By David Topping
At Song of Life UMC in Queen Creek, the “praise band” (including instruments and singers) is named Leap of Faith. Once the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for the group to practice, perform, or record in the same physical space, we made a “leap of faith” and started using an iOS (iPhone/iPad) app to collaborate on song videos for online worship from the safety of our homes.
The app is Acapella from PicPlayPost (from Mixcord, inc.) and its icon is a red square with two microphones. It will work on either an iPhone or iPad, but there’s not currently a working version for Android. This app has been very popular among “a cappella” (the correct spelling) singing groups who use it to make Brady Bunch style singing videos containing a grid of the individual videos from each performer.
The app is free, but in order to make videos longer than one minute, a subscription to a pro (professional) version is required, but only one member of the team (usually the leader) needs to have the paid version for the entire group to work with songs up to ten minutes long. After a free trial period of seven days, the monthly subscription is $9.99, with an annual option available for $47.99/year. In addition to an iPhone or iPad, the performers can record using either the earphones that came with their device (which include an inline microphone on either the left or right side) or with other devices designed to get sound in and out of an iPhone or iPad. Using the internal microphone and speakers to record won’t work, as the microphone will pick up sound from the speakers. A tripod with an iPhone (or iPad) holder can also be quite helpful with the process.
Below are (most) of the details of the process needed to produce a video collaboration using the Acapella app. You’ll find a growing playlist of our band’s collaborations under “Leap of Faith worship band” on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/songoflifeumc
1. Download and launch the app.
3. Tap on “Record New” and then on “YES” on the “New Project” dialog (warning you that the previous project will be replaced).
4. Select a layout/grid (we use Classic grids) with enough tiles for the project (anywhere from 1 to 9). There are three video ratio options: 1:1 (square), 19:9 (widescreen), and 4:5 (portrait mode rectangle).
5. Select the length of the song (either the exact length, including any extra time in the beginning to set the tempo, or a little longer than needed).
6. When using a guide track (see “Guide track notes” below), tap on the desired tile and then on the small “play button” icon to the right of the record button (red circle) to import a guide track video.
7. The guide track will begin to play, so tap on “USE” to proceed.
8. Tap on the checkmark in the green circle to proceed (there’s also an X in a red circle if you need to cancel and go back).
9. At this point, and at other times when using this app, you’ll see a “Rendering” notification with a progress indicator.
10. On the next screen, tap “SAVE & SHARE” to proceed.
11. On the next screen, select “Collaboration” and then tap on the “EMAIL” icon at the bottom.
12. On the email form, enter the email address of the next person in the collaboration and edit the email as desired (you might add some instructions or notes about the project below the collaboration link), and tap on the up-arrow button to send.
13. You can either close the next window (labeled “MORE”) or take one of the actions available (not really necessary at this point).
14. The collaboration recipient will open the email on their iOS device and tap on the collaboration link, which brings up the following screen. They should tap on the “Collab” button, which loads the project in the app on their device.
15. The current collaborator should tap on their tile in the project grid, then on the small blue circular button at the lower left to bring up “INPUT/OUTPUT” options.
16. The collaborator can adjust their own microphone’s “Gain” (volume), and the “Video Sound Volume” (guide track + any collaborations already recorded), with options also available for the left ear, right ear, or both, then close with the “X” in the upper left.
17. The collaborator then taps the red record button, waits for a 4-3-2-1 countdown, and records their part. When finished, a “Continue / Redo” screen appears. If they’re happy with the recording, they tap “Continue,” if not, “Redo.”
18. Once they’ve made a successful recording, the collaborator taps on “SAVE & SHARE” and then follows the procedure (starting at step #11, above) to send the collaboration on to the next team member, or to the leader for final processing and saving.
19. The leader receives the final collaboration email and then makes changes to the volumes, equalization, reverb, and other audio properties using the “SOUND” tool (the “speaker” icon shown in the illustration below)
20. The leader can edit the properties of each collaborator’s audio, one-by-one using the sliders and other tools in the SOUND module.
21. Before saving the final video, the “watermark” in the lower right-hand corner can be edited. Once that’s done, the final step is “SAVE & SHARE” but this time to the “camera roll” of the device. Once in the Photos on the device, the finished video can be edited in iMovie (to trim the beginning and end) or downloaded to a PC or Mac using iCloud.com for further editing.
Guide Track Notes:
Before launching into the steps for a project, a “guide track” might be needed, which will either be the leader playing the song on a keyboard, or a downloaded “track” of the song to be recorded. If the latter, that track should be removed during the last steps of processing, so that just the performances of the band remain. The track typically needs to be a video file, rather than just an audio recording and can be uploaded to the camera roll (Photos) of the leader’s device before starting the collaboration.
- Acapella App website: https://www.mixcord.co/pages/acapella
- Acapella App FAQ and Tips: https://intercom.help/mixcord/en/collections/1528672-acapella-frequently-asked-questions
- Acapella App in the App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/acapella-from-picplaypost/id924635678
- How to Use the Acapella App – YouTube playlist by Gina Luciani: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC2RyVhnqlE&list=PLsfgR3duDxAMOgejbKfdZHYclJ8eG5o5J