Creating screencasts with Final Cut Pro X and Claquette

Monday 03. May 2021 17:02:34 UTC+02:00 - Thomas Zoechling

The screen recording features of Claquette span a wide range of use cases. You can capture a short clip, convert it to GIF and post it to social media or you can record long form footage to produce a high quality screencast. In this article we'll focus on the latter and show how to leverage the Final Cut Pro X and Motion exporters in the "Pro" version of Claquette.

Preparing your recording

When recording your screen, it's important to consider the display resolution and the aspect ratio of that resolution. For best results, configure your screen in a way that matches the playback environment of your target audience. For example, if you plan to distribute your screencast on YouTube, it's best to record your screen in a resolution with an aspect ratio of 16:9. This is the standard aspect ratio on YouTube . A quick way to find your screen's aspect ratio is the "Display" preference pane in Claquette: Claquette display preferences showing the screen aspect ratio

The Claquette display preference pane shows the aspect ratio of the current screen.

If you have a second display connected to your Mac, you can also use the "Display" preference pane to explicitly set this display as recording device. Per default Claquette always records the screen where the cursor currently resides on. This can be useful since a lot of built-in displays in MacBooks have an aspect ratio of 16:10 while many external screens feature an aspect ratio of 16:9. This allows you to choose the one that best suits your needs.

To change the resolution of your recording, you can either use the macOS System Preferences to globally change the resolution on your system or use Claquette recording presets. Those presets dynamically resize the incoming frames before appending them to your recording. Presets can be configured on the "Display" preference pane. To select a preset, you can use the "Capture Content of" popup on the recording window.

Things to consider during recording

Claquette always records the full frame of the selected screen and later lets you crop your recording to cut out relevant portions. Additionally, the app also tracks your frontmost window during recording. This tracked information is used to assist you during crop and also when generating Final Cut or Motion projects. When exporting a project, a separate lane for the current frontmost window is created. This lane can be used for various effects. It allows you to zoom the content of that window independently or to create effects by applying filters. For instance, you can apply a "Gaussian Blur" filter to the main screen recording track to focus on the contents of the frontmost window. It's important to avoid fast movements or fast resizing of windows during recording if you want to work with them later in Final Cut. Filters and effects are working better for windows that stay at the same size and position. Claquette recording exported as Final Cut Pro X project

By applying blur and desaturation to the background track, the frontmost window can be highlighted.

Exporting to Final Cut Pro X and Motion

When performing a "Project" export, Claquette uses a high quality ProRes 4444 preset when rendering video assets. Due to the high quality, encoding can take a while. To keep export times short, consider trimming your footage before exporting to Final Cut or Motion. All other aspects of the project are exported in a non-destructive manner. This means that even if you have e.g. a "Crop" applied, the full size asset is exported and the crop is configured as property of the project. This allows you to adjust or remove the crop later when working in Final Cut or Motion. The export dialog also allows you to choose the click effect for the cursor. The mouse cursor and its click effect are also represented as dedicated tracks in Final Cut and can be changed in various ways. You can zoom, hide or change the displayed cursor images.

The high quality of the recordings and its project export features allow you to integrate Claquette into a Final Cut based workflow. This enables production in a familiar editing environment with many ways to enhance your screencasts.

Claquette 2.1 - Apple Silicon, Big Sur and more

Wednesday 11. November 2020 12:07:09 UTC+02:00 - Thomas Zoechling

Apple has started to transition the Mac away from Intel based CPUs to its own custom Apple Silicon chips .
We optimzed Claquette for Apple Silicon to make sure it gets the best performance and battery life when running on the new hardware. Claquette is ready for Apple Silicon on day one.

There is also a major design refresh coming to macOS. One aspect of the new design language of macOS Big Sur is iconography.
Apple recreated all built-in icons to make them more consistent with the other platforms in the Apple ecosystem.
Starting with version 2.1, Claquette features a new icon sporting the new, rounded-rectangle style. The new icon was designed and implemented by Gavin Nelson .

Claquette icon

The new Claquette icon adopts the macOS 11 design language

We also refined every aspect of the UI to make sure that Claquette looks great when running on macOS Big Sur. Our new UI uses a new style for sheets, alerts and preferences windows and UI icons are now based on SF Symbols . SF Symbols is an Apple provided icon library that perfectly fits the UI font of macOS.

Please refer to the release notes to learn more about the changes in the latest version.

Claquette 2.1 is available from the Mac App Store .

Create high quality GIFs on your Mac

Friday 23. October 2020 16:11:17 UTC+02:00 - Thomas Zoechling

GIF is probably one of the most resilient file formats still around. The original version of the specification was released in 1987, a slightly revised version came out two years later. That’s the version of GIF we are using ever since. While the world has changed a lot since the 80s, GIF hasn’t. Due to its widespread support, GIF is still a good candidate for certain tasks. For example content shared via e-mail. Newsletters or product support answers can't rely on video playback capabilities at the receivers side. Also some websites still don't accept video uploads but they often do support images and animated image formats like GIF.

optimized GIF showing a waterfall

A highly optimized animated GIF (777KB). The footage was extracted from a HD video file. Color count reduced to 70.

In comparison to modern video codecs, the old age of the format takes its toll when it comes to file size and visual quality. In this post, we’ll have a look how you can still achieve good looking results when creating GIFs while also keeping the file size small.

