My year in apps

Getting towards the end of the year, so it feels like a good time to review the things on the phone. A lot of old standbys here, a few new things. I have what the wife calls “an app problem,” so I’ve limited it here to one screen on my phone — the one with the apps I’m using regularly.

There are so many apps. So. Many. Bad. Apps. Photo and video apps are fast-growing part of the app ecosphere, but so many are done poorly. It’s not a depth vs. flexibility so much as it is just poor design and coding choices.

Here’s what I’m using now (narrative below the ThingLink if you’re the kind who still likes words):

Still using FiLMiC Pro for videography. The iOS8 update has made it a world-beater. You can control the ISO, aperture and frame rate on it now. The developers fixed a HUGE problem with trim editing in the app, so it’s now possible to easily trim and create sub-clips for exporting. And they coded in lots of manual color correction options — white balance, saturation, contrast and brightness.

Lots of time spent in Pinnacle Studio, just like last year. iOS8 didn’t bring a lot of obvious changes to the app, and that’s OK, because it’s just a good solid editing app. It doesn’t stabilize or color-correct. It edits. It has one audio/video track and three audio tracks. It has a frame-by-frame editor.  It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. A major improvement in the newest version is the ability to transfer project files from the phone version to the tablet version via AirDrop, keeping the project assets intact. Rough-cutting on the phone and finishing on the iPad is nice.

I’ve been doing some multi-camera stuff this year and found the awkwardly named RecoLive MultiCam the app I keep going back to. I can slave up to three other devices to my phone or tablet and stream their video to me. I can tap-edit angles in real time and it will save my shots for me or I can transfer all the raw feeds back to my phone or tablet and edit them at my leisure there.

Hyperlapse is Instagram’s timelapse product. It’s free and it’s pretty great, but don’t use it as a timelapse app, since there are better ones out there. Use it as way to produce stable tracking shots. The app stitches together different frames and matches the subjects in them to deliver a stabilized shot. Here’s an example that I did at 2X speed; there’s a lot less bounce than you’d expect going up the steps and the tracking to the left is much smoother than my normal awkward gait:

I still find myself using a variety of apps for audio. I’d give a toe off my left foot for a single app that did everything I wanted it to do.

Voice Record Pro is a sentimental favorite that visually shows levels and exports to pretty much every file format that matters. It stands alone in allowing an audio file to be exported as a video file so that you can split out the audio in a video editor and not have to go through weird import voodoo things. I wish it let me monitor sound as it was recording.

MultiTrack DAW was designed to record and mix music, rather than journalism, so it’s maybe a little too button-pushy for me. But if I’m recording and producing content in the field, it’s the only app that allows me to do it without constantly crashing (looking at you, Voddio).

TwistedWaveEditor is a high-quality, well thought-out app for single-track editing. If it were multi-track it would be perfect. As it is, if I’m recording and editing a single track, this is what I use. Its files open in most other apps, it has really good filters and adjustments and I can monitor while I listen.

AirStash+ is more a piece of hardware than an app, but I’m including it here since it has an app and I use it a lot and this is my blog. Anyway, storage space is at a premium on mobile devices and the AirStash+ is basically an SD card that fits into its own WiFi hotspot. I use it to move files on and off whatever I’m shooting on, particularly if I’m doing a longer-term thing using the my iPad, which is only 16GB (note to reader: Don’t buy a 16GB iPad if you’re doing video).

Camera+  is an app that I’m less enamored of than I was. They incorporated manual controls into their iOS8 version and it still give you a lot more control than the native camera app. I just don’t like the design and the inability to obviously lock some of the settings. I do love the in-app editing functions, though. You could use just those and accomplish 90 percent of your editing without leaving the app.

LapseIt is, for my money, the best timelapse app out there. It’s a very narrow app, but a very deep one. Doing timelapses requires you to worry about exposure, locking focus and frame rate. LapseIt lets you manage all of those in very granular ways. Its newest version lets you import pre-existing video from the Camera Roll and change its speed, which is very handy if you capture something but don’t want to go into a full-fledged editing program to slow it down.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie: 360 Panorama creates immersive panoramic shots very quickly then shares them (bonus: it generates an embed code, too). Anyone who has ever spent time swearing over the combination of tripod angle changes and stitching together 18 shots in Photoshop will love this. And the 360-degree shot is an easy way to put the reader/viewer/user there.

For photo editing, I’m all about SnapSeed. It’s fuller functioned than the next best product (made by Adobe), is intuitive to use and allows for spot edits, rather than full-frame ones.

I am the most anti-scrapbook kind of person you will ever meet, largely because I have the emotional range of a turtle. So it took me awhile to come around to using a collage app, because, you know, it seems so scrapbooky. There’s fodder for another blog post and at least two or three visits to a therapist in those last couple sentences, but collage apps are great because we can get a lot of information into what the Internet sees as a single picture. We can use those as the foundations for other apps.  I love Diptic because it’s fast, easy to use and easy to make corrections on.

I’m a huge fan of ThingLink, which puts interactive layers over photos right from the field.

I love TypeA. Everyone who uses it loves it too, since it creates a caption beneath a photo, saves it as a photo to the Camera Roll which can then go direct to the social web or can be used as the basis for another interactive graphic. No longer do you have to waste 140 characters telling people what’s in the photo.

ChartMaker Pro is great for meetings where you’re live-tweeting and there’s lots of tabular data being presented. There’s nothing fancy here. The app creates Excel-looking charts that can go to social or back into the Camera Roll where you can bring them in and out of other apps.

These next three are storytelling apps: Steller allows you to incorporate multimedia into a book-style Web and mobile-friendly presentation. Storehouse is the Snowfall of the iOS story platform world: It’s a words n’ pictures machine with automatic video play based on scroll depth. StoryByte makes photo slideshows complete with captions that go direct to the social web.

Next time: Stuff in the bag, including some odds and ends I didn’t think would make it there.