ScreenFlow 8 Review

ScreenFlow 8 Review

As anyone who has visited my blog before will doubtless know, I do a lot of screen recording. No, I mean a real LOT! I record my screen for hours each and every day.

I create video based courses covering a range of applications for Mac, iOS and even PC. I also live stream tips, tricks and tutorials using ScreenFlow for local capture.

I’ve detailed all the reasons ScreenFlow is my preferred screen capture app before in a previous review so I won’t waste your time with details of my personal preferences … but feel free to check out those details in my ScreenFlow review from June 2016 if you’re curious.

Let’s get on to all the new features in this latest release of ScreenFlow, version 8, released on 1 August 2018.

I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed personally with some of the flagship new features added to the last couple of versions of ScreenFlow. Yes, I dutifully upgraded but I felt the new features were less than compelling for a veteran screen caster. For example, the ability to capture only a part of the screen was added in version 6 and I couldn’t have cared less! You can deal with everything in post so why bother recording only a part of the screen and risk missing something that decides to unhelpfully open outside the recording area? And while I welcomed the arrival of a global library in version 7 it wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be.

So I approached this new version more than slightly resigned, expecting the “new features” would all be aimed at making the life of less frequent users than myself easier.

I am happy, very happy, to report I was pleasantly surprised at the care to detail evidenced in this new version.

What’s New?

New From Template

My number one request since the first version of ScreenFlow appeared has been the addition of templates. If you spend your days making YouTube videos or tutorial videos you’ll soon learn that many elements required for each video are the same. Titles, stingers, lower thirds, overlays, contact details, watermarks and more are all exactly the same in each video. Other elements do change, like the title text of a video, but they still need to match in terms of font and styling.

New from Template Dialog Box in ScreenFlow 8

New from Template Dialog Box in ScreenFlow 8

My thinking was that to have the ability to add as many of these elements to the timeline as makes sense prior to recording the main content would be a huge timesaver.

I know I can do this in a single file and then make duplicates of that file each and every time I create a new video but it’s not ideal.

Finally Telestream have implemented this feature and what’s better is that the implementation is much better than I had ever dared to hope it might be.

All the standard elements of a template are there, saving an existing file with a certain range of content in place. What takes ScreenFlow’s implementation of templates beyond the norm is the addition of a completely new concept inside the app: Placeholders.

Placeholders

ScreenFlow 8 Placeholders

ScreenFlow 8 Placeholders

Template Placeholders Clips come in three varieties:

  • Screen Recording
  • Camera
  • iOS device

They are added to a standard ScreenFlow file before you save that file as a ScreenFlow template.

To use one of the templates you create is simplicity itself. From the New dialog select New From Template, then select the template you want to use, per the screen capture above. Clicking the New button takes you to a screen within the dialog box where you can configure the standard capture options.

ScreenFlow 8 New from Template Configuration Options

ScreenFlow 8 New from Template Configuration Options

That’s the basic use of Placeholders but here’s where it gets even better. At the point you’re crafting your template, and adding placeholders to the timeline for the recordings to be slotted into, you can configure all the standard options you have until now had to wait to do until after the recording session.

An example will demonstrate the power of this. Imagine you have added all your titles, credits, lower thirds and a placeholder for footage captured from your camera. That camera placeholder can be configured in exactly the same way we currently work with captured footage after it’s captured. This means that BEFORE you have captured your camera footage you can have a Chroma Key Video Effect applied to the placeholder. As soon as you press stop on your recording session ScreenFlow will open with all your captures correctly placed and your camera footage chroma keyed for you.

I can’t over-emphasize just how much features like this will improve your productivity inside ScreenFlow.

Styles

In keeping with this improved productivity theme the next new feature is just as much a time-saver as templates and placeholders.

ScreenFlow 8 has styles.

