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How to Add Custom Callouts to Screencast Videos in Screenflow

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This post is part of a series called How to Screencast.
How to Make Video With Capto, a Lightweight Screencasting Tool for Mac

Screenflow is a popular piece of screencasting software for Mac users. What I love about Screenflow is that it's built with screencasters in mind: you can use it for everything from recording to editing to exporting a web-ready screencast. It doesn't have every feature that Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, but it doesn't need to! Instead, it focuses on having the tools that educators really need.

Screenflow InterfaceScreenflow InterfaceScreenflow Interface
Screenflow is the most popular screencasting tool for Mac. It has a stripped down interface that is designed with screencasters in mind. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to add a callout in Screenflow to focus attention on a specific part of the video.

In this tutorial, I'll teach you how to use callouts in Screenflow. These are added during an edit and highlight a specific part of our captured video.

What's a Callout?

A callout draws a viewer's attention to part of the screen. Screencasts often teach complex software applications with many buttons, menus and icons. When you need to focus attention on a specific area, use a callout.

Callout ExampleCallout ExampleCallout Example
Callouts should supplement the commentary you provide in a screencast. Teaching software means that you will often have many menus and windows on screen at the same time. In the screenshot above, I'm tastefully using a callout to dim the rest of the screen and focus a viewer's attention on a specific area.

A solid callout usually comes down to two simple factors:

  • Dim the background elements so that the viewer's eye is drawn to a focused area.
  • When you're focusing on a small part of the screen, apply a "zoom" effect to magnify it

Make sure not to overdo it with callouts. Keeping your callout count low will signal the importance of a specific part of the video.

How to Add a Callout

After you've captured your screen in Screenflow, let's move on to adding a callout.

The Screenflow editing window has a set of tools on the right side, including a panel to add callouts. The icon for adding a callout is the fifth from the left and is a cursor with a circle around it. Choose this menu option to add your callout.

To add a callout, scrub to the part of the video that you want to add the callout to. Click on the +Action button to add a callout to your video. There are three types of highlights to choose from:

  • Mouse cursor: this option will follow your mouse cursor and highlight an area around it. As your mouse cursor moves, the callout will follow automatically.
  • Foreground window: Use this option when you have several windows stacked on top of one another and want to focus.
  • Freehand: When you choose this option, you can simply draw a box.

Check out the video below to learn more about adding a callout.

My preferred callout settings are to leave the opacity around 75%, increase the zoom up option as needed for small menu options, and 0.3s of In Duration and Out Duration in the Build section to fade the callout in and out.

Adjusting Your Callout

After you've placed your callout on top of a video, you can easily adjust the amount of time that it runs for or where it appears. A callout will appear as a blue box on top of the clip in the timeline. 

To adjust the length of a callout, click first on the callout. You'll notice that a callout effect turns from blue to yellow on the timeline. The box turning to yellow shows that we have selected the callout, not the video clip itself. Place your mouse cursor on the edge of the blue box. Then, drag it to shorten or lengthen the amount of time that the callout appears. Or, click and drag on the box near the center to reposition it anywhere on the timeline. 

Adjust Gif
Click and drag the callout box to shorten or lengthen the amount of time it will appear on screen.

You can also adjust the visual effects that added earlier. Simply return to the tools panel with a callout selected to tweak the opacity, zoom, and build options. 

If you decide not to use the callout you added, no problem. Click on the callout box on the timeline and press Delete on your keyboard. Make sure that you have only the callout selected (the box will appear yellow) so that your video clips are not deleted.

Recap & Keep Learning

Teaching with screencasts is a great way to educate. In this tutorial, you learned to use Screenflow to add callouts to focus the attention of your audience.

Here are three more tutorials about screencasting to keep you learning:

  • At first, I avoided screencasting because I didn't know how to imrpove my audio in post-production. Check out this tutorial on Auphonic, which automates the process. Think of it as outsourcing your audio to the cloud.
  • People with hearing disabilities would greatly appreciate subtitles added to your video. Typing out subtitles is cumbersome, so check out this tutorial on how to use artificial intelligence to generate subtitles automatically.
  • If Screenflow is outside of your budget for screencasting, check out the less expensive alternative Capto.
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