to create a professional screencast on your Mac, you want to go with Screenflow. Yes, it is not free. It is priced at $99. You can get free tools for capturing your screen actions. However the difference in functionality is HUGE. If your needs are a little above basic you will end up going down the same road as I did. Besides, and that's just my personal opinion, Screenflow is one of the most fun applications I've used.
For me, the main challenge when doing a screencast was to keep a good resolution in the tiny video. You want the movie to be small enough, so it will play well over the internet. On the other hand, you people to be able to understand what is going on. To be able to read text. For that, you will have to do zooming and panning. Otherwise, your screen just won't fit. Start from a global picture of the application, then zoom to a specific part. This makes it easy to read and focuses your viewer.
That's exactly where all other programs fail. I tried SnapzPro X first. You can either set a fixed area which is captured or have the area track your mouse. The tracking feature is completely distracting and unusable. Once I drill down to the area, I want my viewer to focus on what I'm doing and not on the movements of the screen. The full area capture was useless for me: I couldn't capture the full screen, that was just too big.
That is where Screenflow shines: you don't need to decide. Just click record and start working. The real power is later when it comes to editing your video. All other tools I've tried are focused on capturing the video. Screenflow has an extensive array of editing tools for polishing your work. Moreover, I spent much more time in the editor than in recording my screencast. You could go with a standard movie editing software, like iMovie, but Screenflow tools are just focused on your specific needs. You will never get the same quality results.
The editor looks a bit like iMovie, showing you the movie timeline and provides all kinds of editing tools. Here are the tools I found to most useful:
- Zooming and panning with smooth transitions: this is by far the most useful tool of all.
- Highlighting the area around the mouse pointer to draw the user attention or completely hide it when you want it out of the way.
- Show the keys you type on the screen.
- The ability to embed other media - I made an intro slide in Keynote, recorded the voice over with Garage Band and integrated everything into one package. It is also very easy to do a few "takes" and smoothly combine them to a single movie.
- Very smooth transitions between sections including transparencies which looks very professional.
I think there are some features missing: it could use a text annotation tool or the ability to highlight or outline an arbitrary area. You can always do that by preparing your text or outline shape in an external paint program and importing the media to Screenflow, so it's not a deal breaker. It would be an important addition in future versions.
You can see my final result on my site. I already gave you my bottom line: if you're doing screencasting on a Mac, this piece of software is just a must have. It's powerful yet easy and fun to use. Just the reasons we got our Macs in the first place.