ScreenFlow 8 Styles

ScreenFlow 8 Styles

A style is a saved, named, set of options that can be collectively applied to other objects with a single click. So whatever your preferences are for video, audio, motion effects, screen recordings, callouts, touch callouts, annotations or text you can apply them to any number of elements with a single click.

Together with templates this is a feature I’ll be making extensive use of with my video courses where consistency of look is critical for polished output.

Stock Media Library

ScreenFlow 8 Stock Media Library

ScreenFlow 8 Stock Media Library

While ScreenFlow 8 itself is a single purchase with no continuing subscription element. Telestream has embraced a subscription model for an optional extra to ScreenFlow in the form of a Stock Media Library.

It’s a great addition and the convenience of accessing virtually anything you need from within your editor with no additional cost beyond the $/£60 annual subscription makes it a compelling proposition.

The library contains in excess of 500,000 items of high quality video, audio and still images. Access to these assets is via a dedicated panel in the media inspector. The collection can be searched, sorted and filtered from the same location.

The assets are downloaded on demand and added to both the timeline and the project library. These stock assets can also be added to the Global Library, thus making them available locally to future projects.

Track Thumbnails

ScreenFlow has long had the ability to display a single thumbnail representing the content of a clip on the timeline. This upgrade adds the ability to display track thumbnails.

Track thumbnails are displayed along the entire length of the clip and represents the contents of the clip at each stage of the clip.

The display of this track thumbnail is optional as is the display of the single traditional thumbnail. The easiest way to access the view options for the timeline are via the icon below the timeline.

ScreenFlow 8 Timeline Thumbnails

ScreenFlow 8 Timeline Thumbnails

New Frame Rates

ScreenFlow 7 introduced a new 60fps frame rate. ScreenFlow 8 extends the range of frame rate options available. There are now 5 frame rates, as follows:

  • 24
  • 25
  • 30
  • 50
  • 60

The addition of these extra frame rates shows how ScreenFlow has developed beyond its original purpose of producing screencasts to being more of a general purpose video editor .

Detach Timeline

Until this version ScreenFlow has had a single window interface. Sure, you could open two separate files in two separate windows but there was no way to detach the editing tools from the preview.

ScreenFlow 8 adds the ability to split the timeline off from the main window. The Window > Detached Timeline option places the timeline into its own floating window completely separate from the video canvas.

ScreenFlow 8 Detach Timeline

ScreenFlow 8 Detach Timeline

Initially I wasn’t convinced this option was necessary in my workflow but opening one of my more complex edits, with a huge number of tracks and overlaying content, I was sold. Now, if only I could expand the side panels on to my third monitor and I’d have a full editing suite at my disposal.

Quick Narration and Voice Over Additions

There are two new audio features. Quick Narration allows a voice-over to be recorded in the post-production stage directly from the editor.

Selecting Insert > Narration from the menu changes the ScreenFlow interface replacing the standard transport controls with a recording function.

ScreenFlow 8 Quick Narration

ScreenFlow 8 Quick Narration

There are several options in the narration dialog:

  1. A list of system audio devices is displayed for you to select your preferred audio input device
  2. A checkbox is provided to force the narration to stop recording after a specified time
  3. Audio playback of existing audio on the timeline can be suppressed during the recording of the narration

Pressing the red record button starts the narration recording and this will stop either automatically after the time specified previously or manually using the stop button that replaces the record button once recording starts.

Once the narration recording is stopped the user is given an option to either keep the narration or discard it. Electing to keep it returns you to the timeline with the newly recorded narration placed ready for working with. Electing to discard it returns you to the narration recorder ready to try again.

Getting the best out of this feature requires that your editing location would work as well as a recording location but for quick fixes or additions it’s a welcome feature.

The second new audio option is Insert Speech Clip. This displays a dialog box containing a large text box into which you type text to be converted to audio using the Mac’s inbuilt speech options. Think Siri reading text to you!

The dialog box allows different voices to be used for this synthesised text but there is no option to rehearse each voice to find one most suited to the job at hand and when the dialog box closes the text is removed. If you need to audition voices be sure to copy the text from the dialog before trying the first voice.

