By Chester Baker, MacworldAPR 20, 2009 8:41 pm PDT
At a glance
Anyone with even a slightly creative bent or a shred of drawing skill will appreciate FlipBook. The app enables you to make short animations from still drawings. Providing powerful tools and layer-based drawing system, FlipBook gives users a canvas for creating something special.
Josh Anon, the developer of FlipBook, is a renowned photographer and photography teacher. He has worked on many projects at Pixar including Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, so he clearly knows a thing or two about animation. This becomes readily apparent as you use FlipBook.
The basics of making a movie haven’t changed much since the very first silent films of the late 1800s: put a group of pictures in order and show them to someone in rapid succession. This concept remains the same in FlipBook—draw a series of images and FlipBook can replay them back as a movie.
Basic drawing and editing tools make up a seamless user interface that stays out of the way unless you need it. A feature called “onion skinning” allows you to see the previous (and optionally next) frame as a point of reference while drawing. Simple animations can be made with ease by duplicating a picture or part of a drawing and then moving that image slightly for each subsequent frame.
The controls quickly become second nature because FlipBook takes full advantage of the multi-touch capabilities of the iPhone. Touch and hold anywhere on the screen to bring up a quick shortcut menu that allows you to switch between the drawing, erasing, and panning tools. Use two fingers in a pinching motion to zoom in or out for more detailed editing and drawing. Swipe with two fingers left or right to go to the next or previous frame. Swipe up and down with three fingers to change brush and eraser sizes.
FlipBook also allows easy creation of stop-motion videos by simply importing still images. For people like me who have very limited drawing skills (read: none at all) this is a much more satisfying way to use the program than actually trying to draw something interesting. You can also combine the two approaches, drawing or doodling on top of a picture.
FlipBook’s main appeal for many people won’t just be the drawing and animation that’s created, but also the ability to easily share creations with others online. Your $10 purchase doesn’t just buy the app; it gives you access to flipbook.tv, the online repository where you can share up to 10 of your finished projects at a time as movies. The Web site is very well designed and provides excellent resources for learning how to create and share movies. There are even video tutorials to get you up and running very quickly. The support side of this site is the best I have ever seen for an iPhone app.
FlipBook does one job and does it well. There is, however, room for improvement. I would like to see shape drawing tools (as in circles, squares, rectangles), shading and gradients, and basic text entry. If the developer’s professional writing and photography career can serve as any indication, FlipBook will almost certainly develop, grow, and mature into something truly amazing.
Josh Anon also offers a
free lite version of FlipBook that includes all of the same tools as the paid version. FlipBook Lite lets you create two movies with up to 10 frames and host one of them online. The full version lets you create an unlimited number of movies with up to 999 frames and four layers.
Using this app, I can’t help but think we are just scratching the surface of the iPhone/iPod touch platform’s capabilities. FlipBook serves as an excellent example of creative minds creating wonderful things.
FlipBook is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.
[Chester Baker is a technology and radio control car enthusiast from central Oklahoma.]