Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

First experiences with web-based digital story editing: JumpCut!

Update on 29 July 2016: Viddler (@viddler) is referenced in this post from 8 years ago and has shifted its business model/focus in a different direction.

Today was day 2 of our July Celebrate Oklahoma Voices workshop for educators, and this afternoon’s agenda involved three hours of (almost) uninterrupted work time for teachers, administrators, and librarians participating in the workshop. In the first day and a half of our workshop, educators learned:

In addition to helping teachers with their questions, I took this opportunity to explore and utilize JumpCut to create my first-ever online edited digital story titled “Jim Thorpe: An American Athletic Legend.”

I do love iMovie and am fairly enthusiastic about PhotoStory3 (as enthusiastic as I probably can get about a free Windows-based application) but I’ve been yearning for a web-based video editing solution for digital storytelling that will function the same on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers. I heard about Jumpcut several years ago and have had it listed as one of several web-based video editing solutions on my main digital storytelling workshop curriculum wiki, but until today I’d never actually taken the time to create a full digital story with it.

Overall, I am VERY pleased and impressed with JumpCut. It does not appear filmmakers have the ability to customize the Ken Burns effect in JumpCut videos like you can do with PhotoStory3 and iMovie, which is a big shortcoming, but in general the functionality is excellent for projects like ours in Celebrate Oklahoma Voices. We use Audacity to create the entire background audio track for the digital story and then sequence/time still photos to accompany that audio track. JumpCut works great for this type of workflow.

I’m eager to experiment more with JumpCut. I’m not sure if we’ll ever entirely abandon client-side video/photo and digital storytelling software programs like PhotoStory3 and iMovie, but it is certainly powerful to find a free, web-based tool like JumpCut which “just works” to do the things we need from a basic filmmaking perspective. The fact that Yahoo owns JumpCut is hopefully a good sign that the site will be around for awhile. I wonder if we’ll see Google create or buy a web-based digital storytelling tool/site like this at some point? Our COV advisory committee has been discussing the possibility of offering several one-day workshops starting next spring around our state which would focus on using free web-based tools like GabCast and JumpCut along with existing technology tools like phones and cell phone cameras to create digital stories. Currently our COV project participants pay $150 and receive approximately $500 in technology equipment in what we term “a digital backpack.” It certainly IS exciting and beneficial to have “new technology toys” to use and learn about, but from a scalability standpoint it will be good to look at less costly (and even free) approaches to digital storytelling which can be shared with even larger audiences. Of all the equipment in our current digital backpacks, I think the Olympus digital audio recorder is the most valuable. I just wish it recorded directly into mp3 format instead of windows media audio! (That way we could ditch Switch software and the need to convert that audio before using it in Audacity.)

I’m quite enthused with JumpCut. Other web-based digital storytelling tools I’ve heard of but not used extensively include EyeSpot, Viddler, and Motionbox. I’m not sure if these three sites offer functionality similar to JumpCut or not. (I need to read and study Alan Levine’s Storytools more closely!) He lists JumpCut under the category “Video Tools” which “allow upload, editing, and remixing of video to create new content, playable through a web page.” He also includes SplashCast and JayCut, neither of which I’ve tried yet. For our project, tools like VoiceThread, DigitalStoryteller, and BubbleShare won’t work because they are limited to audio narration tied to a specific image. We need the functionality (which JumpCut supports) to import an entire audio file as background, and then sequence/time those photos as desired while adding some effects like Ken Burns.

Tomorrow our project participants in both our workshop locations (the Oklahoma Heritage Association and the Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building) will be uploading their completed videos to our Ning learning community site. It will be “showtime!” My 4 minute digital story about Jim Thorpe isn’t earth shattering or amazing content-wise, but it certainly is a big leap forward for me personally since it was edited entirely online! 🙂

To learn more about Jim Thorpe, who truly was one of the greatest athletes who ever lived, read the current WikiPedia article for him. I used paragraphs from that article in my digital story, and indicated these were read at the conclusion of the story. The story of Jim’s life is both inspiring and tragic. How sad that his Olympic medals were not restored to him until 30 years after his death. 🙁

In addition to creating this digital story this afternoon, I also created several resource lists for our project participants which you are also welcome to use. These address Music and Audio Resources for digital stories as well as Copyright and Fair Use issues. I created these as “list pages” on our project’s Google site, and I REALLY like the functionality of this page type.

Celebrate Oklahoma Voices

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On this day..




6 responses to “First experiences with web-based digital story editing: JumpCut!”

  1. Dean Shareski Avatar

    I agree that the inability to pan and zoom (aka Ken Burns effect) is a limitation. I wondered after watching your video if one technique might have been to bring in an image twice and use a fade or dissolve to move from either a wide shot to a close up of vice versa. Perhaps not as good but the ability to focus on specific parts of an image is an important part of effective storytelling. Think of it as developing the details of a narrative.

    We need to continue to speak about these concepts without tying them to specific platforms or software. Thanks for working towards this.

  2. Miguel Guhlin Avatar

    Wes, thanks for the reminder of JumpCut! For fun, I took one of my presentations–changing standards that I shared with educators last week in my district–and uploaded it as a series of images to Flickr (using Flickr Uploadr). Then, Jumpcut imported those and I recorded my audio using my Olympus WS-100, converted the WMA file with Switch to MP3, and uploaded that.

    I was hoping that I’d be able to sync the slides with the audio, or vice versa, but couldn’t figure out how to do that. So, the slides played very quickly while the audio sped across. Is what I’m trying to do possible?

    In the meantime, I had so much fun recording the presentation, I’m trying out something Steve Dembo shared with me… If it’s successful, I’ll post the result on the web site. Otherwise, I may just throw the audio up on and let it go at that for now!

    On my way to the library,

    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner

  3. Miguel Guhlin Avatar

    Ok, here’s where I had fun with!

    (rolling eyes)

    Take care,

  4. Alan Levine Avatar

    Great flick, Wes! I was a boyhood fan of the Jim Thorpe story. The integration with flickr to import media is a plus for many of these tools. I think you may like JayCut- it offers a multitrack editor, so you can have 2 video tracks with effects/transitions better controlled.

    I’m not sure whether these tools are cut out for longer pieces-I think they are suitable for digital stories and short presentations. My efforts have all been shorties.

    For Miguel, the controlling of the syncing I believe is in setting the duration in seconds for the stills. Its not quite like dragging the end of a frame to extend a clip (JayCut may do this). And one might distinguish between a digital video editing tool and a slideshow/slideshow sync with audio, though you can certainly do them in video tools.

    MyPlick is a great tool- I think it had one of the best interfaces for syncing audio to slides.

    I have about 8 new tools in the wings to add to the 50+ ways site (which is now at 57).

  5. […] First experiences with web-based digital story editing: JumpCut! A rudimentary summary of online video editing apps – contains some useful links to other digital storytelling resources (tags: digitalstorytelling video) addthis_url = ‘’; addthis_title = ‘links+for+2008-07-24’; addthis_pub = ”; […]

  6. […] programs like PhotoStory3, Windows MovieMaker and iMovie permit people to make. A few weeks ago I had my first experience creating a video with JumpCut. Alan Levine recommended that I also try JayCut, so this evening I slightly modified the script I […]