It's no secret that producing still as well as motion gives any photographer an edge over his competition. As the years go by, creating animated content is getting increasingly more accessible. In this article, I review Flugo, an iOS app that turns any still portrait into an eye-catching motion shot.
Some long-time Fstoppers' readers may remember the article Noam Galai wrote about 2.5D effect back in 2013. The animated images created by Joe Fellow shown in the post were simply jaw-dropping. Over the years, I've seen other photographers using the 2.5D effect to make their images even more striking. For example, our own staff writer, Shavonne Wong, has created some fantastic motion shots.
Most photographers or post-production masters who create such beautiful animated pictures rely on a combination of After Effect and Photoshop. However, it requires a lot of trial and error, quite a bit of knowledge, and a ton of time. Nowadays, with facial recognition and similar technologies to the ones behind Instagram and Snapchat filters, there are much easier ways of getting to a good result. But so far, I'd only say a good result, not a great or outstanding one. One of the cheapest and easiest app I've found so far is named Flugo.
How Does It Work?
Flugo is designed for iOS only at this time. The installation process is as easy as it can be for an iOS app. Once it's set up, using it is just as easy, and I'm sure even my parents could figure it out in a few minutes.
The first step is to load an image. It could be one taken with an iOS device or an image you've shot and retouched like any work you have in your portfolio. From there, two choices are offered: either create a parallax effect or animate a portrait. The first option will be great for any image shot on location. Forget about using this on pictures taken in studio. The second possibility works well with any kind of portrait and allows animating the picture by moving around the camera.
The parallax option is very straightforward to use. Paint over the different areas – nearest, middle, far, and background –, and then move on to the next step to tweak the camera movement. One tip for better and more professional-looking results is to slow down the animation as much as possible. Make it look as if it is slow-motion footage. The result sequence will be much more believable.
The portrait feature is just as easy to apprehend. When selecting this option, the app will paint the different areas for you, relying on some face recognition algorithm. So you have even less work than with the parallax. Of course, the result will turn out even better if you adjust the masks and paint over the remaining areas – hair, body, etc. Once the masks are set up, the next step is similar to the parallax feature, giving you the choice to adjust the camera movement to create a believable result.
Is It as Good as Using After Effects?
The first time I opened the app, I was amazed by the result. The app is so easy to use, and motion shot you get at the end is fantastic for the little effort, and time it requires. However, it doesn't look nearly as good as what you'd get from working with After Effects and Photoshop, or even a simple AE plugin.
In some cases, I've had great surprises with motion shots that looked superb. Best of all, it took less than a tenth of the time it'd have required in After Effects. However, in other circumstances, I've ended up with choppy images or artifacts around the hair and face that made the picture unusable.
The app is free… but it costs around $43 for a yearly subscription or $4.50 for a monthly subscription — pricing may not be accurate as I only have Swiss pricing in my App Store. I was quite surprised when downloading the app at first to have to pay a subscription to get access to all features then. Yet still, the pricing is very affordable for what the app is capable of.
What I Liked
- Very easy to use and requires less knowledge or time than it would with After Effect and Photoshop.
- Pricing remains affordable considering time saving and ease of use.
- The results while not perfect are more than sufficient for social network use or web use.
What Could Be Improved
- Unfortunately, I felt a bit let down when downloading the app only to discover the price of the subscription afterward in the app. I wish Flugo had made clearer in the description how much it costs to get access to all the features.
- I'd love to see a similar app for MacOs, so a Wacom tablet could be used for more precise masking.
- An Android version would probably be appreciated by many.
Flugo makes a painstaking and complicated process very easy. Results are not perfect, but for those looking to get 50-80% of the result in 10-20% of the time, this is the answer. Non-tech-savvy persons will also love this as it's very user-friendly and easy to get the hang of. Hopefully, future versions will make the results even better!