Adobe Voice: a simple, free iPad app for making explainer videos
With no fanfare at all, Adobe has released a curious little iPad app called Voice - a very simple presentational tool for putting together “explainer videos”. You might not be familiar with that term (I wasn't), but the style is instantly recognisable: we're talking about those jaunty little shorts in which a disembodied voice, dripping with warmth and earnestness, talks the listener through the basics of a project or proposition, normally over a bed of plinky-plonky ukulele music.
The software itself works similarly to PowerPoint; your video comprises a series of pages, onto each of which you place a graphic, or some text, or a combination of the two. Then, you hold down the record button to lay down a voiceover for each page using the iPad’s built-in microphone - and you're done. As workflows go, it doesn't get much simpler than this.
Several templates are included to help you with the overall structure, such as “Promote an Idea” or “Share an Invitation”. These simply pre-populate your video with a series of pages, captioned with prompts such as “introduce who’s organising the event”, “describe what you’re inviting the audience to join” and so forth.
Following the formula
It's an approach that can make things feel a little formulaic, and that sense is reinforced when you realise there are just five page layouts to choose from (six if you count a slide containing only text). Voice takes care of all the transitions and animations too - there's literally nothing to configure in this area.
When it comes to the appearance of your video, you get a generous 32 themes to choose from. Many of these are quite beautiful, with tasteful colour schemes and expressive typefaces. Again, though, they're not at all customisable, and you can’t mix and match themes within a single video. The same goes for the 37 baked-in musical themes, handily sorted into moods such as “Thoughtful”, “Uplifting” and “Rousing”.
Thankfully, it is possible to work some personal character into your video by inserting your own images. These can come from the Camera Roll; from the iPad’s own camera app; or from Facebook, Dropbox or, inevitably, a Creative Cloud account. If you prefer to use stock symbols and photos, you can perform an aggregated search of Google, Flickr and similar sources from inside the program. Only Creative Commons-licensed content is offered, so you don't have to worry about rights, and Voice automatically adds the appropriate information to a Credits card at the end, so attribution is taken care of as well.
The finished product
I know what you’re waiting for, so here it is: my own Voice video...
Clearly, Voice is focused on getting results quickly and easily, and on those terms it's a great success. If you're at all familiar with “real” video editing software you'll appreciate that producing the above video from scratch would have taken a long time and considerable expertise. In Voice it took me less than ten minutes, with no perceptible learning curve whatsoever.
The trade-off is that creativity takes a back seat, to the extent that it’s basically impossible to produce a non-generic video. The front end of the app showcases a selection of Voice videos, and even though these address a variety of topics and draw on different themes, you only have to watch two or three of them for the style to become overfamiliar.
Yet I'm optimistic, because it's hard to imagine that what we have here represents Adobe's complete vision. There’s clearly scope for all sorts of creative features to be plumbed into future releases, and the way this first version has appeared so quietly (and for free) suggests to me that Adobe itself feels that there's more to be done.
That being the case, I'm excited for Voice's potential. I won’t be recommending it to my friends just yet, not least because I know what that would do to my Facebook timeline. But with just a little development it could really bring some fantastic communicative possibilities into the mainstream.