Screenflow: Unpredictability of Bad UI and a Wasted Afternoon

frustrationScreenflow is one of those essential tools for people like me who fancy Macs and need to create screencasts.     Matthew McCullough introduced me to this tool years ago, and I haven’t looked back since recording the equivalent of many man-months of video for various clients.   It works well, when it works that it, but it also suffers from some instabilities.   Previous versions used to just decide to randomly exit and crash, and I’ve had my fair share of “Unable to open video” errors.

If you do any video work at all, and if you record your own soundtracks, you’ll understand how long it takes to record a good video and to make sure that everything is aligned to make that video work.  When you do screencasts and voiceovers you run through a checklist:

  • Is my voice rested enough to do a good voice track?
  • Have I had too much caffeine and am I going to sound like Jim Cramer?
  • Are there people in the office who are going to look in your office window and see just how strange you look when you are doing a screencast?  (I move quite a bit, it’s a strange process.)
  • Is your crazy expensive microphone plugged into the Tube Amp and the iMic just right?
  • are the levels set correctly?  Also, what does that even mean? you are not an audio engineer.
  • Have you unplugged your fridge and everything else that can add electronic noise to the audio line?
  • Have you made sure that your screen recording isn’t going to be interrupted by someone’s curse laden Skype message box?
  • Will the guy from the back of the office knock on your door to ask you another question about Apache httpd in the middle of a voiceover recording session?
  • and, most important for me, is the conference room next door free of that loud-talking narcissistic idiot who likes to make too much noise for your recording sessions?

Recording 10 minutes of audio?  Maybe it will take you 15 minutes, but it’ll more likely take you an hour (or two).  I’m never surprised that it takes 20 takes to get it right.  Now, the last thing in the world you need to have happen after the moon and stars have aligned is have Screenflow die on you as it decides it doesn’t want to be a piece of software.  I use this tool frequently, and I’m constantly cursing it because it just disappears.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, it shows me the rotating rainbow wheel of “I’m about to just crash on you”, but, more often than not, the thing just, blip, and disappears – no record of the previous project or, worse yet, a corrupted recording.

It’s enough to make me stop what I’m doing and write a blog rant about the tool… Although, it isn’t like I’m moving to anything else, Screenflow is the best tool for the job (even though it has caused me to scream as loudly as possible twice in the last two weeks…. and if you know me, that’s pretty loud – I’m a singer.)