Does this increase the potential for robotic Siri-esque voice overs? Probably, but as the presenter of a podcast co-hosted by two iPhones talking to each I’m not in a position to complain personally! (If you have no idea what I’m referring to, do check out the last 2 minutes of any episode of MacBites for clarification!)

YouTube Scheduled Uploads

In addition to the more common options to have your video uploaded directly to YouTube as Public, Unlisted or Private there is now an additional option of Scheduled.

Scheduled allows a date and time to be specified for the video to be made publicly available via the YouTube platform.

ScreenFlow 8 YouTube Scheduled Upload

ScreenFlow 8 YouTube Scheduled Upload

YouTube Custom Thumbnail

Another useful addition when publishing to YouTube is to be able to add a thumbnail image for the video. ScreenFlow 8 provides two different options for this:

  1. Thumbnail from Frame

Once you’ve placed a tick in the box to tell ScreenFlow to add a thumbnail the default option is to select a frame from the timeline by clicking the select button and scrubbing through your video to locate a suitable frame.

  1. Thumbnail From File

The second option is to click File and select an existing image file from your Mac.

Another great time saving feature when publishing out your finished video.

Arrange Menu

Telestream must be reading my mind! In the last few weeks I have been creating a more than usual amount of animated content on my video timelines and I was surprised to discover the ability to automatically align and distribute objects wasn’t already available inside ScreenFlow. The Arrange menu option addresses that oversight.

The Arrange menu includes options for object:

  • Alignment
  • Scaling
  • Distribution

The Arrange is also now home to the Group/Ungroup commands and the clip locking toggle.

This is another feature that those spending the most time inside ScreenFlow will greatly appreciate. Anything that enhances a workflow is greatly appreciated.

Screen to be Recorded Indicator

The perfect example of the attention to detail evidenced in this version of ScreenFlow is the long overdue addition of an indication which screen is being recording at the point of selecting a screen.

ScreenFlow 8 displays a red frame bordering the screen selected in the screen drop down of the record dialog.

I’ll admit this is certainly not essential if you have a single screen or even possibly if you have two screens. This is because they’ll doubtless have different names and you’ll instantly know which you have selected. However, for those of us with three screens where the external two screens are the same make and model I can assure you it’s been a nightmare since version 1 of ScreenFlow to know which screen you’ve selected. This is partially down to Apple’s idiocy.

First, in the System Preferences where there is no way to name a monitor. Secondly, when a Mac is rebooted the unhelpful (1) and (2) added to the names of the external monitors, in an attempt to distinguish them, are assigned randomly. So yesterday the monitor on the left was number 1 but today it’s number 2. Doubtless tomorrow it will develop another identity crisis! The difference now is I won’t care as much because ScreenFlow has my back. When I select a monitor I can’t miss the red frame and I’ll know instantly which screen is the subject of the recording.

Purchase Options

ScreenFlow is available both directly from Telestream and via the Mac App Store. The price of a new license is $129 and an upgrade from versions 4,5,6 or 7 is $39, if purchased directly from Telestream.

The Mac App Store price is $129.99/£129.99 and there is no upgrade pricing available, in line with Apple’s policy precluding upgrade pricing.

You do have an option to upgrade from a Mac App Store license to a direct license for version 8 via the Telestream website though.

Should you buy direct from Telestream or via the Mac App Store?

In terms of functionality of ScreenFlow it doesn’t matter how you make your purchase. In terms of how quickly you have access to incremental point updates and how you upgrade in the future it very much does.

Direct purchases qualify for upgrade pricing. Mac App Store purchases do not. It is for this reason that Telestream usually reduce the price of ScreenFlow for a day or two on the Mac App Store when they release a new version.

Very recent purchasers can upgrade free of charge if they purchased directly too.

