Quintessential ScreenFlow: The Birth of a Solar System

The next video I want to share comes from John Pavlus, sci-tech writer/filmmaker. John recently shared this video he produced for NPR.org, called The Birth of a Solar System.

In this beautiful 2-minute piece, Robert Krulwich and “co-pilot” Michael Benson take a voyage to examine a “baby solar system”. John used ScreenFlow to capture all the onscreen images, and extensive hours of After Effects work by a professional animator to create this video.

What I love about it is that it truly gives you the illusion that you’re flying. According to John, “We …noticed that letting the image remain still for even a single frame totally blew the illusion of being in space, so [we] made sure to include subtle twists and barrel rolls in our imaginary spacecraft’s motion even when we weren’t “zooming” toward anything.Movement in video

In this video, movement serves to help enhance the experience of exploration. But I’ve also noticed how effective movement can be in more “traditional” screencasts, such as product demos, to create more visually interesting shots. I’m not suggesting you should be using barrel rolls in your screencasts, but when you’re on a single screen for an extended period of time, you can keep people engaged by simply adding a subtle zoom or pan. We’ve all seen screencasts where, though there’s mouse movement, the screen remains static for several minutes with just a voiceover to keep us engaged. It makes me think “boring PowerPoint”. As long as you’re using video, why not take advantage of some of these techniques to help create more interesting visuals?

John Basile over at Scraster does a good job of incorporating movement into his screencasts – even when showing a single screen. See an example.

Of course, as with all special effects in video, you have to use these tools judiciously to tell your story without distracting or drawing attention to the movie magic itself.

Take a look at your own videos: can adding some movement to your shots increase interest, or help your audience feel more engaged?


  1. Christine

    Love this post, Lynn. Really shows how the subtleties add so much to the finished product. Off to watch that soothing “Birth of a Solar System” video yet again!

  2. Inspiring. I tried to duplicate some of the effects using a movie trailer playing in Apple Keynote with a few actions added. Here’s the results of a few minutes work and I didn’t use After Effects.


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