capsule review

Scribbeo for iPhone and iPad

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Scribbeo

When you’re working on a long-term or collaborative multimedia project, it helps to be able to take notes directly on your videos and images. DFTi’s Scribbeo app for both the iPhone and iPad makes this possible—users can annotate their still images and videos with text, voice recordings, and finger-drawn sketches. The app also allows you to print, email, and collaboratively share the finished and organized notes, as well as play videos via AirPlay to an HDTV connected to an Apple TV. The app works in three modes: Local mode, Network mode, and Live Transcode mode.

Local mode (single user)

In Local mode for stills, Scribbeo is a competent app—you can draw on the screen with red, green, or blue crayons accessible via the top toolbar. The app also has a text box at the top left, where users can enter additional notes. For a quick way to scribble a note on a picture or discuss a circled item, these features are great. You can email the annotated image in PDF or HTML format. Unfortunately, I ran into problems when it came to sending images in HTML format—none of the images would show up, so I was limited to PDF files. (The Scribbeo team recommends sharing annottated images as PDFs.) And while Scribbeo lets you record audio notes in Local mode, audio does not get included when you email your annotated images.

Scribbeo on the iPhone: The iPhone app lacks Airplay and has a more densely packed interface.

When it comes to annotating video clips, the main flaw with Scribbeo is that you can’t access any videos you already have on your iPhone or iPad. Instead, you have to connect your device to a computer and load individual video files into the the app via iTunes File Sharing. It’s inconvenient, irksome, and awkward, but it works. Once loaded, you can annotate a frame grab of the video, but you can’t draw on the video itself in a way that shows as you play it—a major drawback. (According to Scribbeo, you can access images and videos in your Camera Roll in Local mode, not Network mode, but I could not get this to work in my testing.)

You can play videos on an HDTV via AirPlay and an Apple TV, but none of your marks or commentary will show up, which makes this feature seem somewhat pointless. AirPlay is also one of the differences between the iPad and iPhone apps; the iPhone's smaller size is another. Also, I discovered that time codes don’t always match between video and saved notes in the app. Another problem I encountered: Notes must be manually saved, or else you will lose everything once you click to another frame or another still image. It’s very frustrating.

Network mode (collaborative multi-user)

Network mode, in conjunction with the Scribbeo Server software, allows you to set up a folder on a Mac or PC which multiple users can access. You can place stills and videos in the folder, and saved comments and audio annotations will be saved in subfolders there for others to see; others can see them via Wi-Fi on their iPads or iPhone if they are on the same local Wi-Fi network.

The app’s Auto Discover setting for Wi-Fi didn’t work for me, so I had to manually configure IPs. But once I got that working, the utility of this app jumped exponentially. Users can draw, write, or record voice annotations that all of the other users who are on the the same Wi-Fi network can access. Suddenly, the rough rest of the user experience started to pay off in a useful way for collaborative commentary on media assets—but this only works if all users are on the same Wi-Fi network.

Annotate Me: You can draw on and write notes for video frames. Scribbeo on the iPad has a more open UI.

Scribbeo also has a Live Transcode mode, which allows you to use media files that aren’t in iOS compatible formats in the Scribbeo shared files folder. A Mac or PC will transcode the file on the fly and stream the videos to iOS users. This sounds like a great feature, until you realize the following:

  1. Neither Apple ProRes nor Avid MXF are supported—so much for native output from your editing software.
  2. When using Live Transcode, you cannot draw on frames, make text notes, or add voice annotations. It is only a playback vehicle.

At that point, you might as well be transcoding to an iOS native format to get any benefit from the app, since all you’re getting with this feature is live streaming playback on demand.

If you have an image on your iPhone that you want to mark up and email to a colleague, this app works fine. (Then again, you could also do the same thing in most photo-editing apps.) For video annotation, Scribbeo is irritating but functional. For only a dollar, it might be worth it for some users. For office-based Wi-Fi collaboration, the app shows great promise, but still needs a lot more work in smoothing out the rough edges. I’d gladly pay more for an app that offered a more seamless mode of operation.

[Mike Curtis is an LA based post production consultant, tech writer, and cinematographer.]

To comment on this article and other Macworld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Scribbeo

Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.