First, a little context:
I know I have a huge advantage in today’s job market as a native Internet user. I don’t have to think twice about updating my Twitter feed or what filter I should use for Instagram. (Okay, that’s a lie. But don’t judge me too harshly) Despite my intuitive pulse on digital media, something bothered me on my maymester trek to communications departments in Silicon Valley last year.
And as I enjoyed my first Giants game with my peers, it hit me: I’ve heard about so many career writers lose their jobs in favor of those who had more modern skills, so what if I become obsolete in the future?
Chris Smith, one of the professors on the trip, reassured me, “The thing about your generation is that you’re already so used to updating yourselves, so to speak, You’re already used to seeing what’s new or what’s trending.”
He told me that as long as I keep up with how the majority of the world communicates, I should be just fine.
Enter LA Tech 4 Good and TechSoup
LA Tech 4 Good is a Meetup group sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Network. Its main goal is to be a place where people can gather, discuss and leverage technology for social good. TechSoup connects nonprofits, foundations, and libraries with tech products, services, and learning resources. If you ever worked with a nonprofit, you know that it costs a lot just having the right hardware, software, and skills to optimize the first two. The fact that these two groups exist to support nonprofits is awesome. Last night’s event was also made in conjunction w/TechSoup’s annual Storymakers campaign. During this period, TechSoup offers education, training, online and in-person workshops to help people in the nonprofit sector tell their stories. Nonprofits can submit content to YouTube or Instagram that tells their story for a portion of cash prizes totaling $10,000.
As for me, I just wanted to be a better storyteller.
The speaker of the night was Emily Lutzker, who is the Brand Innovation Lead at TechSoup. She has worked in graphic design and marketing strategy for businesses, and introduced us to Adobe Spark. Unlike more well-known Adobe products such as Photoshop or Premiere, this application is completely FREE for desktop and iPhone. There are three versions: Spark Video, which allows you to create online video, Spark Post, which allows you to easily edit photos and optimize them for social media, and Spark Page, which allows you to quickly design web pages great for fundraising campaigns or any type of content that would look good in a magazine-style format.
The meetup focused solely on Spark Video. And just to emphasize just how easy it is to use the application, a member of the audience was picked to do a live demo.
Guess who was the genius who introduced herself as a digital storyteller at the beginning of the workshop?
All joking aside, it was surprisingly easy. When you open the app, you are invited to create a new video based on predetermined templates: you can promote an idea, teach something new, tell people about an event, and more. You also have the option to start from scratch. I chose to tell a story about my family vacation in the Philippines last year. And honestly, the total time it took me to create the video took about 10 minutes.
It’s so easy, in fact, that I can more or less summarize this in a few screen shots.
Spark Video follows a storytelling theme, and the note cards that you see above more or less follow these principles of a story arc:
Context (We are a nonprofit with big hearts)
Challenge/Problem (But there’s a particular issue in the world that we want to solve)
Solution (We found that x, y, and z are important to addressing this issue)
Result (If we all do x, y, and z we can at least greatly reduce the issue)
Ask (Come donate or be involved with us to make the world better)
Obviously it’s easy to fill those blanks when you’re trying to make a call to action, but Spark adjusts its cards according to the story you’re trying to fill. There are instructions above each card to tell you what that part of the video will be. Just think of it as your old-school storyboard! Also, don’t feel pressured to limit yourself to one card. The plus sign on the bottom right-corner adds new spots for you to add more or remove photos. The plus sign in the middle allows you to add your photo or video, and recording button on the bottom allows you to record a voiceover.
Refering to the gallery above, ou can also add some frills to that with some text or icons if you want.
If you click on the rectangles in the right-hand corner, you have different options to create a layout on a particular card. Perhaps you’d want to be Facebook-savvy and create a captioned video that can be viewed with or without audio. Or perhaps you want to create a micro-film and simultaneously run two clips of people doing their morning routines. Spark Video gives you options, and that’s great.
The magic wand takes you to the themes menu, which stylizes the Adobe Spark promo card at the end of the video, which is also pictured above. There are a variety of fun and professional themes. You also have the option to customize the ending card that can fit with your brand’s theme.
And as for music, the default background is ukelele music, but as you can see, there’s a variety to choose from.
I joked at the workshop that I spent thousands of dollars and hours of homework assignments at USC to learn how to do use software like Premiere, but here I was at a free workshop creating a video that normally would take me about 40-ish minutes. If you don’t have the technical skills to create well-edited video, and don’t have the budget to outsource, Spark Video is your new best friend. It’ll give you a clean look, and it’s really easy to edit.
Last year I edited some quick vlogs on my trip to the Philippines last year through the mobile iMovie app on my iPhone. I remember having my mind blown because this entire time I had a tool that was just as powerful as Premiere. Spark Video, however, definitely blew iMovie out of the water. This is a free application and you can use it on your laptop and iPhone (sorry, android users). I will definitely use this whenever I want to share quick travel updates in the future.
I’ll test out Spark Page and Spark Post for another day, but until then you can check out all of the things I just talked about below: