iOS Gems: Vjay, TurboCollage + Frametastic
Welcome to the latest edition of iOS Gems! Today, we’re looking at a look at three photo/video apps, one of which promises to bring traditional DJing into the visual realm, and two that work to create framed, Instagram-friendly collages.
Both Vjay and Frametastic impressed, but if you’re a fan of photo collages, TurboCollage might be worth checking out, also. Read on to find out more.
As apps go, few we’ve seen have the sheer ambition of Vjay ($10), the latest iOS app from algoriddim. As the name suggests, this iPad-only app looks to mix the tasks of the DJ with those of an amateur music video director, letting users mashup videos and audio from two different sources, on-the-fly. Thanks to the company’s experience making its prior music-only app Djay, Vjay is surprisingly full featured and well-thought through for an app that’s essentially creating its own category.
Upon opening the app, users are presented with a main video window—where the mix will play—flanked by two info areas that show the current playhead position and title of both videos, and also offer simple buttons for enabling effects, modifying those effects, and looping the track for a set number of beats. This area takes up the top half of the iPad’s screen. On the bottom half, you can find two more video windows showing the individual videos, along with buttons for bringing in new video or audio media—you can bring in songs, videos, and videos from the Camera Roll, as well as a short list of included stock media—playback controls, and a button that opens up an audio effects menu with an equalizer, transport controls, and BPM matching tools. In the center of the bottom sits a slider for mixing the output of the two pieces of media, a settings button, and a button for starting recording and accessing prior recordings. Notably, users to have the ability to choose between a single mixing slider or separate sliders for video and audio.
Mixing two pieces of media is—despite its apparent complexity—rather easy with Vjay, thanks to its straightforward and well-placed controls. During testing, we found ourselves naturally drawn to playing with the various effects—which change both the visuals and music, assuming the piece of media contains both—and also playing with the sliders and other controls to vary what we saw on screen. Unfortunately, while streaming audio in real-time to an Apple TV over AirPlay worked well, the instructions to enable AirPlay Mirroring for video caused performance issues—specifically, intermittent video dropouts—while viewing the mixing interface, although bringing the main video full-screen seemed to correct these issues. Main video output is also possible via the Apple Digital AV Adapter, an accessory that will likely prove to be invaluable to anyone planning to perform live in front of an audience using the app.
While Vjay allows users to make very impressive-looking videos using easy-to-learn controls—similarly impressive video mashups would have required a sound understanding of advanced video editing tools just a few years ago—it still requires talent to create truly great compositions. That said, most anyone with an interest in DJing or music in general will likely have a lot of fun with the app, and find it well worth the purchase—the primary reason that it receives our high recommendation. iLounge Rating: A-.
By comparison, Frametastic (Free) by Imaginary Feet is a relatively simple and straight-forward application that, like TurboCollage, allows users to quickly and easily create groups of photos for sharing on social networks such as Instagram. Upon opening Frametastic, users are immediately asked to select from one of 18 included frames, or from one of the 18 extra frames that require a $1 In-App Purchase. A Settings button—which serves no purpose other than to restore purchases—is at the top, with a sliding menu of available themes—which add a pattern to the outside of the frame itself—at the bottom.
Once a frame is selected, users are taken to the creation page, where one simply taps on an open spot in the frame to select a new picture from their library, take a new photo, apply effects—44 are included, with more available via In-App Purchase—and magnify the photo. Buttons below the frame offer frame color and corner radius customization, the ability to choose a frame aspect ratio—only square and 3:2 are included, with the rest again available as an In-App Purchase—and share their creation via email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, or via a physical mailed postcard, an option that only works if the Postcard frame aspect ratio has been selected. User can also save their creations directly to their Camera Rolls.
While we’re slightly turned off by the sheer number of options that Frametastic hides behind In-App Purchases, the app is extremely easy to use, and is free—and Universal—to boot. As framed groups of photos become more popular on social networks, the demand for apps like this is only going to increase, and Frametastic strikes us as one of the best options available, especially for the price. iLounge Rating: A-.
Like Frametastic, TurboCollage for iPhone ($1) allows users to create groups of photos, but TurboCollage sacrifices the former’s wide range of frames for the ability to create collages. The app is controlled almost exclusively from a single screen, which offers buttons at the top for creating new collages, opening a collage from the app’s built-in library, adding photos to the current collage—from the library or by taking a new photo—selecting the collage style, sharing the collage, and hiding the both the top and bottom rows of menus. Five collage styles are offered—the traditional collage-style Pile and four more frame-based options: Grid, Mosaic, Center Frame, and Zig Mosaic—and users can share their creations by saving them to the library, printing them, or via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Email.
On the bottom row are buttons for refreshing the automatic layout, removing a photo from the collage, accessing the settings—which lets you choose between a portrait and landscape layout, select the composition’s aspect ratio, select a background color, and toggle a drop shadow effect on and off—adjusting the spacing and corner radius, and adding text. While we didn’t find TurboCollage a challenge to use, burying its options behind various buttons necessitated more digging through the interface to find what we were looking for relative to Frametastic. Likewise, although we appreciate that there were no features hidden behind In-App Purchases, we would have also liked an expanded range of frames to choose from.
Whether a given user will prefer TurboCollage over Frametastic depends on a couple of factors: whether they want the ability to create more traditional-looking collages, whether they want to add text to their creations, and whether they want to use one app across both the iPhone and iPad. Unlike Frametastic, TurboCollage has multiple versions available for both platforms. TurboCollage is joined by a slightly feature-lacking free Lite version on the iPhone, while there are three versions available for the iPad—a Lite version, which is free, a regular version, which is also free, and a “Pro” version that runs $3. This unnecessary fragmentation of features between multiple versions of the app is the biggest fault against TurboCollage for owners of both an iPhone and iPad, and causes it receive our limited recommendation; those simply looking for a collage-making solution for the iPhone may find it worthwhile anyway. iLounge Rating: B-.
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