Last week, I posted about FiLMiC Pro ($4.99), the most powerful video camera in the App Store. While it’s the app I rely on most for consistently delivering professional results, there’s another video camera app I love equally (for very different reasons). It’s called Spark ($1.99).
While FiLMiC Pro is clearly intended for a pro minded shooter, Spark targets the more casual, playful user. What the app lacks in high-end features, it more than makes up for with unapologetic simplicity. I don’t mean to say that Spark lacks gusto. It just takes a very different approach to filmmaking.
Most modern video cameras (and camera apps) feature a small, red button that toggles video recording on and off. Spark, however, has no such button. Instead, the app records video only while your finger is pressed against your iPhone’s screen. The moment you release your finger, recording stops. Press your finger on the screen once more, and now you’re recording a second shot that’s automatically connected to the first. Before you know it, you’ve created an entire sequence of connected shots (what the app calls Sparks). In other words, you’ve edited a scene in camera. If you’ve ever shot something in Vine (free), you’re already familiar with this technique.
With its hold-to-record approach, Spark operates much like an old Super-8 film camera, and fosters a closer connection between you and your subject matter. You can’t just hit the record button and walk away. There’s no set-it-and-forget-it option on this bad boy. By requiring your constant involvement, the app motivates you to give thought to your shots, and make conscious choices before you record a single frame. It also encourages shorter shots, which will no doubt help keep your audience engaged. This is especially important when you consider that Spark limits the length of your completed films to just 45 seconds — an unfortunate drawback.
After shooting your mini masterpiece, you might want to apply one of the eleven real time color filters, or import a music track from your iThing’s music library. A recent update added a rudimentary editing tool, allowing you to easily trim and re-order all the shots within a given sequence. Frankly, I’m a bit bummed they added that feature. Knowing you can edit something after the fact lessens the pressure to plan ahead and get it right the first time.
Once your creation is complete, Spark can share it with the world via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, iMessage, AirDrop and email.
Spark is not without its flaws. As I mentioned previously, the app imposes a 45 second limit on all films. It also records everything in 720p, rather than 1080p. It offers no professional controls for white balance, focus, or exposure. There’s no integrated audio meters, mixing functions, or compression control. You’re limited to a set frame rate, and aspect ratio. It’s all locked in, and locked down! So, why on Earth do I love this app, and why am I recommending it to you? Because it’s fun, it’s unique, and it inspires boundless creativity in its users. Sometimes, that’s reason enough!
I like introducing this to my students in the “editing in camera” section of the curriculum.