I think that it's safe to say that most kids (and probably some adults too) like watching animated movies. Believe it or not, animations have been around since ancient times, although the techniques for producing them have greatly evolved since then.
If your junior (or you) have ever wanted to make your own animated movies, there's an app for that now: Easy Studio. Created by developer Les Trois Elles, this intuitive app lets you put together simple stop motion animations on your iPad using only geometric shapes.
Before we continue, let's first go over the definition of animation. A quick visit to Wikipedia tells us that an animation is a sequence of images that are displayed rapidly to create an illusion of movement. An individual image in that sequence is called a "frame".
Basically, what Easy Studio does is provide an easy, step-by-step way to create these frames. Using the app's touch-based interface, first you place colorful geometric pieces from the toolbar onto the canvas to compose a scene. You can also perform basic manipulations on these shapes; for instance, you can scale them up or down, resize them, and recolor them.
Once you are happy with your scene, tap on the Camera icon to save it as a frame. Then, rearrange the shapes to create the next image in your sequence. Next, it is a matter of snapping your new scene and repeating the process until you have enough frames to form an animated movie. This technique is similar to the one used to make stop motion animations, where you move the objects in each frame incrementally, capture them, and then join them into a single animation.
At any point in your work, you can watch it unfold as an animation by tapping on the Play button. You can also save your project by tapping on the Video Camera button, and come back to it later. All your projects are saved in the Library, where you can also view them as animations. However, the app has no export features to save your finished work to Camera Roll.
Designed to be easy to use for everyone, Easy Studio ensures that even new users can quickly adapt to the animation making process. The app has two usage modes, Easy and Expert, which help smooth out the learning curve.
The Easy mode is the default mode when you first open the app. It contains a tutorial that the app obliges you to watch to make sure you understand how the basic functionalities work. Afterwards, you gain access to five predefined animation templates for testing your newly acquired skills.
Once you get the hang of things, you can head over to the Expert mode where you are encouraged to explore and create more sophisticated scenarios. This mode gives you a wide range of shapes to work with and additional functionalities that are not available in Easy mode. For instance, you can rotate, duplicate and group objects; change the canvas' color; and add predefined object patterns to your canvas. It is also possible to edit and delete individual frames in your animation.
To give you a more visual idea of how the app works, here's an official video from the developers:
Tips for New Users
After spending some time with Easy Studio, I conclude that it is a great tool for making simple animated movies. The app is quite intuitive to work with, so I believe that juniors as young as 6 years old will not have much trouble using it. There is also an included list of tips and tricks, which you can view by tapping on the Info button.
In addition to the "official" tips, I would also like to share some of my own. These were created based on my experience in using the app for a few days. If you have additional tips and tricks to share with our readers, feel free to tweet us and we'll add it to this list.
- Plan ahead. Before you start creating your animated movies, it helps to have an idea of what you want to make. Plan a story together with your junior, and help them create a quick storyboard.
- Be careful of small shapes. While you may be tempted to create very detailed objects, I found that really small shapes can be difficult to control, especially when they are too near to other shapes. My suggestion is to limit the number of small shapes in a scene.
- Group objects. In Expert mode, you can group multiple shapes together. This is useful when you need to move a number of shapes at once; for example, animating vehicles across the screen.
- Play with FPS. In animations, there is a term called "frames per second" or fps, which basically means the number of images shown in one second. In Easy Studio, it is possible to control the number of frames per second (1, 2 or 3) from the app's Settings. The lesser the number, the slower the animation.
- Edit previous videos. If you want to come back to your previously saved projects, you can do so by going into the Library and tapping on the Pencil icon. Select the video that you want, and the app will open it in Expert mode.
Things I Like
Once in a while, I come across a great app that I can't stop raving about. Easy Studio is an example of such an app. The idea is unique, and the execution almost flawless.
There is a great deal of attention poured into making sure that the app is simple, but not bare. For instance, when you move a shape, the app shows an outline to mark the shape's original position on the canvas. The gesture-based actions, like double tapping to duplicate shapes and dragging to select multiple objects, are also intuitive.
I like that the fact that you can save your projects and come back to edit them later. This is a great feature as it allows juniors to create longer animated movies but without making them do it in a single seating.
Another thing that I would like to point out is that the app's size is quite small. I made around 10 animations at about 5 seconds in length, and they take up less than 1.5 MB. The app listing mentions that it saves your animations in "a file format that takes up virtually no memory space".
Finally, I would like to suggest the implementation of an undo feature somewhere as I sometimes accidentally move things, and it can be a pain to move them back. It would also be great if I could add a soundtrack to my animations, and export my finished work to Camera Roll.
Easy Studio is a fantastic app for creating stop motion animations on your iPad. Designed for juniors ages 6 and up, it has all the necessary features to make a moving masterpiece, but without the complicated settings. I would highly recommend it for parents with creative little artists in the house.