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Handwritten Annotations in Screenflow

By: Mich Donovan

Freehand Annotation in Screenflow

With Screenflow’s new version (8 for those counting), many of the new features are keeping pace with it’s competitor Camtasia. Mostly, this means preset styles, project templates, access to a stock media library… Like Camtasia, these new features are great if you’re looking for all-in-one shop at the cost of limiting the control of design and animation. Among some of the smaller new features in Screenflow 8, there was one that immediately stood out: handwritten annotations.

One of the easiest ways for translating classroom lectures to a format tailored for online video is simply doing a screen recording of an instructor using a pen tool to annotate over their slides or a blank background. It’s similar to using a white board but more legible for digital audiences. It’s an easy concept for instructors to grasp onto since it’s so similar to their existing teaching style. And seeing an instructor actually write and annotate gives the video a personal and intimate feel.

However, many pen tools are obtuse with too many buttons or don’t work overtop slides in presentation mode. This can make recording a video even more overwhelming for an instructor. Screenflow’s new option for adding handwritten annotations offers a new approach, though it’s still not perfect.

Rather than offer the ability to use a built-in pen tool while recording, Screenflow 8 now allows you to add them in post-production. This has pros and cons, in my opinion, but is ultimately a great step forward. When editing your project, you can now draw an annotation over top your recording with a mouse (or with a Wacom tablet as we do). This gives you the ability to retroactively edit the timing, size, position, and color of your annotation. This is a huge amount of freedom when compared to the static permanence of a screen-recorded annotation. What you lose, however, is that analog feel of actually seeing the annotation written in real time. And the annotation process is a bit more involved than I expect most instructors are comfortable with.

Still, it’s a great tool to have in one’s belt. I checked with Camtasia to see if they have any plans on implementing a similar feature and they still recommend using a third party pen tool, with no intention to add a built-in pen tool anytime soon.

Screenflow is available for Mac for $129.



Categories: Video Production

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