The very nature of the Mac App Store review process means that direct purchasers have access to updates faster than those buying via the Store. That might be an important consideration for you if you encounter a show stopping bug in the current version.

Is It Worth the Upgrade?

Most definitely!

You want more reasons to treat yourself to an upgrade? OK then 😉

The features added will improve the workflow of existing users and new users alike. Those same improvements will also benefit both casual and pro users. Time saved in editing is always welcome and this version of ScreenFlow contains myriad features that will help all levels of user get their videos to viewers faster than ever before.

Upgrade with confidence today, you won’t regret it.

ScreenFlow 6 Review

ScreenFlow 6 Review

ScreenFlow 6 Review

ScreenFlow is one of those rare easy-to-use yet professional level must-have apps for the Mac Platform. It is a screencasting studio allowing users to record, edit and share professional screencasts.

Owned by Telestream since August 2008, ScreenFlow 6 was released on the 1st of June 2016 and on the surface very little has changed with the minimalist interface since the first version. Sure there have been tweaks to the interface but fundamentally if you came to version 6 from that original version, or indeed any previous version, you wouldn’t feel lost.

My Go-To Screencasting Tool

Before looking at what’s new it’s worthwhile outlining why ScreenFlow has been my go-to screencasting tool for over 8 years.

ScreenFlow has been that go-to app for screen capture since Vara Software released version 1 in February 2008. The simple interface belies the rich range of options ScreenFlow boasts and it’s now painful to recall life before ScreenFlow! There are numerous screen capture apps available for Mac now but back then Snapz Pro X from Ambrosia ruled the roost. The major innovation ScreenFlow 1 brought was the ability to capture the video and decide later what format the final output should be. In fact that two pass workflow (capture/post processing) meant you had the flexibility to output the same recording to multiple file formats after the event. That flexibility was lacking in all capture apps until then. It meant a complete rethink as to the most productive workflow but the benefits were well worth it.

The first killer feature is the “record first, configure later” workflow. It was a revelation when version 1 arrived and it remains the most flexible and convenient way to screencast today. I now create a minimum of three different versions of each video I produce and I do all that from a single recording. Using the same source file for each export means no duplicate processing and inherent loss of quality.

ScreenFlow can capture your screen, video from attached cameras, device audio and system audio. This one stop shop approach is a great time saver both during the initial capture and during the subsequent edit.

ScreenFlow is extremely reliable in use. There is very little impact on the speed of my system while I record. I’m thankful the days of the mouse pointer staggering across the screen in episodes when you attempt to record the screen are gone. Longer duration recordings don’t kill the system either, I have recorded over 12 hours of screencast content in a single file without issue.

Editing files is a smooth process. When I have used other editors, for example Final Cut Pro X, the time it takes to render the edited video before it can preview it slowed me down considerably. ScreenFlow doesn’t have any issue with previewing edited video, everything plays instantly. It’s simply a joy to edit in ScreenFlow.

In testing this version I processed over 3.5TB of recordings.

What’s New?

Partial Screen Capture

By far the most lauded new feature is Partial Screen Capture. It’s surprising that it’s taken until version 6 for this seemingly critical feature to be added to ScreenFlow but I can understand why that’s so: For the simple reason you really don’t need it! Crazy? No, let me explain.

ScreenFlow’s two-pass workflow means that you can edit the capture after you capture it and that includes adjusting what is contained in the output in terms of cropping to a specific window or outputting a file of specific dimensions other than that recorded. The benefit of recording the entire screen is that when the Mac throws a dialog box up outside your recording area it will be captured without having to manually drag it to the correct location at the time of recording and potentially edit the transition later.

Not a killer feature for me but more of a nice-to-have feature that brings ScreenFlow in line with the many other screen recording applications available today.

Animated GIF Support

While you could be forgiven for thinking animated GIFs are a relic of the 90’s web that are best left there, you’d be missing the opportunity to use those animated GIFs in more practical ways. For ultra short demonstrations of a simple feature, attached to a Tweet, or as content for newsletters where video is unavailable they are hard to beat. ScreenFlow can now create them directly.

