UPDATE 12/9/2012: Some of the information in this post regarding SonicPics is inaccurate because the app’s features have been updated. It IS possible with SonicPics to save a video to your iOS camera roll and open that recording in both ReelDirector and iMovie for further editing. I will post a more complete, updated review of SonicPics soon and will link it here when it’s available.

Yesterday I attended the Saturday portion of “SuperStart” weekend in Grand Prairie, Texas, with my daughter, Sarah. SuperStart is a 1.5 day, Christian ministry experience designed specifically for pre-teens. I wanted to document the event along with Sarah, so I asked her to use the iOS application Sonic Pics to narrate about ten photos from the weekend which I took using Pro Camera on my iPhone. Since the lighting at the event’s concert was irregular, the exposure controls on Pro Camera came in handy both for still image as well as video recording. I published the three minute, narrated slideshow Sarah created with a friend to YouTube.

I had wanted to use this Sonic Pics-created video as the introduction to a montage video of clips from the weekend, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I wanted to create my videos entirely on the iPhone, because the syncing as well as editing processes can be time consuming. I also wanted to further explore the boundaries of mobile-only video editing. Sonic Pics creates a M4V video file, rather than a .mov QuickTime movie, and it does NOT let users export the video to the iPhone’s camera roll. The best I could do was turn on the application’s sharing feature, and download Sarah’s reflection video directly to my laptop.

Local file sharing mode for SonicPics

I tried exporting / converting the M4V file into a QuickTime .mov file using both QuickTime 7 and the latest version of QuickTime Player for Mac OS 10.6.6.

Converting M4V to MOV with QuickTime Player

Converting M4V to MOV with QuickTime Player 7

To directly transfer those video files back to my iPhone over wifi, I used the $2 Photo Transfer app.

Transfer photos and videos TO iOS device

The app allows photos as well as .mov videos to be downloaded as well as uploaded directly from an iOS device to a laptop or desktop computer.

iPhone Video Transfer over Wifi

Unfortunately, neither my QuickTime Pro 7 or QuickTime Player converted .mov files would transfer over to my iPhone. I’m not sure but I suspect the conversion options I chose were NOT actually changing the video file from the M4V format into a MOV format the iPhone likes. This was getting frustrating.

Since Sonic Pics didn’t seem to be able to create a MOV file I could integrate into a larger video project on the iPhone, I turned to the free iOS app StoryRobe. Since I was working on this after Sarah had gone to bed, I went ahead and recorded a three minute introduction to “SuperStart” using similar photos to those she’d used for her Sonic Pics version. StoryRobe may appear to have less features and power than Sonic Pics, but in my case this weekend it was the preferable app because of file compatibility issues. StoryRobe outputs a .mov QuickTime file and DOES permit users to save that video directly out to the iPhone’s Photo Gallery / Photo Roll. (It saves it there by default after rendering a project, in fact.) I was delighted to now have a narrated, “introductory” video which I would HOPEFULLY be able to use as the first clip of a mobile-edited video montage.

I next tried using the $5 iOS iMovie application to create my larger movie. Unfortunately, iMovie on the iPhone4 will NOT recognize .mov files created by StoryRobe. It just “likes” the videos actually shot/taken by the iPhone itself. I’m guessing this is a video resolution issue: iMovie4 likes HD video, and the lower-resolution video exported by StoryRobe wasn’t what it expects / needs.

Since iMovie had failed me, I turned to the $2 video editing app ReelDirector. To my great joy, ReelDirector readily imported my .mov file exported by StoryRobe and also imported my iPhone-recorded videos from the SuperStart event. I was able to insert five different video clips recorded on my iPhone after my initially imported StoryRobe introductory video, using ReelDirector.

ReelDirector "Hybrid" Movie using a StoryRobe MOV file and iPhone video

Rather than upload the video directly from the ReelDirector app, which I could have done, I downloaded it to my laptop and uploaded to YouTube from there. My final movie is 9.5 minutes long.

The resolution of this ReelDirector-created video is only 425×344, which is low resolution compared to today’s HD formats. For web sharing, however, it’s plenty good and I’m very pleased with it. I’m delighted to be able to create this kind of “hybrid” mobile video using just the iPhone, thanks to StoryRobe as well as ReelDirector. I think this combined use of mobile videography apps would be a great thing to teach aspiring Storychasers! If you have suggestions for how to improve or change the processes I’ve described here, I’d love to hear about them.

For more links and resources related to mobile videography, see the “video” page of my formative “Talk with Media” website. I’ll be leading a BYOL session at ISTE11 in Philadelphia which will address, among other things, how to create and share mobile videos like these.

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