July 21, 2008 · Lessig
So readers of this blather will know that I’ve long struggled to find useful software for capturing and making available presentations I make, and that I’ve whined often about the flaws in everything that’s out there. (See, e.g. this.) I prepare my presentations in Keynote which (alone) provides the key functionality critical to how I present — good preview of the next slide, almost perfect ability to integrate other media, almost never forgetting links to existing media). I was therefore very happy when Keynote promised the ability to sync narration to a presentation.
That happiness was short-lived, however, because except for short, media-bare presentations, I have never found the syncing function actually keeps synchronization. (Like selling a spreadsheet that can’t multiply).
ProfCast was a hopeful bet, but it has never thought it necessary to enable the capturing of transitions, or media. And so for those of us who obsess about making that stuff useful (maybe uselessly, of course), ProfCast simply won’t work.
SnapZPro was an almost perfect alternative, though for reasons similar to the complaint below, it is hard to use it when trying to capture an actual presentation (again, you’ve got to set up the screen capturing settings just before you record, which is awkward and awful when you’re trying to launch a real presentation.)
But I’m now very hopeful utopia has been found. ScreenFlow is an elegant and powerful program that captures a presentation and synchronizes it flawlessly. It even has post-production editing built in. And while I’ve hit some flakiness with long presentations (I’m a lawyer, what do you expect?) with media (genuine flakiness — weird screen colors, apparent freezes for minutes at a time), almost always it has recovered and allowed me to save the sync.
One extremely frustrating feature/bug with the program as it exists now is no simple way to link the launch of the program to the launch of a presentation. My flow is to get to a stage, and begin a presentation immediately. But ScreenFlow imagines I’ll get to the stage, set the record preferences to capture the second screen (you can’t set that preference until it actually sees the second screen), then launch the record, and then launch the presentation, and then when you’re finished, exit the presentation and stop the recording. Twice now I’ve lost the recording because I’ve had to close the screen after the presentation and then when I tried to open it again, nothing was there. And even when it has worked, the steps to fire this up every time have been a huge hassle.
Simplest and most obvious changes to make this almost perfect bit of heaven perfect: (1) Let me tell you in advance what you should be capturing, trusting you’ll see it when I start. (2) Give me a simple way to link the launch of the recording to the start of the presentation, and same with the end. (3) Give me a simple way to get to the scratch file if there’s a failure.
Given the almost perfection of the system so far, I’m optimistic someone will get this right soon.