Review: StopMo Studio for iPad

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StopMo

Back in those halcyon days of long summer holidays (now sadly gone, oh wait, I’m a teacher!) I used to love remaking summer blockbuster movies with my Dad’s state of the art, 5 kilogram camcorder. One particular summer, I roped my Sister, Mum and dog/velociraptor into re-making Jurassic Park. For the T-Rex attack scene we emptied out our recently deceased gerbil’s cage, packed the bottom with mud and used mood lighting and a watering can to create the scene with a model of a T-Rex (free gift – thanks PG Tips!). However, we had no method of making the scene look good without physically holding the T-Rex toy, which ended up looking a bit rubbish. If YouTube, the iPad and the StopMo Studio app had been invented in 1993, all my problems would have been solved and I’d now be calling the shots in Hollywood.

However, back to reality. I have used a couple of other stop motion apps on the iPad, most notability the excellent Stop Motion Studio, and one of our teachers at school has used iMotion with fantastic results. I must say however, the NFB’s StopMo Studio (NFB standing for National Film Board…of Canada) is the best that I have used so far. It seems to be an app that has been very well thought out and it’s very slick as a result.

The user interface works well and crucially, doesn’t get in the way, which is important in video based apps. One of the initial cool features I found was a slider which allows you to fade an onion skin of your previous frame in and out of the live camera image (hence why the picture at the top of the page appears blurry). This is useful when animating as if you move something by accident, you can replace it in the right spot fairly easily.  The frame capture button is large enough so that if you are trying to animate quickly, you can easily put frames in, and the options are nicely tucked away as small tabs on either side of the live picture.

StopMo Studio for iPad

There are a couple of really cool features where this app goes the extra mile beyond other competitors. Firstly, you can put up to four audio layers into your video. This is useful if you want to add music, a voiceover, or even special effect noises, some of which are included in the app itself. As well as this, the app also has some cool freehand drawing features, with comprehensive options. You could, for example, have a close up of a Lego man’s face, and animate it’s eyes and mouth with the drawing tools in the app. There are other options, like the ability to add photos, titles and solid colours as scenes in your film. The final noteworthy feature is time lapse. You can turn on time lapse, and set the app to take pictures at different timed intervals, from under a second to a day. The app will arrange all of the time lapse pictures in order to create your movie.

Controls

I’m sure they may be out there, but I’m struggling to think of an app which make stop motion this easy, but still gives you several different configuration options for different facets of the movie that you are shooting. There are other apps, some of which are free, but I think if you are serious about creating some excellent stop motion based movies, then you can’t go far wrong with this app. If only iPads had been invented in 1993, I may of been the one ordering Speilberg to make me a tea….on the other hand….

Here is my amazing movie, created in this app, entitled “Me and my Sci-Fi Horse”. It could be a contender for the best 5 second short, made in a kitchen in England movie of the year award:

StopMo Studio is available here on the App Store for $3.99, and $0.99 for limited time.

Disclosure: The app developers sent me a pre-release version of this app to review.

James Potter

My day job is Director of Technology at one of the UK's leading independent schools. I'm on a daily mission to use, and learn to use technology in the most creative, innovative and transformational ways. The iPad ticks all of these boxes. My geekery also extends to a passion for cricket, amateur astronomy, video gaming and bad guitar playing. You can contact me on Twitter with the link below.

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