Video Animation Effects

While it was always possible to manipulate the timeline to create video animations version 6 adds a dedicated panel and a range of configuration options for doing so.

The new motion-animated effects are titled Spring, Gravity, Pulse. They are simple to apply to elements and the physics of the movement are controlled using sliders in the Video Animation Effects panel.

Here are a few examples of what you can achieve with each effect.

Gravity

Spring

Pulse

Replace Clip

Replace clip is the ability to select a clip on the timeline, right click and elect to replace it with a different clip. Where have you been all my life!

For exchanging elements in previously composed timelines this is a huge time saver. Personally I have a file that I use as a template for certain projects, duplicating it as required for new videos. I have placeholders on the timeline and until now I have had to manually replace these, repositioning and adjusting them to fit. Now it’s a simple matter of swapping out the placeholder with the new content.

UI Improvements

The UI improvements are very subtle but most welcome. The addition of three small icons at the bottom of the ScreenFlow window gives you quick access to toggling timeline snapping, thumbnail display and audio waveform display. Adding easier access to these features may only save a few seconds but it certainly makes it easier to manage your timeline.

Telestream Cloud Publish

The ability to publish to the Telestream Cloud may be useful for some but this requires an extra investment in terms of a cost per file processed.

In addition to the ability to publish to the Telestream Cloud there is an option to encode your videos directly in the cloud. This gives you access to a huge range of extra encoding formats.

The Icon

ScreenFlow 6's New Icon

It’s almost inevitable in these days of instant outrage that the change to the icon came in for immediate criticism!

It’s not like the icon hasn’t changed before and you don’t really have to stare at it while you’re working but still I can understand a little disorientation for some folks! (Said the woman who studiously replaces the Sublime Text icon every time she updates the app 😉 )

If you’re wondering, the new icon is much flatter but with a hat tip to the original style of icon that has, until now, only changed in colour with various updates.

Other New Features

There are other new features including:

  • Multi channel audio mixer support
  • iOS audio monitoring
  • Redesigned audio waveforms
  • Ability to extract audio channels
  • Redesigned countdown overlay to display settings currently in use
  • New motion curves
  • New video video property of corner matte
  • Export progress indicator over dock icon
  • Grab and pan of the canvas
  • Ability to set the default preferred curve type
  • Easier canvas resizing using presets
  • Loop recording

New Quirks

One of the surprises for me was the way items are now rescaled on the canvas. Previously elements were scaled non-proportionally by default. To scale proportionally you needed to hold the Shift key whilst resizing. In version 6 this behaviour is reversed and by default all canvas content is scaled proportionally until the Shift key is added and then it switches to non-proportional scaling.

A small change but it’s proved to be difficult for my fingers and brain to come to an agreement as to what I’m trying to do! Luckily it can be reverted to the previous behaviour in the Preferences.

Another change is the shortcuts used to access each of the panels on the right. Traditionally the shortcut for each panel is Command and a number. The number being the tab number in the panel. As Telestream have added extra features and panels to this area, to access the features the shortcuts have changed to match the new locations of the panel. That takes a while to get used to but I persevere as it’s by far the fastest way to access the options.

What’s Still Missing?

Don’t get me going!

Templates

Six versions on in the life of ScreenFlow and we still don’t have the ability to create templates.

I hanker after templates for two broad reasons.

First, to have a timeline containing elements I use in every video of a specific type. For example, my YouTube videos all have a short motion graphic at the beginning and a recap at the end. Then there’s the watermark over the entire length of the video and various other overlays and annotations.

Secondly, a template system would ensure that I don’t have to repeatedly set my preferences for the Media Library.

I prefer to have the duration overlays shown on each clip, arrange the clips by name and group them by type. None of those options are the default though and thus every time I make a recording I need to set them manually. Templates would solve that problem instantly.

