February 22, 2014
For journalists — or anyone else — looking to create audio slideshows, the software standard has long been Soundslides. This app has a well-earned reputation for getting the job done, especially among those of us who don’t have time for a steep learning curve.
But it has a couple disadvantages. First is the cost: $39.95 for the basic version and $69.95 for the “plus” version. I have nothing against developers making a living, but with money increasingly scarce in the news industry, and the middle class under threat, anything that saves a few dollars is welcome.
Another disadvantage is that the files must be stored on server space owned by the user. Cost shouldn’t be a huge obstacle if you’re supported by an employer, but unfortunately it often comes into play. And it’s definitely a barrier if you’re on your own.
Because of this, I have been searching for a free alternative to Soundslides. That search fruitless was fruitless until recently with the discovery of an iPhone and iPad app called Explory. The name may be a bit lacking in style, but it packs a lot of features.
What impressed me most is that you can combine pictures, videos, voiceover, music and text into one presentation. I have yet to see another program that does all five.
This means means you can put photos and narration together to make the equivalent of an audio slideshow. The music and text are an nice bonus. And the video — well, that opens all kinds of creative opportunities.
Still, it’s one thing to have features and another to actually use them. As it turns out, creating “explories” is simple. First you add photos, videos and music. Or you can capture photos and video from with in the app. Second, you can record a narration. Third, you can add or edit text on an image. And fourth, you can set image duration, sound levels and other properties.
Images in the storyline are rearranged by tapping and dragging. You can add optional details by dropping one image on top of another. Plus, you can have a music track start on the image of your choice.
The app’s Help file is well worth looking into as the possibilities for creation are extensive to say the least.
On top of all this, a big advantage of Explory is the nice price of free. You are asked to sign in if you want to share your work with other Explory users, but otherwise there doesn’t appear to be a catch.
But what if you want to embed your story on a website? You can do that, too. If you sign in and post your presentation to Explory, it will show up on the explore.com website. From there, sharing gives you the option of an iframe embed code.
The only real problem I see with Explory is that it is one of several similar apps vying for our affections, some of which don’t appear to have a business plan other than hope to become popular and figure out something later. So, while your Explory creations will work great for now, it’s hard to know whether they’ll be around a year or two from now.
Despite this reservation, Explory is definitely worth exploring. The tools are all there for anyone with a story to tell.
Update: Another reservation is that all your content has to be in your iPhone or iPad. This is not helpful if you have a bunch of great photos in your camera that you want to use. Luckily, there is an article at Giga Om that covers all the bases on how to transfer those pictures.
Update 2: Peter Goldie, one of the founders at Explory, wrote to clear up a couple of points: First, they do indeed have a business plan involving payment for extra storage, and have every intention of staying around for the long haul. Second, the company has plans to make it easier for users to access photos from services such as Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox and Google+.
Below is an example of an Explory story called Pizza Night: