If you are a fan of stop-motion animated movies such as “Coraline”, “Corpse Bride”, or “Wallace and Gromit” you may have a desire to try your hand and making your own stop-motion movies. The problem though is that most people just don’t know where to start or what equipment is needed. However, thanks to iStopMotion, an iPad / iPhone / iPod app by Boinx Software, you can easily create stop-motion movies using your iDevice’s built-in camera.
Before we discuss the various features of the iStopMotion app and our overall opinion of it, watch the stop-motion animated movie we created in about an hour using the app and then posted on YouTube:
iStopMotion Features Walkthrough
When you first launch the iStopMotion app you are on the gallery screen. The gallery is where all of your movie projects will be displayed using a thumbnail. The gallery also contains a short tutorial video on how to use the app. From this gallery screen you are also able to create and name a new project.
Once you create a new project you have quite a few options:
By tapping on the screen, a toolbar displays along the top of the app with two main icons.
Choose a Camera. Set Focus and Exposure
The first icon on the top toolbar looks like a camera and allows you to choose to either use the back camera, the front camera, or a remote camera on the same WiFi network.
When you select a camera, you are also able to adjust the focus point and exposure point if those features are available for your model of iDevice.
To use the remote camera feature, the other iDevice must be on the same WiFi network and it must be running iStopMotion Remote Camera, a free app provided by Boinx and available on iTunes. We tested out the remote app and found that it worked without issue.
Single Shots or Time-Lapse
The second icon on the top toolbar looks like a stopwatch and allows you to select which mode you want to record in, either single shot, or in time-lapse. If you select time-lapse, you can choose an interval for how often you want a picture to automatically be taken. Time-lapse movies allow you to speed up slow scenes. For example, a ship coming into harbor quickly, or clouds moving through the sky briskly.
Choose Your Clip Settings
Along the bottom of the app is a large panel. On this panel is a settings icon that looks like a gear. Clicking on this icon presents you with four options.
The first option allows you to select if you want to display only the recorded frames, display a semi-transparent image of the last frame you took over the current live view as seen by the camera, or just the live view. For recording stop-motion animation, you would want to have it set on the option that displays a semi-transparent image of the last frame taken on top of the current live view (more about this feature later).
Frames Per Second
The second option allows you to select the speed of playback in frames per second (fps).
The third option allow you to turn gridlines on to help you keep the scene level.
The last option allows you to playback your current movie at half speed.
Recording a Stop-Motion Movie
Once you have your scene in place containing your characters and props, you can start either the single shot recording or time-lapse recording. On the left side of the screen is a playback button while on the right side of the screen is the capture button. By hitting the capture button while in single shot mode, the app takes a picture using the camera you had selected. Now it’s all about moving the character or prop slightly and taking another photograph. At anytime you can just touch the playback button to view your movie at normal speed (whatever you set the frames per second at).
Semi-Transparent Display Mode
What’s great about iStopMotion for the iPad is the semi-transparent display mode that overlays the last picture that was taken over the current live view from the camera. What this does is it lets you see where your characters and props were positioned last so you can make the correct changes to their positioning for the next frame.
The timeline displays all of the images that have been taken in the current project. You can easily use your finger to swipe through all of the frames in the clip and select an individual frame to view. Next to the timeline you can also see how long the clip is in minutes and seconds based on the frames per second setting that was described earlier.
Editing / Action Options
On the right side of the bottom panel is a wrench icon. When clicked, you can access the following actions: empty the whole clip, delete selected frames, and duplicate the selected frames. Duplicating frames allows you to create pauses or smooth out the movement of an animation during normal playback.
Uploading / Sharing Options
Once you have created your stop-motion animation, you can return to the gallery screen. Under a thumbnail image of the first frame of your movie is an icon that when clicked presents the following sets of options: Add a soundtrack, save to camera roll, mail video clip, and upload to YouTube or Dropbox.
If you choose to add a soundtrack, a screen pops up allowing to choose from any available audio tracks on your device. Once you choose a track, you can then instantly preview the movie with the selected audio track playing.
Uploading your movie to YouTube or DropBox couldn’t be simpler. When choosing to upload via DropBox, the app offers the option of exporting at various screen resolutions. Once you choose the quality of output, the app launches a Dropbox screen where you enter your login credentials. Once you do that, iStopMotion automatically uploads the movie to an apps folder in your DropBox account.
iStopMotion is a must buy for anyone who has ever dreamed of making their own stop-motion animated film or time-lapse video. Being able to use your iPhone, iPod, or iPad as a tool to make still life come to life is amazing. iStopMotion is really is one of those “wow” apps that makes you love your iDevice.
With its simple and intuitive user interface, iStopMotion is easy enough for even a child to create their own movies. Also, should anyone ever wonder what a specific feature does, iStopmotion provides a short video tutorial along with a help screen that explains each feature. This allows you to delve right into making movies in no time at all.
The semi-transparent view mode is a fantastic feature that greatly helps with the positioning of characters and props. It also allows you to quickly get your iDevice back into position should it be accidentally moved.
The one feature that we would like to see included is a way to paint out wires or anything else that shouldn’t be in a shot. You should be able to do this by selecting a clean background frame and then erase away any wires or rigging that you want to hide. This will make it easy to make professional looking stop-motion movies where you can have objects moving or hovering in air without seeing anything holding them up.
For anyone who is serious about making stop-motion movies or time-lapse videos I would strongly suggest finding a tripod mount for your iPhone or iPad. A tripod would make it much easier to keep the device still and prevent your characters or props from having unwanted movement in the scene. We didn’t have any kind of mount when we made our video and we found it very difficult to keep the device still.
We had tremendous fun making the video we embedded at the top of this review and will definitely be making more. Maybe one day we will have a YouTube hit!
We would also suggest picking up the following iBook: Stop Motion Handbook using GarageBand and iStopMotion – Craig Lauridsen. This will teach you how to create props, characters, backgrounds, add sound, and more.