EDUCATION

Students review 15 journalism tools and apps

Meek School of Journalism and New Media  students at the University of Mississippi were asked to review 15 apps and multimedia websites to see whether or not they felt they could be used for journalism. Here are their thoughts.

Image1. Flipagram byJordan Dollenger

In 2013, four friends launched what has become the #1 free app in over 85 countries around the world. Flipagram has amassed over 100 million users in just a year and a half thanks to investors and a team of engineers, managers and officers.

Flipagrams are short video stories created from photos and images you choose. Just add music, and Flipagrams can help tell an impactful story right from your smartphone.

Flipagram is a sharing app compatible with Android, iPhone and Windows phones. The sole purpose of Flipagram is to allow Instagram users the opportunity to create short movies out of multiple photos that can be seen in just one post.

Instead of separately posting all of your favorite photos, Flipagram allows you to combine all of those pictures into one unique slideshow video.

For the ease of selecting photos, you can link your Instagram account to Flipagram and choose photos directly from your camera roll. The direct connection is a great way to rediscover old pictures you may have forgotten you had and use them in your video.

Once you’ve picked all your photos, you can then choose music from your music library to accompany your Flipagram movie. Then your Flipagram is ready to be shared. Flipagram supports native sharing to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, email, and export to Camera Roll.

Flipagram-logo-on-white I tested Flipagram on my own with my iPhone, and I can see why the application is so popular. First, the app just makes sense. Between Instagram’s 300 million active monthly users, there are bound to be a large number of them that wish to share their photos more quickly and collectively than one at a time.

Instead of posting dozens of pictures individually, Flipagram allows users to share their pictures from social events, holidays or vacations in bulk. Adding music makes the video post more interesting, leading to increased views and “likes,” which is essentially the purpose of post in the first place.

Secondly, the app is really simple to use and understand. There are clear instructions and directions teaching you how to use the app, but if you have any trouble, Flipagram offers a Frequently Asked Questions page on their website to hopefully help you.

Flipagram can certainly be used in journalism and in the news gathering process because almost every news story today has some type of media element to it. Whether it be pictures or audio, news stories can be improved and elaborated on much easier with apps like Flipagram.

When posting a news article, journalists could use Flipagram to create a slideshow of pictures pertaining to the story. That way, people have the chance to see multiple photos at once instead of having to catch each one that is individually posted. This makes it easier to get all of the information and supporting evidence at one time.

Instead of uploading a song for the audio portion of the Flipagram, journalists could record themselves talking and use the voice over as the audio element. This would be an innovative and interesting way to get news out there to the younger generation. Using an application as popular and easily accessible as Flipagram allows journalists a whole new medium for delivering news.

10689688_10203607735208176_753299053314228060_n2. Cinamatic by Chloe Scott

When using Cinamatic, you begin by filming a clip from three to 15 seconds. Once you have the footage, your next step is to chose any one of the seven filters that all have specific names, such as Darwin, Andrei, Marc, Bennett, Robert, Terry and Laurent.cinamatic

You have the ability to select the intensity of the chosen filter. The intensity ranges from a barely visible filter to completely changed. Contrast, saturation and brightness are also available for editing.

You can also change the sound level for no sound at all or at full volume. Once you’ve finished editing and are ready to move on and share your video, select “process.” This can take anywhere from a few moments to a few minutes. Once the process is complete, your video pops up full screen for your viewing.

You have the opportunity to go back and edit the clip. The ability to add a caption is an option. You can upload it to Vine, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. If you don’t want to share your clip, you can email it, message it or simply save it.

After spending some time playing with the app, I have come to enjoy it more and more. The effects are all different and each have something unique about them. The choice to share on so many different mediums is nice too, as well as not even having to share it at all, but keeping it.

silk3. Silk by Hannah Simmons

Silk is a new app for the iPhone that is rapidly becoming more and more popular. It wasn’t well known for a while until Apple put it in the “entertainment” section of the App Store.

It is fun because you just use one finger to make cool designs. Although it is not one of the many free apps in the App Store, it is only $2.99.

