(This is another post in a series of reviews of smartphone applications that relate to audio production and/or personal history.)
What It Is : StoryCatcher is a smart phone application developed by personal historian April Bell, who runs Tree of Life Legacies and iPhone app developer Urs Brauchli. It is designed to help users make mini-documentaries for their family using only their smartphone and some ingenuity.
How It Works: Download the app and after reading a brief introduction to it, you’ll be invited to create a film about your family using one of several templates loaded into the program. You may use photos on your camera roll or take some new photos and add them to the program, and you can record both an introductory video and interviews with relatives (or friends, etc.) The app allows users to drop in quotes to run underneath the video or photos within the template frame, and users can build collections of related video/photo shows to run as a single program.
- Users can categorize/filter their creations by a short set of “themes” that include family, travel, pets, wedding, anniversary, etc.
- Users who visit the app’s support site at http://storycatcherapp.com/ may sign up for interview and other tips to get the most out of the app by email.
- Once the program has been created, users may share their films via email, social media, Dropbox, or YouTube.
- I love that someone has leveraged the ubiquitous presence of smartphones and found a way to create an app to encourage family histories to be recorded on the fly!!
- The price point ($2.99) is perfect for a last-minute impulse purchase before a big occasion or holiday.
- The “about” section provides some basic information on how to navigate the app, and it seemed to be enough for me to use the program after a couple of false starts.
- It’s really easy and intuitive to add photos from your camera roll to the video you’re creating.
- You can also add existing videos that are in your camera roll to your program.
- I really liked the template I selected for my test film. It ran the videos in one window, the photos I selected in another, and dropped in the quotes at the bottom of the screen. I thought it was very classy.
- The filtering and theme option both allows a user to organize a lot of footage (once they’ve been using the app for a while), as well as subtly making the suggestion that this app could be used to document all sorts of family and special occasions.
- The app makes you record holding the phone in landscape (horizontal) format. This can be tricky to remember at first, but it ensures you’ll have a video that will play well on bigger screens.
- I tested sharing the program I created with StoryCatcher by email, and it performed just fine. I incorporated live video, videos I had on my camera and photos, so it was impressive I could do all that without actively “editing” using software to assemble it.
- I personally had a hard time keeping my face within the recording “guides” when I was using the recording function, but I think that was more my personal issue and I think it would have improved with additional practice or if I was recording someone else.
- If you’re not careful, you can think you are recording more than two videos in the template I chose, but then I couldn’t find any of the videos for that particular template. I’m not 100 percent clear where the recordings are “stored.”
- As an audiophile, I would have loved to have a little bit of royalty-free music to choose to add to photo montages or between video segments. There is a tiny bit of music added within the template I chose, but it wasn’t clear to me where it came from or if I could change to another clip.
StoryCatcher is a wonderful development in the evolution of how we record, structure and save family histories. Users only need minimal technical ability with their smartphone to assemble and share multimedia experiences that document special moments or capture the memories of beloved members of a family or group.
The filters provided on the app suggest all sorts of ways in which the app could be used – holidays, capturing “cute kid” moments for far-away grandparents and uncles and aunties, creating a family video postcard for the holidays, documenting a wedding proposal or a family reunion, and much more. Smartphones, given their small size and extreme commonness these days, can reduce the self-consciousness factor in interviewees and make it easier to talk to relatives who have wonderful stories that deserve to be preserved.
It’s also been pointed out that given the younger generation’s love of technology, using this app could spark inter-generational togetherness, as it gives “digital natives” a way to share use of something they love with older relatives who may not understand or appreciate its capacity to benefit them and their family.