Reduce GIF File Size and Optimize Visual Quality

Trim Playback Length

In most cases you will not need the entire video sequence for the GIF animation, so you can trim the video in the playback window. Use the "Trim" item in the "Modify" menu to open a UI that allows you to define the start and end points of your animation. You can also use the Touch Bar or the cmd+T keyboard shortcut.

Reduce Video Size

You can either reduce the video size by using the "Crop" command in the "Modify" menu or later, in the export sheet. By using the "Crop" command, you are cutting away unwanted portions of the video, whilst the export sheet allows you to resize your content. Resized GIFs show the full portion of the video but at a lower resolution. Both features - Crop and Resize - reduce export time and file size. The "Crop" feature is also accessible via the cmd+k keyboard shortcut or via the Touch Bar.

Tweak the Number of Colours

The most relevant option for optimizing the size of a GIF file is the number of colors used in the color table. GIF uses an 8-bit color table and thus the maximum number of colors is 256. Using a smaller color table with less colours can drastically reduce the file size. But removing colors from the video also has an impact on visual quality. The Claquette export sheet allows you to experiment with the color settings of your GIF in real time. You can find the color settings in the "Advanced Options" section of the "Animation" export sheet. Use the "Export to..." - "Animation" item in the "File" menu to open the export sheet.

Experiment with Dithering

Dithering helps to compensate the effects of the low color depth in GIF images. It simulates colors that are not available in the palette by intentionally applying noise patterns. Claquette provides a "Dithering Level" slider in the "Advanced Options" section of the "Animation" export sheet. Using a high dithering level can improve the visual quality of the GIF but it can also increase file size. Applying dithering works best for footage that contains a lot of natural textures or gradients. The reduced color count in GIFs can introduce banding effects in such scenes and dithering can revert those effects to a certain degree. Computer graphics or screen recordings often feature flat, uniformly colored areas. Content with those qualities doesn't benefit from dithering.

Difference between dithering and no dithering

A magnified frame of the above animation with even less colors. Without dithering, the sky showcases noticable color banding.

Choose the right Frame Rate

The timing of GIF animations is measured in hundredths of a second. Exact values corresponding to traditional frame rates (like 30 FPS) are not possible. The frame rate control in Claquette maps common frame rate settings to the best matching GIF frame timing. Higher frame rates usually result in larger files - However, this may vary depending on the exported footage. A screen recording where only the mouse cursor is in motion most of the time can use a high frame rate without adding much weight to the file size. This is because Claquette only encodes the changing areas of a frame into the final GIF.

Advanced Tweaks

Instead of writing each frame, pixel for pixel, Claquette only writes the difference between 2 frames into a GIF file. Two parameters that control the calculation of the frame difference are: "Diff Threshold" and "Diff Smoothing". Those settings control the accuracy that Claquette uses when comparing the current frame with the next one. A "Diff Threshold" level of "0" means, that a pixel of the current frame has to have the exact same color as the same pixel in the predecessor frame to be omitted. Videos with constant lighting and not much vertical motion usually can use higher values for "Diff Threshold". This can greatly reduce file size because it removes redundant pixel information and noise from the GIF. "Diff Smoothing" can be used to compensate side effects of "Diff threshold". The impact of those 2 settings is highly variable and depends on the nature of the video material. Claquette uses conservative starting values for both. Tweaking and experimenting with them can pay off greatly.

Additional Tipps

The "Adaptive" preset in the export sheet is a good starting point for starting your tweaks. It analyzes your content and initializes all parameters to values that maintain a good balance between file size and visual quality. When you start to edit specific parameters, Claquette automatically switches to the "Custom" preset. This preset always stores the last used set of parameters. Those settings will be loaded the next time you open the settings sheet. After you found a good setup, you can also use the Preset system in Claquette to store your current settings. Click on the "Preset" popup button and choose "Create Preset..." to provide a name for the current set of parameters.

Animated GIF Alternatives

While GIF is a versatile format, that can be displayed on almost every operating system and device, it has quality and size disadvantages when compared to modern video codecs. If the target medium supports them, it's better to choose modern video codecs like H.264 or HEVC . They provide way smaller file sizes and better visual quality. If the content is displayed on the web, removing the audio track and auto-playing an endless loop can emulate popular GIF features.
Another alternative is the lesser-known animated PNG format. aPNG is not as well-supported as animated GIF, but it does provides 32-bit color support. Claquette also supports editing and exporting animated PNGs.

Claquette is available as free download from the Mac App Store .

Claquette 2.0 is here

Tuesday 02. June 2020 16:17:01 UTC+02:00 - Thomas Zoechling

Claquette just got a major update! We are happy to announce that Claquette 2.0 is available from the Mac App Store .
Besides numerous bug fixes and internal improvements, this update brings major new features that make Claquette an even more versatile video utility.

Drawing

The new export dialog allows you to resize and convert your videos

Here's a brief rundown of the main new features:

Video Import

Claquette is no longer a screen recording-only app. You can now also import your video or GIF files and edit them with our easy-to-use features such as "Crop" or "Trim".

iOS Device Recording

Besides your Mac's screen, you can now also record the screen of your iPhone or iPad. After connecting your device via Lightning cable, you can select it as recording screen in the Claquette recording window.

Dark Mode & Touch Bar support

To top off our 2.0 release, we also implemented support for the latest macOS technologies. The new version can be used in Dark Mode and also adds support for the Touch Bar.

To learn more about all new additions in Claquette 2.0, please refer to the release notes .