Creative pursuits are getting easier and easier to go after these days, especially ones involving technology. For a long time, expensive software with steep learning curves has been prohibitive for newcomers to the world of digital creativity. Animation has long been a field affected by such problems – software from companies like Autodesk and Adobe runs hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This is certainly not something the amateur animator is going to be excited to invest in.
Luckily, a number of developers over the past couple of years have put out some great software for amateur animators. These programs allow you to make simple animations, stop-motion videos, time lapses and much more. The apps I’ve included are all under the $50 benchmark, with many available for $10 or less. Stick with me after the jump to learn about the great variety of software available for the home animator.
First up is Animation Desk, an app which aims to replicate the environment of a real animation desk. Within the app, users of all skill levels can make simple and fun animations. the app supports layers, allows for dynamic and static backgrounds and boasts a variety of tools including onion-skin capabilities and a powerful frame manager. You can create e-cards and share your creations with the world. I found the app best for storyboard work and got the most out of it when I used my tablet, but there are tons of different uses for the app.
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Kdan Mobile
Crazy Talk 7 is an app which uses text and sound to animate facial images. You just import the image of your choice, select key facial points and add the desired sound. The app then makes all of the animation happen automatically, using built-in tools. The app is fun, works pretty well and is a handy tool to have around for some goofy animations. The app comes with a variety of pre-installed content and libraries, ensuring that you can make a true masterpiece.
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Reallusion Inc.
Making time lapse videos is a popular form of animation these days. Unfortunately, without some basic knowledge and fancy software it can be a bit hard to actually make the video. Time-Lapse is a simple, affordable app which turns image sequences into movies. you simply import the images, choose your desired frames per second and voila! You have a time-lapse. It’s an incredibly simple app to help you make beautiful animations.
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Stop motion is one of the most accessible forms of animation for the amateur. iStopMotion 3 provides you with the tools you need to be successful in creating high-quality stop motion projects. The application supports a variety of cameras and iOS devices for images and input. Once you’re connected, a number of in-app tools are of great use. Take advantage of onion-skinning, rotoscoping, tilt shift tools and more. After you finish up your video, you can export to iMovie, Final Cut Pro and more. You can also choose to simply view and export from iStopMotion or even print a flip book of your animation for your physical viewing.
Requires: OS X 10.7.4 or later
Developer: Boinx Software
This application is made for 8-bit art and animation. Start out by making still art using Pixen’s pixel art tools. Create custom patterns, palettes and backgrounds before animating and exporting. You can export as a GIF or a spritesheet. It’s a pretty solid app, though some bugs do come out on occasion. It’s definitely worth a try if you’re at all interested in this particular style of art/animation.
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later
Developer: Matt Rajca
This app isn’t quite so friendly for the amateur animator, but is great for someone who wants to try some more extensive animation on their own, without dropping hundreds of dollars. Blender is a pretty daunting 3D art and animation program. It’s completely free and open-source, making it accessible for amateurs at least in the realm of cost. Unfortunately, the learning curve for the app is quite steep. Expect to spend many, many hours learning to use the application. That being said, if you’re an amateur animator interested in learning more about what it’s like to use industry-standard application, Blender is a great way to try for free (legally).
Requires: OS X 10.5 or better
Developer: Blender Foundation
Last but not least, I had no choice but to include a GIF creator, given the popularity of GIFs in today’s world of memes. GIF animator allows you to create GIF files from video or still images, dependent upon your preferences and source files. You can input still/static images, PSD layer files and various types of video. Once you’ve imported your data, you can edit the animation, test it and export. Be warned – the capabilities provided by this app are all available within Photoshop, but if you want a simple (and cheap) dedicated GIF app, this one will do.
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Make Fire Interactive
Creating animations on your own is a great way to satisfy your need for a creative outlet. For a long time, animation was not accessible to the amateur. With the onslaught of simple and cheap animation software, however, the world of animation is newly opened up. These are a few of my favorite apps to experiment with. I can make a pretty great variety of stuff, and it’s a great way to explore my creative side without dropping a lot of money. Grab one of these programs to get started on your animation journey today.
So do you enjoy creating some amateur animations? What program do you use? What app gives you the best bang for your buck? Share your thoughts in the comments below.