There has been quite a bit of interest on Twitter towards Adobe’s latest free iPad app for digital storytelling – Voice. We thought we’d take a proper look at it.
It’s a very simple app that helps you create attractive videos. It will appeal to anyone who wants to quickly put together a story, a short promo video, a teaching resource or even just a slideshow. Like all digital storytelling, it would also work well as a learning activity around a topic, a way for students to capture reflective learning or activities on placement or fieldwork.
But I have some concerns that it’s fashionable style will lose impact quite quickly.
On our digital storytelling workshops we often get asked about using mobile devices for producing video and it’s something I’ve blogged about before. There’s a range of good apps out there, mostly for iOS, like Splice and iMovie. What makes Voice any different?
Here’s how Adobe pitch it…
To keep things simple, you don’t get anything like the flexibility of the iMovie app, but Voice is trying to do something quite particular. It’s about removing as many obstacles as possible so you can quickly create and share your ideas.
Steve and I had a go with it for about an hour and, after a little bit of planning on paper, I was able to produce this short story:
Aside from the persistent hiss from the microphone (which I’m putting down to user error) it produces a very attractive video and the process of putting it together was very quick and pain-free.
I went into this cold without thinking of what I wanted to say which we recommend you never do! To help, Voice has a nice “inspiration” feature which scrolls through some simple suggestions to get you started. One labelled “the time I made a bad decision” got me started on mine.
It’s easy to switch between themes, which change things like the background and borders of images. There are enough to be able to create a number of videos without them looking too similar. If in doubt, there’s always “Simple”.
Putting it all together
Building the story couldn’t have been much simpler. You can either start by recording your audio for each image then finding something to suit or, like me, build a slideshow of images so I could see the whole story laid out, then add the voice later.
The app accesses a large library of Creative Commons (CC) images from across websites like Flickr, 500px and the Noun Project. It’s possible to drill down into each picture to find its source and the exact license terms so you don’t end up in a sticky IPR situation further down the road.
The Noun Project, if you haven’t come across it before, gives you a huge array of CC licensed icons and pictograms which are quite fashionable at the moment.
You can, of course, use your own images or add text.
Recording your voiceover is as simple as pressing and holding an on-screen button and talking. It’s very easy to discard old takes until you get a good performance. The sound quality on my story is poorer than I would have expected, but it’s possible to get plug-in mics for iPads which will be more reliable than the built-in one.
Voice comes with a choice of music as well, although there’s a lot I’d file under “whimsical”. If your video’s topic was serious you might struggle to find something appropriate but you could always turn the music off. Importing tracks from elsewhere is a no-no.
Sharing your story
Unlike other apps it’s not possible to save the video to your Camera Roll to upload to Youtube or Vimeo which I found frustrating Finished videos are hosted on Adobe’s Creative Cloud service so you’ll need to sign up for a free Adobe account to share it if you don’t already have one. The Voice desktop site will give you an embed code if you want to add it to a web page as I’ve done in this post.
I recognise that this is to keep everything simple but not being able to incorporate these videos onto existing platforms is a real shortcoming that makes it harder to share these videos effectively. It’s also a pain to keep track of videos you have made as you can’t view all your creations from a profile page.
Videos can be set to private if you are unhappy for the uninvited to see it. In this case, only those with the URL can view it. It’s unclear whether published videos are automatically CC licensed or whether Adobe is automatically granted permission to use them for commercial purposes. I’ve asked them and will update this post when I get a reply.
The appeal of Voice is obvious. You can create something very attractive in a short space of time in a way that suits a whole range of purposes.
It’s very easy to use. A tutorial guides you through the process the first time you run it but the app is intuitive enough for most people to find their way round it without help. I was impressed with the range of themes, images and icons that are available. There’s enough choice to avoid feeling like you’re remaking exactly the same video over and over again.
On the flip side, despite the variety of images and themes, there’s a very definite style to these videos that’s similar to quite a lot of advertising content that’s out there at the moment. So although it looks great, the more people use this, the harder it will be to differentiate your creations from other people’s work. The limited musical palette won’t help that. I can almost hear the groans of “not another Voice video”!
A similar thing happened with Animoto when it was at the peak of its popularity a few years ago so it’s nothing new and certainly not a reason to avoid Voice. It’s only relevant if you are actively trying to create something that stands out from the crowd, for public engagement or marketing for example.
Overall, I would be happy to use Voice as part of the mix of things we look at in our digital storytelling work. It’s fun, easy and can create some pretty good results.