There is a color wheel, so as you go through making designs, you can also change up the color. Then you will be able to have multiple colors to use as your design comes together.

This app is a designers dream. It lets you create beautiful color combinations and woven intricate lines that might remind you of fireworks on the Fourth of July. When you get the app Silk, play with it a little, and you will become better and better at using the one finger technology to create designs for whatever you need.

Once you are happy with you design, you can screenshot your work and use it however you need. You can set it as a background on your phone, e-mail to a friend, or share on Twitter or Facebook.

This is a great app for the journalism world because it enables journalists to create designs in the job field. In whatever job field the journalists chooses, they could always use this app to create new and fun designs for a certain story they might be reporting on.

Whether it is a music festival or an art festival, it would be a great way for the reader to get a vibe of the atmosphere at the festival or whatever the event might be.

It is one of the easiest design apps to use. Some of them can be difficult to learn and create things, but with Silk, it is simple and easy, and when you are done, you feel like a true artist.

weebly4. Weebly by Katelin Davis

Weebly is a website generator similar to WordPress. The user is able to choose a theme or pre-made website design. There are a lot of free themes; other themes are available for purchase. The “themes” are basically templates that allow you to drag and place your information into a ready-to-use format. I created an account, chose a free theme, and created a site name within five minutes.

The basic portions of site building were easy to understand because of the pre-made templates. The problems began when I tried to add advanced steps to my website. For example, the tool bar is a little difficult to understand at first. While the buttons allow for a “drag and place” option, when an option is dragged into place, the icon will disappear if not modified immediately.

Katelin Davis headshotThe greatest advancement of Weebly is its ability to edit your webpage into a smartphone friendly site. Weebly also allows the user to add interactive portions to their sites. For example, I added a survey on the opening page of the site to draw in readers. This portion could easily be used to poll readers on which articles they enjoyed the most, which beats they would like to see more of, and which news stories reporters should cover in their area.

Weebly also partners will Polldaddy.com. This allows users to create polls that can immediately be viewed by the classroom. This portion could be used in classroom exercises for homework quizzes and feedback on articles.

Weebly also includes pre-made social media icons that link to a website’s social media pages. While other sites include links to social media, Weebly’s icons are easily recognizable to younger generations.

I’ve used WordPress and Weebly. Overall, Weebly is a more user-friendly website after it is created. Its interactive elements are unique and connect its readers to the website. However, making a Weebly website is more complicated than creating a website using WordPress.

If you’re looking to include more interactive elements into your website to attract a younger crowd, I recommend using Weebly. If you’re looking for a faster, more efficient website creator, I would stick to WordPress.

wix5. Wix by Colin Preston

Wix, a website creator, can be an effective tool for journalists. One can reach this website through apps or by web. It’s easy to edit, and it has a variety of templates to choose from. To get to Wix, one can go to Wix.com or download the app to their phone. A user signs in with their email and a password or through Facebook or Google Plus.

Once on the site, a person can edit a template that relates to his or her plans for a website. View the template, then edit it, by putting in news stories, photos, videos and links. All of this allows journalists to create their own website for their own stories and promote them on different social media sites.

soundcloud6. SoundCloud by Yusuf Abusharif

SoundCloud is like a cross between MySpace and DatPiff. If you take away the diversity of music that MySpace used to offer and replace it with DatPiff’s mostly one-sided music selection, then the music aspect of SoundCloud is pretty much that.

DatPiff is a hip-hop mix-tape website, yet is not limited to simply hip-hop music. SoundCloud is not limited to one genre but is mostly dominated by electronic dance music (or EDM) for short.

The network has evolved a lot and changed from mostly a place where amateurs can post their music for other people to see, to a place where major artists and amateurs share their music, to a mini social network with playlists, interactive features, music, major artists, amateurs and even contests and events.

imageThe network has become so popular that many artists who are extremely successful today and tour worldwide started their careers on SoundcCloud and gained their fame through it. Almost every major EDM artist today has an account on SoundCloud. They post a catalog of their more established tracks, new releases, previews and live sets as well.

