So let’s say we’ve done everything to produce a shiny screencast. What’s next?
Of course, we want other people to see it. Now ScreenFlow comes pre-equipped with a lot of very handy export presets. But now that I’m doing screencasts professionally choosing the right export settings, which fits every case, became necessary to me.
Don’t get me wrong I love ScreenFlow, but there’s one thing I don’t like and that is the use of Apple’s H.264 codec.

So in this article I would like to share my experiences with you on choosing the right encoding settings for screencasting.

Why I Don’t Like Apple’s H.264

The codec is fine. If your just recording one screencast a month. Use it! But some of you might have already realized that encoding an H.264 video takes much longer with Apple’s codec. And that is because Apple still hasn’t built a Multicore-H.264.

You can try it out by yourself. Go to /Applications/Utilities/Activity Monitor And while exporting a video with your brandnew Octacore Intel machine, watch the CPU activity go up all the way to 100% … of only one of your 8 cores. Now that is futuristic, isn’t it?
All the money spent for this awesome machine who was supposed to do exporting all day long needs literally all day long to export one screencast. Boring!

But there is a better solution which handles Multithread processing quite well.
It’s called x264. A fork of xlib. The library developed by the VLC project.
Now x264 is, at first-look, very very geeky. Where other encoders offer simple sliders x264 appeals the user with textfields for values between 0 an 9 or whatever…

x264 Settings

These are my x264 settings. They are not ideal, but they are sufficient for my purposes.

Screencasting Settings 1
Click for close-up

Screencasting Settings 2
Click for clos-eup

I use these settings when exporting to “big preview” videos. For the small ones I use a slightly different setting. The framerate, key-framrate and resolution is reduced. This is my on-site setting.

Screencasting Settings 3
Click for clos-eup

Now why would someone use x264 instead of H.264?
I mentioned reduced processing times already. But x264 also produces smaller, better looking videos.

Audio Settings

Speaking of the right audio format I’m using AAC audio. For the “big” videos the encoder is set to 96kbps and to 64kbps for the small videos.

How to Find the Perfect Setting

To find the perfect settings for your screencasts I would recommend the following process:

  • Record a 1 minute screencast. Try do “as much as possible” in the screencast. Move the mouse, open programs, move windows etc. Just so that the encoder has more to do in the next step.
  • Choose one parameter and change it quite heavily.
  • Encode and give the video a good name like “test video keyrate 300 keyframe 15 bitrate 800”
  • Now repeat these steps with the same parameter changed.
  • Find a result that fits your needs. Most often either size or quality.

Repeat for every parameter your interested in. If you’ve got enough examples about how the encoding will come out after an encoding you can decide much easier which settings to pick.
Last but not least. The x264 readme files are a quite interesting read.


Download the most current version of the x264 codec from this website.