We all know that guy. While the rest of us are making static, boring slide decks, he shows off some whiz-bang presentation video with dizzying transitions. Or that girl, who, instead of sending a short email announcement, stitches together an animated video message … with music.
Get ready to become that guy. Or that girl.
Adobe, maker of Photoshop, has just launched an app called Voice that makes producing animated videos really simple. Animated videos are any type of continuous video that uses moving shapes, graphic images or icons as part of the story. Pros generally use complex, expensive software to create these, but animation software — along with other video editing tools — is becoming more accessible.
Voice is free, and currently only works on iPad (yes, Adobe has made something that works brilliantly on iPad). Using Voice, I was able to make short, slick-looking animated videos in under an hour. I would highly recommend using Voice if you want to punch up a work presentation, produce a marketing video, or send friends a fun video message or invitation.
Voice still doesn’t come close to pro-level video-creation apps, though — at least, not in its current form. It offers a limited number of manual editing capabilities, so I wasn’t able to customize my videos very much. Serious producers will still turn to Adobe’s more advanced software. Other multimedia gurus might want to consider a service like Moovly, which offers fairly robust, Web-based animation software. And then there’s Apple’s iMovie or its $20 Keynote app, which lets you put “magic moves” on objects in a slide deck and animate charts.
But if you don’t have any prior multimedia experience and you’re looking for easy, Voice is your app.
To get started on Voice, you can either sign in to your existing Adobe Creative Cloud account, or create a new one. Pro tip: If you think you’ll want to use your own photos instead of the ones Adobe provides, it’s a good idea to first create a Dropbox folder with all of these elements, which you’ll be able to access through the app.
Voice offers a short tutorial when you first get started, but you likely won’t need it. You tap “Create a New Story” at the top of the app’s homepage, and everything else is intuitive.
There are different types of “story” guides for you to choose from, like Promote An Idea, Explain Something, Tell What Happened, or Make Your Own. Next is the creation page. At the top, there are three tabs: Layout, Themes and Music. You can choose from five layouts (Fullscreen Photo or Photo + Caption), 32 themes (Impact! Chalk! Playful!), and 35 short, professionally composed music tracks, ranging from thoughtful to rousing to uplifting. You can also import your own track from your music library.
After choosing a layout, theme and music, there are really just two parts left to the Voice-app creation process. For each scene in your video, you can record a short voice track by holding down the microphone icon and speaking directly into the iPad’s microphone. This can feel a little awkward; if you happen to have a lapel mic or directional microphone, some will work with iPad and give you better-quality audio, too.
Then you add imagery to each scene, by tapping on the tiny “add” button in the middle of the screen. You can select from Adobe’s library of 25,000 icons, grab a photo from the iPad, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Facebook or Dropbox, or add text.
Since I regularly use other software to create videos with “real” images, I was eager to make videos that look like animations and mostly used Adobe’s icons. Most of my searches — “health,” “running,” “mobile phone,” “desk,” “workers,” “happy” — pulled up dozens of icons in the Voice library.
I made three different animated videos this week, each about a minute long. One was an explanatory piece on unemployment statistics, another a marketing video for a grad-school project and, finally, a fun video “invitation” to send to my mom, who is flying out to visit me in California for a few weeks. I also made my weekly review video using Voice, which you can see below.
When I was done creating, I opted to share each video via email. This can take a few minutes, since the video has to first upload to Adobe’s cloud. Recipients told me they were able to view my shared videos on a Web browser without issue, and without having to first download Adobe Voice.
Voice’s limitations are its biggest downsides. Even if you’re not an experienced multimedia producer, you might wish the videos were more customizable. (“So, everyone’s going to be showing the same animated video in their presentations soon?” a colleague joked when I showed him the app.)
You can’t prerecord your voice track and then import it into Voice. You have to record it through the iPad, scene by scene. This is maybe the biggest drawback. I record voice tracks pretty frequently, but some friends told me I sounded robotic in the Adobe Voice video, because of the pauses I had to take in between each scene. You also can’t insert your own “transitions” — like a blur or a wipe — between each scene.
You can pinch to scale photos, but you can’t change the size of icons, or rotate them. You can’t have more than two photos or icons in each scene. You can’t move the photos, icons or text in any way — they’re stuck in the position determined by the layout.
My sense is that Voice is meant to be a kind of gateway app to the company’s more advanced software, or that it might eventually be upgraded to a “freemium” experience.
For basic animations, though, Adobe Voice is a great place to start.