ScreenFlow 5 review: The Mac's best screencasting app gets better with iOS capture

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If you’re in the business of creating screencasts or Mac-based video demos, there’s a very good chance that you’re already using Telestream’s $99 ScreenFlow. With the latest update, the app is sure to gain a new group of supporters—iOS developers. And it will because Apple is encouraging these developers to submit app previews—video captures of their apps in action. It happens that this latest version of ScreenFlow not only lets you capture video directly to a Mac running Yosemite from an iOS 8 device that bears a Lightning-connector, but also lets you add touch callouts—overlays that mimic finger taps and swipes.

Like every version of ScreenFlow I’ve ever used, it exhibits quirky behavior from time to time, but the app’s benefits vastly outweigh its quirks.

What it is

If this is the first you’ve heard of ScreenFlow, here’s the lowdown. ScreenFlow is both a motion-capture tool as well as a video editor. Unlike some other capture utilities, it doesn’t allow you to capture just a portion of your screen—it’s all or nothing. When you wish to show just a bit of the screen you turn to its editing tools once you’ve completed your capture. They allow you to zoom in and out on the screen as well as add callouts, titles, annotations, transitions, and video and audio actions.

ScreenFlow is not a Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere replacement. Although you can edit video very easily once you get the hang of the workflow, it doesn’t offer much in the way of video effects and its titling functions aren’t terribly advanced. While you can use it to edit camera footage (and I often do), it really shines when working with the kind of material you’d use in a screencast.

With that under your belt, let’s examine its new features.

Making movies from mobile

With iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite, Apple introduced the ability to capture video and audio from a connected Lightning-bearing iOS device. (In the past, you’d accomplish this via an app that managed the job through AirPlay, which, while workable, didn’t produce video as crisp as the new method.) Telestream has taken advantage of this feature and rolled it into ScreenFlow 5.

Now, when you attach a recent model iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to your Yosemite-running Mac via a Lightning cable, that device becomes a capture source, right along with your Mac’s screen and compatible cameras. As it captures the device’s video, ScreenFlow automatically grabs any audio it plays as well. You won’t see a preview of your device on your Mac’s screen, however. You’ll operate it as you normally would, interacting with the device’s screen.

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