This can be a very lucrative way for artists to promote their music because of the large amount of people who are using SoundCloud to find new music. Both well-established artists and up-and-coming artists use it to promote themselves. Basically, SoundCloud is a great place to find new music.

The social aspect of SoundCloud is very basic, but effective enough for a website that is mostly based on music. You can “follow” artists that you like, make playlists of your favorite tracks, and have a full newsfeed of new songs that get posted by artists that you follow.

There is a very clever way to “comment” on tracks that you like. You pick a time in the song, and post a comment at your favorite part of the song. A really popular track will typically collect comments from the beginning of the track to the very end.

The lack of interaction between users in SoundCloud is very significant and leaves most of the social interaction to music. This leaves SoundCloud to control a very important niche in the social media world. Also, many people use SoundCloud without even having a user account, which contributes to the minimal social aspect of the site.

Overall, SoundCloud will stick around for a while until another music-based social network can do exactly what SoundCloud does, but better.

tweetdeck7. TweetDeck by Ann Marie Edlin

Simply put, Tweetdeck is a social media dashboard that helps one manage Twitter accounts. Through Tweetdeck, one can instantaneously watch, over their timeline, notifications, messages, activity, search results, favorites, mentions, hashtags, and a second by second streaming of the current trending topics.

You never have to hit refresh again. All of these elements of your Twitter account are separated into columns and are displayed on the same page. You also have the option of adding another Twitter account so you can be logged in to multiple accounts at once and can navigate between the two effortlessly.

TweetDeck is an essential tool that should be utilized by all journalists that want to stay up-to-date and relevant. Through this app, a journalist can find out the minute news hits, when it hits, and the initial reaction of the general public to that news.

IMG_2929When talking about how TweetDeck helped gauge the people’s reactions to his stories, senior editor of Quartz, Zach Seward said, “I have nine timelines spanning across my display. One of them is a search column of people Tweeting Quartz stories or mentioning the @qz accounts. We can see in real-time how people are reacting to our stories.”

Deputy mobile editor for the L.A. Times said, “Live column streaming is my favorite thing about TweetDeck since the real-time aspect of Twitter is what makes it essential to my job. A close number two is that it’s easy to use multiple accounts with TweetDeck.” Another plus to TweetDeck is that an entire news team can Tweet from the same account without having to share passwords.

What’s the downside to TweetDeck? As of 2013, the TweetDeck app for iPhone and Android were discontinued due to the fact that a vast majority of TweetDeck clients were using the dashboard on their computers as opposed to their phones. Although, you can easily pull the website up on your phone’s search engine, an app is always handy.

TweetDeck allowed me to get minute-by-minute updates on the 2015 Oscars Sunday evening. Through TweetDeck, I was also able to create a column and stream a live feed of “mentions” of the account. It gave me instant updates on posts and mentions from other users accounts. This allows us to see how people are reacting to what we’re writing, as Seward said.

slidex8. Slide X by Brianna Barnes

The app comes with its own transitions and photo effects, so you can do everything with one application. Slide X comes with 10 free transitions, and more are available with purchase. It has nine free effects and even more to buy. If that is not enough for you, the app even allows music to be added to the slideshow.photo

Slide X is very easy to use and self-explanatory. However, if you are having trouble figuring out the mechanics of it, it comes with instructions and a guide. This will show you exactly how to do everything and find all of the app’s features. If this is still not clear enough, all it takes is a quick Google search to find multiple websites on how to master the art of Slide X.

I gave the app a test run. I used the app to make a beautiful slide show of my engagement photos. Maybe I am a tad biased, but I thought it turned out wonderful. I was able to put the photos in the order I wanted, choose a nifty slide transition, and add a sappy love song. The app made all of this very easy, and I loved the final product.

The app is the perfect way to show off many pictures and put an interesting spin on them. It could easily be used to tell a story with pictures and music or words.

The app brings everything available on a computer right to the palm of your hand. The app is easily recognized by its multicolor “X” logo. I give the app an eight out of 10. I would like more realistic effects that provide better color quality. Over all, the app is great and easy to use if you are in a pinch.

IMG_16829. Camera +  by McKenna Wierman

I don’t consider myself a particularly frivolous person, and as a result, I am always hesitant to download any new apps on my phone, be they games, social media portals or video streaming sites. But most of all, I am ever reluctant to download any sort of camera app – aside from maybe Instagram. Why would I take up precious storage on my phone with a camera app when I already have a perfectly fine camera that comes standard on my iPhone 5?

cameraplusThat being said, Camera + isn’t just any old photo app. While the $2.99 price tag may have you wondering if it’s worth it to blow money on something your phone already has, I would recommend this app to anyone involved in any kind of class where your photo skills will be graded. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, apps like Camera + come standard on a course supply list alongside textbooks and ballpoint pens.

Camera + functions very closely to the way your iPhone camera does, but on a more detailed oriented level. The app allows users to zoom, focus, enhance color and texture of pictures, and has a couple extra bonus shooting features, like a timer that the standard iPhone camera doesn’t have.

Camera + is by no means the most tech savvy and advanced iPhone camera app on the market, but it’s still a darn good one. Not to mention the creators of Camera + work diligently to fix bugs and keep the app clean and updated.

Coming from someone who used Instagram as their primary photo-editing tool, I can honestly say I no longer believe camera apps are excessive or unnecessary. For those unwilling to splurge on an expensive camera for a photojournalism course, those with a passion for photography or photo editing, or those who are just sick and tired of taking crappy photos on their mobile phones – I would recommend Camera + for you.

slidemovies10. Slide Movies by Bernard Blissett

Slide Movies is a free app (available for Apple and Android devices) that allows users to convert images into single videos while allowing the use of music during those videos. The free-to-use app also allows users to share these videos with friends and family using specific social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, and more).

bernardSlide Movie’s functions are fairly simple and quick to use. The “Play” button at the top right of the app screen is where everything begins. Afterward, it leads to a section titled “Movie Options,” which allows the user to decide the length and format of their slide video.

After deciding the format, a screen called “Storyboards” appears. There can be up to 30 photos in one slide movie (with a minimum of five) and users can place them in various orders (done by tapping and holding the photo on the storyboard screen and dragging it to the place desired). After choosing photos and deciding an order, users decide on the music they wish to have play in the background of the app.

The limitations about which songs can be chosen is one of the downsides of the app. Users may choose from their music libraries, but they are only allowed to choose specific songs (unsure why it’s limited) from their library or to pick the songs they provide.

Video is the best part of the app. The videos are well organized and easy to create. Users can also, experiment with different colors used to display the video (for example: distortion or black and white). Another interesting addition to the app is its ability to have users get creative and draw screen titles, which appear at the beginning of every video.

The visuals are clean and the transitions are well done, however this is another section of the app that is very limiting. There are also slight glitches that limit users to only use 10 pictures maximum per video.

This flaw in the app doesn’t compete well with other apps in the market, most of which have unlimited usage of pictures per video. It would be nice to have more creative control regarding how the pictures are presented, more music and more of a variety in colors.

The majority of the creation process for the videos themselves are done automatically by Slide Movies. From deciding the length of time for each video, to how the pictures transition throughout each slide, the users are confined to let Slide Movies piece together each video. This might be good for users who are looking for an app that’s easier in technicalities, however it’s not quite the reach for the more tech-savvy individuals.

The music option of Slide Movies is even more limiting. Users can only add specific songs performed by Nagisa (the creators of Slide Movies) and certain songs from their own music library, which is an extreme letdown. Nagisa provides multiple options for music (only a few for new users), but the rest of their choices are locked unless users email or upload videos to social media outlets.

I recommend this app for users who are searching for something basic and easy to use, or if you’re lounging and need something to do. But, there are definitely better app choices, regarding more creative control over the videos for the user, a more freeing environment, and options to share social medias within the app’s social community.

While Slide Movies serves it’s purpose in simplicity, I would recommend Flipagram because it fills every gap within Slide Movies and provides a community within the app that allows users to share their videos with other Flipagram users freely. But, as mentioned earlier, if you are looking for something basic and easy to use then Slide Movies might be the way to go.

fastcamera11. Fast Camera by Megan Meyers

For more advanced versions, one would have to pay more money, but I got a simple, effective version of the Fast Camera application free on my iPhone. To get a feel for this app and experiment with how useful it really is, I took a photo of my roommates jumping in the air. Rather than waiting to get that perfect picture as most do, one could have it in seconds just by using Fast Camera, which is able to take bursts of pictures up to 800 pictures a minute.

This can be particularly effective when trying to catch perfect moments in action, like in sports. The quality is good normally, but can be made even better when you customize the settings to create the perfect picture you desire. However, the version I had to get due to the higher prices of the original app didn’t live up to the application’s original reputation.

I believe if one gets the best version possible, then it’s a great application to purchase if you’re someone who loves photography and is looking to get the great action shots. This could also be incredibly helpful for journalism when making your story, since getting the perfect picture is a key factor when telling a story.

However, this application may not be necessary for someone with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, since they offer photo bursts on the normal camera included with your regular purchase. The camera that is included on these Apple products takes pretty high quality photos, not far off from the quality of the Fast Camera photos.

picstitich12. PicStitch by Justavian Tillman

Once while casually visiting the nursing home, I had the privilege of sitting with a resident who was stitching a quilt together. It was amazing to look at the creation of the quilt, because she cut material into four squares, and it was almost perfect. Although all of them were the same size, they all had different characteristics to make them very different. The Apple and Android application PicStitch reminds me of this.

Tillman_SelfiePicStich is software used to place multiple pictures together in order to form one picture. This software has become very popular over the years with the development of technology, especially Apple and Android devices.

Grouping photos together allows the user to show how they feel about a particular thing or place. One of the biggest things that stands out to me is the ability to contrast your pictures. You can make one of them bigger than the other, and I think that stands out more to the the viewers.

This application gives users the authority to combine photos in one framed picture. It has many simple designs that give you everything you need to make a great photo. The powerful editing tool that comes with the apps is very remarkable. You have the option of choosing from 232 different layouts and 15 different photo aspect ratios.

After creating your collage, the application allows you to share it directly on your favorite social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You also have the option of ordering prints from Walgreens’ Print Center.

clips13. Clips by Jana Rosenberg

The Clips app solves an underlying problem that many iPhone users have had for last few years: How can you shift multiple pieces of information from point A to point B with fewer taps and less app switching?

Clips allows you to “clip” content from anywhere on your iPhone with the iOS 8 widget. You can copy and paste a link, a quote, paragraph, certain images and, essentially, anything else you want from any website or article into the app on your phone and then go back and view it whenever you please.

Clips takes advantage of the many new technologies available in iOS 8, making it almost effortless to save bits of text from anywhere, archive your clipboard and retreat it in any other app.

The app is ideal for people who want to quickly save interesting information found on their iPhone or iPad, for those who write a lot on their iPhone or iPad, and for those who hate switching between apps to copy and paste multiple pieces of information from the same app or webpage. It lets users input and access saved clips into any app using the custom key board or widget.

Clips even has an upgraded version that users can buy for $1.99 called Clips Pro. With Clips Pro, you are able to sync and access all saved clips across your iPhone and iPad.

The average customer rating is currently sitting at four stars, making it a fairly successful app with majority of users finding it more convenient than any other similar, clipboard type of app. The app is available for those with an iPad, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and it even works on an iPod Touch.

IMG_087314. Scanbot by Lindsey Edwards

Picture this: an application, or “app,” that takes pictures of and stores all of your receipts, invoices, or basically any piece of paper just from your phone. That is what the app Scanbot does.

Scanbot automatically scans anything by hovering your phone over it and even gives you directions like “Move closer,” “Farther back” and “Don’t move” to create a high-quality picture of the document that you can then send to the cloud.

Say you forgot to sign a contract, take a picture of it on Scanbot, and you can write your signature on it and text, email or send it to the Cloud. With the free version, users may highlight text, password protect documents, and add notes and signatures, all at the touch of a button.

