Learning to Craft with Sparkols

I spent some time this afternoon playing with Sparkol’s VideoScribe at the recommendation of GeneGeek. VideoScribe is a semi-automated tool that animates videos using images/drawings, text, music, and voice-over. Conveniently, they supply many images, fonts, and music to use in your videos; this was a relief for me because I’m (perhaps a little irrationally) always nervous about royalties on music.

I grabbed a couple of images I drew for a scientific poster and made a very short, simple story about a Spotted Winged Drosophila (SWD, my research species) larvae that wants to grow up to be an engineer.

Spotted Winged Drosophila Engineer from Tanya Stemberger on Vimeo.

The story isn’t exactly self-contained. It’s richer if you know that adult females cut through the skin of fresh fruit and lay their eggs inside; the fruit then rots prematurely. Once the fruit has begun to rot, other species that like rotting fruit (e.g. other Drosophila spp) can get in there too, while the species that would have used the ripe, fresh fruit (like us humans) are out of luck. So, SWD is a little like a micro-ecosystem engineer. I didn’t put any of these details into the video because I was just using this story as an excuse to play with the tool.

I found using Sparkols VideoScribe to be lots of fun with a very low barrier to entry. It was easy to pick it up and make fun little things quickly. This is good, because I jumped right in the deep end instead of watching a tutorial first. They made this even easier by adding little tips to the icons when I first opened the program.

Before I make anything else with it, I’m going to check out a tutorial or two. I’d like to figure out how to do some of the things that I know VideoScribe is capable of (because they are in the example videos) but that weren’t immediately obvious while playing around with it. For example, I couldn’t speed up the morph between larvae and adult fly; I could speed up the “transition time”, but that turned out to be the time between clips/effects. I also couldn’t figure out how to remove material from the frame – e.g. I couldn’t remove the words in the thought bubble, which is why I had to cover them up with an opaque object to add “An Engineer!!”.

Once I have it all sorted out, I think this will be a neat tool for making very short videos, and/or for making short clips to save out and edit into larger videos using a different video editing tool.