iPad Apps : Restore your Sense of Wonder – for Free!

So you know whats better than a free app. Nothing.
Well maybe having sex while downloading a free app. (my girlfriend is going to kill me for saying that, but she doesn’t read my blog anyway). ahem…

So, Actually one thing i can think of thats better than a regular free app is a free app that allows you to learn something that expands your sense of wonder and leaves you smarter and loving how the universe is more amazing than you thought (or reminds you of that).

Here are 3 free iPad apps that really deserve all the praise and admiration that I can send them. They really expand your mind in simple and understandable ways that are fun for all ages.

The first two are form the “Exploratorium” and focus on two of my favorite areas on the world. Color and Sound.

Lets start with color

Exploratorium: COLOR Uncovered

col·or ( ˈkələr/)


  1. the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way the object reflects or emits light.”the lights flickered and changed color”
  2. pigmentation of the skin, esp. as an indication of someone’s race.”discrimination on the basis of color”

This app I discovered by accident and was a happy day as I was instantly hooked. The type of app where you look at a page or two and decide to savor the rest by only looking at one more thing each day, kind of like the nerd eating the apple in “The Neverending Story”.

I am a graphic and web designer so I have studied color theory in depth ( and actually about 3 times for different courses) so I know it pretty well and this basically brought all the most sciencey and interesting things from color theory into this app. Simultaneous contrast, persistence of vision. Dischordant colors. It’s all there in iPad retina glory.

It has the kind of experiments that you instantly want to show someone when you do it to see if they can guess right. Go and get this app. It’s free and what have you got to lose.

and now for sound

Exploratorium: SOUND Uncovered


  1. vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear.
    “light travels faster than sound”
  2. sound produced by continuous and regular vibrations, as opposed to noise.

So after I finished the color:exploratorium, I went, gee I hope they make more of them. Seemed like it might be in a series. And I was right! And sound. Yippee. I think for most people sound is even harder to fathom as you can’t see it (I knew that before I got the app. That’s how smart I am).

So it’s just as good as the first one, and I won’t give it all away, but it starts out on the shepherds tone, which is an awesome sound phenomenon and has some other fantastic surprises in there too. I a, studying mixing and mastering right now (and working on an album) so understanding frequencies and their psychological and social effects are extremely interesting for me.

Once again can’t recommend these enough. And awesome for kids. They are so interestingly interactive that the kids of all ages will love playing with it. And you will definitely be surprised by some of it.

and as a bonus prize – the 4th dimension!

The 4th Dimension

disclaimer: i threw this one in a t the last minute as i love it so much, but unfortunately its not free , but it certainly fits int the sense of wonder category) I must also add that this one also works for the iPhone and iPod touch, but i strongly suggest you try in on an iPad

Do you know what a tesseract is?

(as a footnote after i wrote this, I saw “The Avengers” which represent it with a small blue cube, obviously to denote that its 4th dimensional properties can bend the boundaries of time and space – which may not be so far from the truth)
No its not one of those flying dinosaurs you used t love as a kid.
its what happens when you spin a cube in the 4th dimension. Most of use think the 4th dimension is time, but as modern science tells us, is that we live in a 11 dimensions universe, 12 if you believe in super gravity, making time the 12 or 13th dimension in that case, but we time and space are so intrinsically liked that they are impossible to separate.

Well this app is not about any of what i just said, well, except the first bit. The forst time i saw movement in the 4th dimension it really blew me away, as its basically a mathematical equation represented by a seemingly 3 dimensional diagram. but of course its just a representation on a 2 dimensional screen.

Confused. well you needn’t be anymore, as this awesome app will show you how it’s all possible. It’s very easy to understand and very hands on and you can get from one end to the other in about 10-15 minutes depending on how much you play with it. The app I mean. You shouldn’t get carried away when you play with the 4th dimension, and if you did it may be outside of our visual universe.

DIY Sennheiser HD 25 headphone upgrade and iOS video editing app review

So actually this blog post spawned out of me having a recent obsession with stop motion video. I have been playing around a lot with it.

I recently went to Japan, and took all my music equipment so I could do music events while there. I managed to destroy one of the ear pads on my Sennheiser HD-25s and had to buy a new set of earpads for them (I’ve been through 3 sets and 2 cables now). I found a nice white set that were cheap and decided to make them all white. I’m trying to get as much white equipment in my studio as I’m sick of all the black dj gear out there. I’m not digitally racist, I just want a more open happy feeling studio.

So these two stories converged and I decided to do a stop motion of me fixing my headphones, to show others how easily they can customize things in their house and also test out some video editing apps. People hardly ever fix things these days. I don’t know why because you will love that item so much more when you had to piece it together, not to mention you will have a much greater understanding of how it works. I have upgraded all my computers (including my iMac, which was by far the most nerve wracking as you get to its guts by pulling the screen out).

Here is the video I made of my headphone upgrades. I used iMotion HD to make it, and then stitched it together using the programs that I will review on this page.

My time lapse video of my DIY upgrade of my Sennheiser HD-25 II headphones.

As you can see, it’s not that difficult to do that kind of thing. Of course there are a few moments you feel like you may be destroying something you love, but with a little planning, and some commitment you can really improve your everyday items. All in all it cost me $10 for the paint and $40 for the new pads and headband pads, an old sponge to block the holes to stop paint going in to the electronics and some cheap tape to mask the parts of the headphone I didn’t want to paint (so that the sizing/adjusting mechanism still works, and also for style).

So not a bad overall cost. It can be done cheaper but I really wanted the white ones. I had bough the telephone style cord before on eBay for about $40 so the whole upgrade would be under $100 to take these pro headphones into a new state of being. Making a cord is also possible but requires good soldering skills.

Making the Video

So a couple of months ago, i was watching a fireworks display, and though… gee this would look awesome in time lapse video… I quickly looked i the app store for a free time lapse app and found this one – iMotion HD. I cant say enough good things about it. i downloaded it, and was filming within 30 seconds. I did not need any tutorial or spend ages working it out. As an interface designer I was very impressed at the obviousness and simplicity presented, but without compromising functionality. It also works just as well in portrait mode, or in landscape mode, and the video size and aspect ratio (which is decided when you start the video) changes to suit.

So later on after playing with lots of time lapse videos of environments – see example 1see example 2see example 3 – i decided to use it to film myself respraying my headphones.

Anyway… once I made the video, I needed to edit a few seconds out here and there and add a title etc, so needed to get some video editing software. I thought, as I often do, if I’m going to have to research this I might as well share my finding with everyone. Editing video is pretty easy and straightforward, and should be even more so on the iPad. I don’t plan to edit loads of videos so I thought I’d see what I can get for free, not only to save the cost, but to purposely limit my editing so I don’t get carried away like I often do.

I defined what I wanted before I searched

I wanted something that could

  • edit the ends of the video (trim start or end off)
  • fade in and out
  • have blank slides to write text
  • Import pics possibly
  • Export easily
  • Have high contrast text black and white for different bkgs
  • Be free! (Well at least to do something simple. I don’t mind paying for super features)
  • Not make me want to pull my hair out

And the bonuses would be

  • Overlay text with transparency
  • Fonts and colors etc
  • Have awesome transitions (which I most likely would not use)
  • Allow watermarking
  • Filters

Now to find best (FREE) video editing for iOS

Ok, so I chose 3 free video editing software a to try out. Ones that are available on iPhone as well as iPad. Of course they have some limitations which can be removed if you pay for them, but I wanted to see how far I could take them without needing any of the upgrades.

Case study 1 – Cute Cut

Upgrade cost – $5.99 for unlimited length (free version is 30 sconds) and watermark removal (free version watermarks with their logo)

Initially this app seemed the most well thought out of the bunch (I opened each one for about 10 seconds just to see where to start). I got right into the editing and without much guidance got up to speed.The controls are a bit fiddly, and you will get a little frustrated at times. The sub menus all need to be confirmed and the icons are a little ambiguous, but it only takes one experiment to see how it goes.

While simple it has some powerful tools to make your edits smooth and with overlayed text which has many effects, you can create something easily but also with individual style. It also has built in sound effects and music but you can import your own.

You can only have two video tracks, but mix back and forth between them, so technically mix an unlimited amount of videos. Transitions appear on the timeline in blue. At first it was very fiddly trying to work out what to do, but once you get the hang of it, very impressive. You get locked into submenus, so you must click ok, which was annoying at first, but makes sure you don’t accidentally save something you don’t like.

All in all pretty awesome app. The fact you can fade from video to video is very exciting. Of course you can choose long transitions in other video apps, but you can actually see the timing overlay here, which is great for people who grew up using AfterEffects like me. Once you have finished a project I would say your workflow would speed up, and you can duplicate projects to keep items like watermarks.

And the video (took about 10 minutes to make this preview ( 40 minutes for the final)) – limited to 30 seconds in the free version. Ignore the content/timing as i was just testing the text overlay and fade ins/outs. Also ignore the perfect video logo as that was a video i imported.


Case study 2 – Perfect Video

Upgrade cost – $2.99 which removes advertising and 30 second limit


This software is really easy. It has a tutorial that pops up the first time you use it and can be found easily in th top right if you forget. It’s very simple to use and a much faster workflow than Cute Cut. Selecting transitions has a very nice interface and is easy also.

While not allowing you to overlay video, the workflow is much faster in this style of editor. You just get everything lined up and it goes step by step through the sequence. Extremely fast and perfect for sideshows. This app also allows you to see the text as it will appear on screen, which is an improvement on the Cute Cut method. You can also overlay text on images, but as far as I could tell it just sits at the bottom of the screen, so not as much customization.

And the video I made (took only a few minutes). Its very easy but also has that cheap slideshow feel to it. I would certainly consider buying this for times when you need to make something super fast for more instructional purposes than trying to make a piece of art.


Case study 3 – video Editor (free edition)

Upgrade cost -$1.99 and removes ads. Can export up to 10 minutes video.
Mini upgrade of $0.99 available if you just want to add pictures, without removing the adds.
Mini upgrade of $0.99 available if you just want to add pre-recorded sound or music
Mini upgrade of $0.99 available if you just want to record sound right into the player.
Mini upgrade of $0.99 available if you just want to unlock all transitions.

As you can see , although free, this app can cost a lot if you want all the features. As far as I could tell, the $1.99 just removes the annoying ads and you still need t pay for the upgrades ( but i could be wrong)

While annoying to look at, and very obviously designed for a vertical held iPhone, this app does what it says and easily let’s you add bunches of videos and trim them very easily and export them.

There are few functions but it’s straightforward and gets the job done. There are no title screens, unless you make them in another app and import them either as videos (or pay $0.99 to import them as images)

Unlike all the other apps, the free version has no time limit.

As you can see by the upgrades that you can pick and choose the functionality you want. With all the upgrades, like extra transitions, which takes this from the cheapest app almost to the same price as Cute Cut, but it would still be a cheap and nasty imitation of tat kind of app.

The layout system is similar to Perfect Video as it is very much linear. I could not recommend this in place of that as that interface is so much nicer and the price point is too close. A nifty trick for those on a shoestring budget, is to make less than 30 second fancy overlays in the Cute Cut app and then import into this app for sequencing. I would say stay away fro this one unless you just need a quick free app to stick movies together. The fact it doesnt have a time limit ( well up to 10 minutes which is huge) is its most redeeming factor.

And here is the video (time taken- less than 30 seconds)


The winner

All 3 for certain purposes. The more you spend the slightly better options, but also your work time increases. For most peoples uses I would recommend Perfect Video for $2.99 as it has an iMovie style interface without the extra cost and simple setup. I personally chose the Cute Cut app as I wanted that more customized professional feel. To get perfect, it took me about 40 minutes in total to make the final video, which i could have done in 10 minutes with Perfect Video. Depends on how important each job is. I will probably buy both and switch between them.

So there you have it. I got a new pair of headphones as well as got to make a nice little video about it. Leave a comment and say which one you like or if you have another option you think is better. This was posted on the 1st of November 2013, so i was just using the free apps on the store at that time.

Further reading

For more DIY action, check out my favorite DIY electronics website, where you can find all kinds of helpful ts for fixing and upgrading your stuff. It also has basically every MacBook and imac ever made on there.

Also a friend fixes up old delay machines and the like. Some great videos on there –