The pro version, which costs $4.99, utilizes text recognition (OCR), smart file naming, themes, touch ID password protection (iOS 8 only), and search for documents with recognized text.

Scanbot is user-friendly with an intuitive interface. When first downloaded, it opens with a short tutorial and little tips while using it.

The app allows for an automatic upload of documents to the cloud, which you can enable and disable whenever you like. Pictures that are already in an iPhone’s camera roll can also be uploaded into Scanbot and saved.

Scanbot can be a great investment if one has many documents they have to send digitally, frequently, because of its ease of use and great features. Otherwise, if you’re just a college student who might want to keep track of receipts from bars, restaurants, and grocery shopping, the free version would suit you just as well.

Scanbot can be purchased in the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad, and it is also available for Android.

hyperlapse15. Hyperlapse by William Frigo

The definition of the term Hyperlapse is an exposure technique in time-lapse photography in which the position of the camera is being changed between each exposure in order to create a tracking shot in time-lapse sequences. To break down what exactly happens with the app, you should try to think of a video that is being sped up to save time. This is exactly what the app does for you.

When the app was introduced to me in class, I had no idea it even existed. I wanted one of the cooler apps that the others had around me such as Instagram or SoundCloud, because I honestly believed it to be a cheap Android app. Then, once I researched what the actual app had to offer, I downloaded it right away.

The main reason I was drawn to the app was because I am obsessed with film, and once I saw it was an app that helps you manipulate film with ease, I had to have it on my phone. I have used the app several times now, and I have had others ask where I found the app.

When I researched the app online, I saw that the app found its fame as a computer download operation system that you would use for film only. Once the Instagram app came out, the creators decided to program the software to fit the iPhone compatibilities. Hyerlapse exploded within the first year it was created and is now being used primarily with editing for Instagram.

Hyperlapse has also started a trend with other operating systems who have tried to mimic the process. Programmers are now finding ways to pick apart certain film editing software and turn them into user-friendly iPhone apps that will help the user navigate film editing with ease.

Hyperlapse has also made a huge impact on the community of people who are using the GoPro cameras that are promoted everywhere. My brother has used a Hyperlapse application with his GoPro to show his audience the daily rituals of game day in Oxford.

16. Faded by Rebecca DeLuna – I recently experimented with Faded, a app ostensibly for professional quality photo editing available through the iTunes app store. This app offers many different tools that allow you to give regular pictures a trendy, hipster aesthetic. For those striving to join this particular cultural zeitgeist, this application is perfect.

While using Faded, I ran into a few problems. The app was not free. I am very hesitant to purchase apps that are not free unless I know they are absolutely worth it. Although it was only 99 cents, many of the filters were only available with an extra purchase.

It was a teaser, you were shown how great your photo could look, yet you would have to fork out another 99 cents for that look. How much are you willing to pay to be hipster?

Besides the cost, the app was not very user-friendly. I have other free apps that edit photos that are easier to navigate.

You are given the option to shoot a photo or video through the app or use one that you have already taken. Once past that step, you have many options for editing your photo.

Sometimes, when you click on the filter that fits the photo best, you are required to watch an ad or do a survey before you are able to add the filter to the photo. This is very inconvenient and a waste of time, especially because the app was not free. I personally would not have purchased Faded for my own photo editing needs.

With all the negatives aside, Faded actually has a lot to offer to those with an interest in photo-editing, photo journalism and being “hipster.” Once past the confusion, Faded can be very functional.

The filters are highly customizable. There is even a part of the app where you can overlay photos – meaning putting one on top of the other, making one transparent and the solid photo.

From a journalistic standpoint, Faded, once deciphered, is an amazing application. It allows for mediocre pictures to become phenomenal. It could be used out on the field if a news station chooses to upload a photo to their Facebook or Twitter.

If you’d like to suggest other multimedia journalism tools for our reporters to review, e-mail lrucker.news@gmail.com or Tweet us @OxfordStories1. You can also like our Oxford Stories Facebook page.

 

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