Turning inner space into outer space

September 30, 2013

Shadow Puppet is a promising new app for creating audio slideshows

I have yet to use it in a mission critical situation, but I’m enthused enough about an app called Shadow Puppet to give it a hands-on, first-look review.

Apps like this come to my attention from time to time because of a desire to find an alternative to Soundslides. Although a great program and highly recommended, it requires server space for the finished product. If the place where you work is reluctant to provide this, then you need find a way around this obstacle.

One way is to instead use iMovie, then upload to YouTube and embed the code on your site. This excellent video shows how.

On the other hand, Shadow Puppet — while lacking a key feature — makes things even easier. You can do it all from your iPhone and they provide the server space and embed code.

You create a puppet, as they’re called, by first choosing some pictures from your camera roll. For example, you may have taken several pictures of some major new facility that has just opened in town. Tap all those pictures, then move them around to the order you want. You have the option of removing some if you chose too many.

The next step is to tap the recording button to tell a story about the pictures. As you record, you can move from one picture to the next, readjust them within their frame and touch areas you want to highlight with a soft burst of colour.

When you’re done, just tap save. From there, you have the option of sharing by email, Twitter, Facebook or the Shadow Puppet app. The end product is quite slick, and would look right at home on any website.

I found getting the embed code a bit tricky. They say you can find it on the web page, but what does that mean exactly? Here’s how I found it: I shared the puppet with myself via email and tapped the link provided. This took me to a web page via Safari — but there was no embed code that I could find. So I copied and pasted the URL into Mail and sent it to myself so I could open it in Safari on my iMac. And there, sure enough, was a button for the embed. I really hope there’s an easier way.

While puppets are simple and fun to create, this ease-of-use comes at the expense of an important feature found in Soundslides — the ability to bring in audio files from other sources. It would be nice, for example, if you could have not only pictures from the tour but also an interview with the person who runs the place. This interview could then be brought in as the sound track for the pictures.

I suggested this via Twitter and was told that it might be a feature in an upcoming release. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Below is a puppet giving instructions on how to create one: