Monday, May 9, 2011

May's Highlighted Apps: ReelDirector and FlipBoom Lite

I’ve been working on digital storytelling projects with my elementary ESOL students. The first app I was using was FlipBoom Lite.  FlipBoom allows students to draw their story, one page at a time, capture each frame with a photo and play the frames like a flipbook. There is a shadow feature so they can trace the shadow of the last frame onto the next with slight differences to emulate motion.  The play feature is a slideshow almost that can have the speed settings altered. There is an option to load it to the web but not to export it otherwise. My younger primary students took to it because it was very simple. The older ones liked it to but I could tell that they wanted to do more with it. FlipBoom was a good start but I really wanted a more robust video editing tool that could be used by primary and secondary students alike. I finally found it in ReelDirector.

ReelDirector, from SynapticLight, is found in the iTunes App store for $1.99 and is worth every penny if not more. I was able to take the frames the students created in FlipBoom plus regular photos that I had and import them onto the storyboard area of ReelDirector. From there, I could add in more photos, videos and create transitions between slides if desired. I like the transition customization tool’s interface. Simple feature but nicely done.

Adding sound is another welcomed feature. In the other apps, I couldn’t add sounds easily or couldn’t add them at all. Students were frustrated by this. With ReelDirector, students (or teachers) can record their own voice frame per frame or across the entire story. They can also add music and from there I found another great tool. If you don’t have music on your iPad, don’t worry…. they have a feature for that too. Maybe you don’t have music on your iPad but you do on a PC or Mac. There is a button titled “My Music”. From there, click the plus sign over the wireless signal icon and it directs you to type in a URL, or web address, in the browser of your computer. On the following screen, there are simple directions to choose the music file on your computer and then upload. You’ll see the music transferring on the iPad within the ReelDirector app. Now you can send music to your iPad directly over the wireless. Nice feature and simple to use.

Editing, compressing and rendering are icing on the cake. Before editing was just an eraser in other apps. Now I have a crop, subtitle, text and closing credit tools. To edit music or sounds added, just touch and hold and then you can either delete or slide and move the sound to where you want it. There is the option to fade sounds in and out and adjust the volume. The ability to pan and zoom in on a still photo adds another touch. The students like zooming in on a still picture and then panning out as if the still photo was moving.

There are a few items to comment on although they didn’t impair use very much for us. To play your movie, even if you are still working on it and want to add more, you’ll need to render it. You can still edit it again but a preview play would be nice instead of just for the panning in a particular slide. You can preview when looking at the Zoom and Pan in feature but allowing the students to record themselves and quickly preview their story with their narrations from where they are would allow them to work more productively. Also, it doesn’t automatically import videos from the video library.  In the help topics, it is mentioned to go to settings under the Photos app and choose “include video as well”.

Overall, I found this app to be very useful and user-friendly for my students at each grade level in developing their stories. This is one I plan to use for other projects as well.

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