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Adobe—yes, Adobe—has one of the best free video-makers out there

Spark Video is best for beginners or those looking for something quick and easy.

Adobe—yes, Adobe—has one of the best free video-makers out there
[Source Images: iStock; Adobe]

This article is republished with permission from “Wonder Tools,” a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps. Subscribe here.

Adobe’s professional software has long struck me as unnecessarily clunky and complex. Adobe Premiere, Illustrator, Photoshop and other such apps are powerful, but daunting for beginners to learn.

So I was surprised to discover that Adobe Spark Video is one of the best free apps for making a quick slideshow-style video. It’s part of a suite of apps that Adobe recently started calling Creative Cloud Express. The company actually now refers to Spark Video as “Adobe Creative Cloud Express online video maker,” which is a clunky name.

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Despite the awkward title, it’s worth a look. I’ve used a dozen or so video apps over the past few years, and this is one I keep coming back to, particularly to create short narrated slideshow videos.

It lacks advanced features for complex editing, so Spark Video is best for beginners or those looking for something quick and easy. Read on for what’s most useful about it and how to get started.

Spark Video’s best features

Original footage is optional. Many video apps require you to start with photos or videos from your phone. When using those apps, if you’re trying to create something not pegged to your own images, you’re stuck.

Works on desktop and mobile devices. You can start something on your phone, then finish it on your computer. That flexibility is helpful if you have some images in one place and others somewhere else. Or if you are away from your laptop and want to make a fix to your video.

Simple, clean templates. Some apps lack professional-looking, clean text styles. Or give you an overwhelming number of options. Spark Video has nine basic themes, all of which are solid. You can easily resize text or move it around.

Easy export. Share a link to your video when you’re done, post it to a social platform, or or download it to your camera roll.

Narrate to add your voice. A big narration button makes it easy to add your own voiceover after you’ve chosen images, videos or text for your slideshow.

Pricing: It’s free unless you need advanced features. For $10/month you get 100gb of storage space, and the ability to add your own logo, colors, fonts and branding. The free version works fine for me. For what it offers, the premium subscription seems overpriced.

6 Steps to make a video with Spark Video

  1. Add a text title for the start of your video, plus whatever other text cards you want.
  2. Pick images or video clips from your phone or computer.
  3. If you don’t have images that match your subject, search the app’s free image library.
  4. Adjust the music or replace it with your own.
  5. Record an optional narration to give the video a personal perspective.
  6. Export and share.

Tips

  • Try the Noir, Tidal and Statement themes, but skip the Sage theme, with its amateurish cursive styling.
  • Try alternating text cards with images or short video clips for varied pacing.
  • For work-related videos use the icons offered as decorative elements sparingly, if at all, to avoid resonances of clip art.

Limitations

  • When you share a link to your video, it shows up on a page with Adobe branding on it.
  • The app lacks special effects or advanced editing functions.
  • It’s best for short videos. If you’re working on something longer than a few minutes, you’re better off with one of the alternatives below.

Alternatives

  • Quik is another superfast video creation app. It stitches together a video with no manual edits required if you want to create something automatically out of footage on your phone. It’s best if you have your own footage and prefer music video-style cuts over Spark Video’s more traditional slideshow style. It’s free for iOS and Android.
  • Apple’s Clips is an underappreciated app that comes with the iPhone. It has an unusual editing interface but has some unique special features, like adding caption text automatically while you narrate, and allowing you to add backgrounds to your video without having a green screen.
  • Videoshop is a great full-featured video editor for iOS or Android that includes advanced features Spark Video lacks, like color correction, filters, slow motion, gifs, stickers and animated titles. Despite having lots of features, it’s easy to use. For intermediate and advanced video editors, this works well.

Adobe competitors like Figma and Sketch have gained popularity in recent years partly because they’ve emphasized ease of use and collaboration. And they’re less corporate. Adobe has responded by creating new products like Spark Video that are great for novices.

This article is republished with permission from “Wonder Tools,” a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps. Subscribe here.

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About the author

Jeremy Caplan is the director of teaching and learning at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and the creator of the Wonder Tools newsletter.

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