Earlier in the week I wrote a post about making instafax style video using free stuff online. A few commentators, on and off the site, suggested that this would be the kind of thing you could do with your ipad. So I thought I would take a look.
The short answer is: You’d think it would be easy. Actually it’s a bit of a pain.
The first step is finding a way to make the image/text side of things,
Making nice images.
I tried a few apps to see if I could get that combination of editing (cropping and image manipulation) and text that I got from Pixlr.
A neat solution to the image manipulation and cropping came from Aviary. Their app has a neat crop tool and the image manipulation/filter tools are nice to play with. But Aviary’s text tools are pretty limited. You can add text but it’s limited by size and is always center aligned. Not quite what I want.
I also had a look at the Instagram focused end of the market. One app that I liked was AfterPhoto. It crops to a square ratio but the text tool is limited to one line at a time. What makes up for that limitation however is the ability to add ‘layers’ of text. Another option was Over. It shares a similar style of editing with Afterphoto but the text tools are pretty flexible. It’s not free though.
As it turned out Pixlr was also the solution to the problem on ipad as it was on the web, with it’s PixlrExpress app. Square cropping, nice text and image manipulation Well done Autodesk! The only thing to remember with PixlrExpress is apply all your filters etc. before you add text!
Being positive about it, you could say that you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to image editing apps on the ipad. You could range around and cherry-pick the nice fonts and filters from a number of them.
Making the video
There are surprisingly few, useful, free apps for video editing on ipads. ‘But wait a minute Andy’ you cry. ‘What about imovie’. Technically you could say that’s cheating anyway as it’s only free if you happen to own a swanky new ipad. The rest of us chumps paid for it! But it’s nice and swish.
Sadly it falls at the first hurdle. In Apple’s cuddly style it demands that any stills fill the screen and are animated to make them dynamic and interesting. Now I love a good Ken Burns effect as much as the next man but it’s not what we want here.
Another issues is that you can’t set the resolution of the video clip (you cant set a custom width and height) so any video produced would be cropped by instagram. iMovie Fail!
In terms of other video editing options, it’s slim pickings. There are a few free video editor that I tried but most failed when it came to keeping the images in the right resolution. Some did but watermarked the video. In one way that was less of a problem as instagram actually crops it out. But that’s not the most ethical or fair way to go.
The best solution I found was an app called Flipagram. A very neat app that will quickly build up a slideshow for you. It has the added bonus of allowing you to record your own narration. That could be a real plus-point for those looking to leverage the audio-slideshow style of narrative. The downside is that it does add a watermark.
And the result…
But what about adding video…
If you do want to mix video and images (and have both behave in terms of resolution) then, I’m afraid, you’re paying for an app. Even if you pay, as I said before, it’s slim pickings. The big problem, as far as recreating instafax goes, is that the text tools on most editing apps are risible.
If I had to recommend an app (and a workflow) it would be a combination of VideoCrop (free) and Pinnacle Studio.(£8.99). Use video crop to crop the video to the right format and then use Pinnacle to piece it together. Pinnacle respects the aspect ration of the video and images you use so any video you output should crop nicely in Instagram. Be prepared to wrangle with the tools though (especially text and the mystical composite setting). It’s a steep learning curve.
So it is possible to recreate my original experiment on an iPad using free tools. But the process underlined for me that the assumption that your iPad/smartphone/tablet, is a multimedia power house is pretty wide of the mark. Moving outside the TV box with video is a case of moving around apps. A combination of tools will get the job done but as with most things, money buys you flexibility.
That said, if image slideshows is your thing then the Pixlr/Flipagram combination is a winner in my books.
Let me know what you think.