Asset Library

In a similar way that a template can be a valuable time saver so can access to an asset library. The Windows version of Camtasia has a fantastic library system. Version 1 of Camtasia for Mac had a library system that sadly vanished when version 2 was released. Having access to the entire range of assets you might need from a single location during the editing process would be such a time saver.

There is access to system media libraries, iTunes, iPhoto, GarageBand et al, from the Media Library panel but seriously do you keep your screencasting audio assets in iTunes? Your visual assets in iPhoto or Photos? I know I certainly don’t!

Annotations and text only exist in ScreenFlow when they are on the timeline. This means to have a range of common keyboard shortcuts available for use in a video you would have to have all of them on the timeline, copy and paste them in to place during the edit and then delete the leftovers when you’ve finished.

Telestream will you add a library feature already!

Freeze Region

Another feature currently missing is the ability to easily fix errors in a recording by freezing a portion of the screen. This term comes from a fantastic feature Camtasia for Mac has called Freeze Region.

Imagine you’ve recorded your content and the only issue is that during your recording an errant dialog box or notification flashed across your screen. Freeze Region is the option that can easily repair your recording. You set an in point where the recording isn’t showing the errant element and an output when it’s gone. Camtasia then replaces the element with the content of the screen prior to it appearing.

The same effect can be achieved manually but it takes much longer.

Batch Export of Multiple Clips from a Single File

One feature I would love to see is the ability to batch export multiple clips from a single file. I’d anticipate using the markers feature to mark the relevant parts of the recording and then export them in a single pass.

Right now the Batch Export feature only works with separate files.

Housekeeping

While there is a plethora of utility apps that provide the same or similar features it would simplify the process of screen recording greatly if much of the “housekeeping” were taken care of by ScreenFlow.

By housekeeping I mean things like:

  • Hiding the Desktop icons
  • Clearing the Menu Bar of icons
  • Suspending notifications
  • Suspending the screensaver
  • Preventing the Mac from sleeping

My toolkit for handling all of these options includes:

  • Desktop Curtain to hide the Desktop icons
  • Caffeine to prevent the Mac from sleeping
  • Amphetamine also prevents the Mac from sleeping
  • Bartender to control the Menu Bar
  • ZoomIt to provide “live” zooming during the recording
  • Mouseposé to provide additional mouse options again “live” during the recording

Alternatives

There are now numerous alternatives to ScreenFlow, with more arriving almost weekly. The alternatives vary in both price and features.

I have a couple of the alternatives installed for situations when ScreenFlow is having a moment!

A non exhaustive list includes:

My favourites of the alternatives are Camtasia, Screenflick and Screenium, although I will admit to owning them all!

No it’s not as crazy as it sounds, honestly!

Seriously, not only does it mean I have a backup in the case of an errant update but it means I can record multiple screens at the same time. Using three different apps I’ve recorded my three screens and edited the footage together in post.

Purchase Options

ScreenFlow is available both directly from Telestream and via the Mac App Store. As with previous versions the price of a new license is $99 and an update from any previous version is $34, if purchased directly from Telestream.

The Mac App Store price is $99.99/£79.99 and there is no update pricing available, in line with Apple’s policy precluding update pricing.

You do have an option to upgrade from a Mac App Store license to a direct license for version 6 via the Telestream website though.

Should you buy direct from Telestream or via the Mac App Store?

In terms of functionality of ScreenFlow it doesn’t matter how you make your purchase. In terms of how quickly you have access to incremental point updates and how you upgrade in the future it very much does.

Direct purchases qualify for upgrade pricing. Mac App Store purchases do not. It is for this reason that Telestream usually reduce the price of ScreenFlow for a few days on the Mac App Store when they release a new version.

Very recent purchasers can upgrade free of charge if they purchased directly too.

The very nature of the Mac App Store review process means that direct purchasers have access to updates faster than those buying via the Store. That might be an important consideration for you if you encounter a show stopping bug in the current version.