I recently received a question from a reader about free apps that can be used to create video tutorials on the iPad. My favorite app to do this is the free Shadow Puppet app, which doesn’t require an account and can be used by people of all ages. Here is my guide to creating tutorials with the free Shadow Puppet app, and how it can be used with accessibility settings for visual impairment.
What is Shadow Puppet?
Shadow Puppet is a free app for iOS and iPad OS that allows users to create videos, called Puppets, that blend images, videos, and audio recordings. There is also a free Shadow Puppet for EDU app that is optimized for teachers and students as young as 5 years old to create their own Puppets, though the creation and sharing process is exactly the same. Shadow Puppet and Shadow Puppet EDU are free to use and access and users do not need to create an account to use either app.
Creating a Puppet
Crop settings for photos and videos
By default, images and videos are set to be automatically zoomed in/cropped in a square shape. This can be fixed in settings, which can be accessed by clicking the settings button in the top left-hand corner of the app home screen.
Choosing images and videos
Users can add images and videos from their camera roll, or use the built-in search features within the Shadow Puppet app to find images or videos to add to their presentation.
The built-in search feature allows users to search for images and videos from the following sources:
- Map search
- Famous landmarks
- For Shadow Puppet EDU- Education search for images from Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Library, NASA, and NOAA
- For Shadow Puppet EDU- Image search for images from Flickr Creative Commons and Wikimedia Commons
- Web search for animated GIFs (not available in EDU)
Adding and customizing text
Once a user has chosen their images and videos, they can add text by clicking the Text icon on the right side of the screen and typing their choice of text (Emoji are also supported). Users can then add the following additional customizations to their text, listed in order of where they appear on the screen:
- Animation effect
- Text position/alignment
- Text color
- Text size
If users are recording audio and want to add text, audio will automatically be paused when they are adding text and then will automatically resume when the user clicks the check box to add the text to the Puppet.
Users can record audio for their Puppet by tapping the Record button on the bottom of the screen, and tapping the button again when they are done recording. If audio is not working, I recommend checking to make sure the Mute button, which is to the left of the Record button, was not accidentally turned on.
Adding additional audio
Underneath the Insert Text button is a button with a music note on it to insert additional audio into the Puppet presentation. Audio can be inserted from the iTunes library, a built-in library of background music. As of publishing time, users cannot insert audio tracks that are on their device, such as recordings they made in another app.
Sharing and viewing Puppets
Users have the following options for saving, sharing, and viewing their Puppets:
- Save to camera roll (automatically done if turned on in settings)
- Share to Seesaw (EDU only)
- Save to iCloud
- Share on Twitter
- Share via email
- Send link in Messages
- Copy link
- Share on Facebook or Instagram
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Users With Low Vision
- Paper Size and Low Vision
- Choosing Wallpapers and Backgrounds With Low Vision
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- How To Make Your Instagram Feed Accessible For Visual Impairment
Using Shadow Puppet with large print and screen magnification
I tested the Shadow Puppet app with large print and Zoom magnifier and found that it was very easy to use. For Shadow Puppet and similar apps, I prefer to use the resizable lens view for Zoom so that I only am magnifying part of the screen at any given time, as I do not need to constantly have full screen magnification on. However, I only had to use Zoom when inserting text, configuring sharing details, or looking at details of images/videos- most of the buttons within the app are high contrast and I found them easy to see with my low vision.
- Choosing High Contrast Color Schemes For Low Vision
- App Accessibility Checklist for Low Vision
- Zoom Magnifier and Low Vision
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Accessibility Settings I’m Using In iPad OS and iOS 13
Using Shadow Puppet with VoiceOver
Shadow Puppet is not optimized to be used with VoiceOver, but it still can be used fairly easily. If users are able to independently add their own images and videos, then they will be able to navigate the editor, though it’s worth noting that if the user is not using headphones, VoiceOver will still be audible in the Shadow Puppet audio recordings. Users also can’t preview their Puppet within the app if VoiceOver is enabled, but the Puppets themselves can be viewed by VoiceOver users without any issues.
- How To Use VoiceOver For Beginners
- How Web Accessibility Impacts My Life With Low Vision
- Clarisketch App For Low Vision Review
Shadow Puppet app upgrade
Users can upgrade to a premium version of Shadow Puppet for a one-time purchase of $1.99, which includes the following features:
- Support for HD video
- Up to 100 items in each Puppet
- All 10 basic drawing tools
Users can also purchase the ability to remove the Puppet watermark for a one-time purchase of $4.99.
Some potential uses for the Shadow Puppet app and ways I have used apps similar to Shadow Puppet include:
- Creating digital orientation and mobility lessons for people learning different techniques or learning to navigate to a new place
- Creating audio recordings of alt text or image descriptions of art or other images
- As an alternative to traditional school presentations
- Creating a lesson or delivering a lecture virtually
- Creating audio description for videos
- Explaining an assignment or educational concept
- Describing the layout of a space for someone who is blind or that has low vision
- How I Use My Phone For Orientation and Mobility
- Orientation and Mobility Posts on Veronica With Four Eyes
- How To Write Alt Text For Amateur Art
- Audio description posts on Veronica With Four Eyes
- Alternatives To Trifold Presentations
I had a lot of fun exploring the Shadow Puppet app and found it to be very easy to use and understand. It would be a very helpful tool for teachers and students alike to create their own presentations and share content with others, especially for virtual classrooms.