Have you seen those still images that have parts that are animated to give them some life? Those are called Plotagraphs and they are a fun way to add animation to an otherwise still image. You can animate rivers, clouds, smoke or nearly anything you can creatively make work. The software is available for both mobile and desktop and other than registering, is free (on mobile) and easy to use. They offer a pro level package that includes more effects, storage space for your projects and Plotaverse’s own social media/gallery platform. So let’s take a look at how you go about creating one of these…
First you’ll need the app either for your mobile device available HERE or for your desktop computer available HERE. There is a caveat however. The desktop version won’t let you export your image without paying for a monthly (or single 24hr trial) membership. The mobile app however will let you export to social media feeds or save to your photo gallery on your mobile device. I’m showing the desktop app below but the mobile interface is similar with easier export options. It’s worth noting the desktop version is a little easier as you have more control with the mouse when it comes time to define the areas of your image that you want to animate or stay still/static. Otherwise if you use the mobile app you can still use your finger, but a stylus will give you better control.
Once you’ve downloaded the software and are up and running you’ll start your first plotagraph project. Pick a photo you want to use. I choose one of our midweek modeling motivation photos with dramatic clouds in the sky to see if we can animate the clouds. Once your photo is uploaded as a project, you’ll get a screen that looks like this (you can click on any image below to make it larger):
This is the basic interface. On the left and right sides are tools to use. There is a tutorial available as well when you first launch the app, so its worth watching to learn some basics. To get started, the first thing you want to do is “mask” or draw over the parts of the image that you don’t want animated:
The red circle on the left side shows the mask tool which looks like a paint brush. In my image above, I only want the clouds in the sky to move, so I’m going to paint over all the scenery on the bottom. When you paint over it (masking the image) it turns red as you see above. You can adjust the size of the brush circle by clicking on the mask/brush tool and adjusting it larger or smaller (the desktop app also allows for keyboard shortcuts using the [ and ] keys to make the brush smaller or larger).
Once you mask the larger areas you’ll want to shrink the brush to something smaller and zoom in on the image to paint/mask over the detail areas. In my image above, we’ll want to isolate the telephone poles so they don’t move either:
Make sure you cover all the edges of the items you don’t want animated. If even a small part of them isn’t covered, you’ll get some strange ghosting affects when you animate your image. Once the details areas are covered/masked, my final image looked like this:
Now the next step is to use the animation tool to draw points with arrows pointing in the direction you want something to animate:
The green circle on the left hand side above highlights what looks like a dancer profile (click on image above for larger view). Click on that tool and go to the part of the image that you want animated and click and hold down as you drag in the direction you want the animation to move. The length of the arrow determines how much animation and thus how dramatic the movement is. In my case above, I added direction arrows that were longer at the top of the image and shorter on the bottom of the image (by the horizon) so it looks like the clouds up close are moving faster than the clouds in the distance. I also added a bit of a circle pattern to the upper right hand corner to make it look like there is a circular motion to those clouds. Once you have a few animation points created you can click on the play button at the bottom of the screen (highlighted with red circle above) to see what your animation looks like. You can experiment here quite a bit to get the animation dialed in just right. You also have the ability to slow or speed up your animation to give it a more natural or more dramatic look.
The final output of our image looks like this:
Like anything else, this is just another fun tool in the tool box to play with and give some life to our otherwise still model images. Experiment a bit and see what you can create.