How to get moving

Cinemagraph, Pixaloop, Mug Life and Fly Camera respectively. Levitagrams are great apps for creative animation art.

How to get moving

There’s this middle thing between a standing photo and a video. There is no good generic term for them yet. Apple calls it Live Photo (yes, really, with Ph, as if the apple company was stuck in the 1990s). I have also already read the term moving photo, in English moving image. And in former times such things were called Vine for short.

In reference to Harry Potter and the hyperactive-looking Daily Prophet photos, you might as well call them Potterpix. Or Lifeprint, like this printer that appears to print photos that actually move. It is, who is surprised?, made in cooperation with the Warner Brothers film studio, so that it could be marketed in a manner befitting its status.

And even if these twitching images don’t have a sensible name yet, they are all the more fascinating. At least for people like me who grew up with classic, deadpan photos. Apparently, however, young users can also be inspired, because without them the hype around the animated GIFs would hardly be so big and long-lasting. But they are eye-catching, often funny and have an anarchistic touch: they tell a shortest story in a few frames, and they convey a clear message.

Diverse animation art

Besides the animated GIF and the live photo, there is also a third category, which I would call animation art for lack of a better term. In which the movement is either artificially generated or altered or processed in some way.

And here come four apps with which you can do that:


With Cinemagraph you can create so called Cinemagrams. These are still images in which only a small detail is moving. In the article Photos with that certain something I presented the app in detail. The app for iPhone is free, but for the premium features you need a subscription by now.

This comes in three varieties. It costs 120, 240 or 320 francs per year. For my taste a bit much. For this, however, you also get the app Blendeo, with which you can create a virtual long exposure from a video of up to five minutes in length. I’ll definitely have to check this out!


This app is only available for iPhone; a comparable app for Android is Loopsie. It more or less intelligently animates parts of an image that are not animated in reality – or maybe they are, but without capturing video of it. With Pixaloop, you can create animated works from completely video-free still images. And because you can set any elements in motion, the effect can also be turned into surrealism.

How to get moving

This works really well in some cases – because obviously a quite sophisticated image analysis takes place, which transfers the structure of the image content to be animated into the anaimation. But of course the picture has to give that – without the right motive there is no aha-experience even with Pixaloop.

The animation is done along Paths. You draw them on the picture with your finger. You specify direction and movement. With the Staples you limit the area in which the animation should take place. With the Locks-tool you paint the areas that should not be animated.

Perfect the animation

About the slider Tempo you determine the speed at which the animation runs. And via Loop you specify whether to fade to the beginning at the end of the animation, whether to switch back and forth between the two endpoints (Boomerang) or an attempt is made to create a more or less seamless transition (Loop).

How to get moving

The examples you are shown when you first start the app make it all look very simple. But they also raise false expectations. Pixaloop is not one of those apps where you can show totally impressive results after a few swipes on the screen. I had to try out a few pictures and take several attempts until I managed to get a reasonably respectable work. It is definitely worth to study the tutorial in peace first. That opens via the book icon in the upper right corner. And there are four sample projects to practice with – again, I’d definitely recommend this, even though I’m not usually the RTFM type.

Besides the possibility to animate parts of the image, it is also possible to replace or add parts of the image:

  • Water/SkyIt is possible to replace water surfaces or the sky with animated variants. The lake, pond or sea ripples, and there are pretty fleecy clouds over the scenery, even if in the original the firmament was gray and dull.
  • ElementsYou insert animated objects – like flames, a flock of birds, a spinning spiral galaxy, butterflies, a roasting pizza or a patrotic US flag waving in the wind.
  • OverlayThis command is used to place sparks, snowflakes, rain drops or veils, moths or smoke clouds over the image.
  • Camera F/XThey simulate pans, zooms and other movements of the recorder.

The app can be used playfully. But it is sophisticated enough that you can also use it for professional purposes. For example, in a video production where a still image looks too static and should therefore be spiced up accordingly. When exporting, you can not only export your photo for the relevant social networks (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter), but also as a video – with a predefined page format and resolution of 1080p over 2k up to 4k. Export as live background for the iPhone is also possible.

The app is free in the basic version. For various functions, especially those that you would like to use as a professional, you need the Pro version. It costs for one month 4.50 francs or for a one-time purchase 60 francs. If you want to use them seriously, it’s worth it.

Mug Life

This app (free for iPhone) is a face animator app. A certain facial expression – facial expression, head movement or lip movement – is added to a photo (i.e. mainly selfies). You take a selfie of yourself or a photo of a person in the room, or you take an existing shot. Then you look for the animation that should be superimposed on the photo. There is a lot of meme-worthy stuff, i.e. telegenic head shaking, a disappointed grimace, nodding, indecent tongue acrobatics à la Batman-Joker, and so on

In the gallery you can find various categories: Videogames, Vintage, 3D, Celebs, Makeup, Reactions. And if you like, you can also craft your own templates and share them via the community. For this, however, you need a subscription, which costs 2 francs for a week, 12.costs 90 francs for a year or 29 francs for a one-time purchase.

Serious video productions

Summary: The animation of the face, with facial expressions and everything is impressive, But of course the app aims at entertainment, not serious video production. The app itself makes an intrusive and quite trashy impression.

Fly Camera, Levitagram

Fly Camera for Android, respectively Levitagram (2 francs for iPhone) creates levitation photos. With them it looks as if you are floating. The trick is simple: first take a photo with a person standing on an object so that their feet don’t touch the ground. Then take a picture with the background only. The app stitches the two together, in such a way that the object you were standing on disappears.

Sure – it creates a still image, which makes this app actually not fit into the category of vivid photos. But because hovering is a special form of animated motionlessness, I’ll generously make an exception here…

Author: Matthias

Computer journalist, family man, radio man and podcaster, nerd, blogger and skeptic. Convinced about blogging – and advocate of a free, open internet, where not all interesting content disappears into the data silos of a few big internet corporations. If you like the blog here, feel free to buy me a beer or a tea: Show all posts by Matthias

One thought on "How to get things moving"

Photo – translation english = Photo, so it is naive to expect "photo" from Apple!

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