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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Video Games Weekly Disney Emoji Blitz

videogamesweekly

This week, I was going to review the new Legend of Zelda game, but due to a shipping mix up, I haven’t received my copy yet!  So, this week is about a “freemium” game that I have been addicted to for the past few months called Disney Emoji Blitz.  If you shop at Walmart, you might have noticed Disney has started a new line of emoji merch, and that is directly related to this game.

YouTube Trailer:

 Platform: iOS and Android Devices

Rated: Not officially rated by the ESRB, but I personally would give it an E

Single or Multiplayer: Single, but you can link your Facebook profile to enter a weekly high score competition with your friends.

Gameplay: The game is exactly like Bejeweled and Candy Crush.  What you do is move emoji characters to align three in a row in order to get points. If you align more than three emojis, you get special power ups that can clear many emojis at a time. You also choose which special Disney emoji character you want to play with, and each of these characters have a special move responsible for clearing many emojis of the emojis at once.  You only get 60 seconds per round, so try to get as many emojis as possible!

Image: https://cdn3.recombu.com/media/mobile/Apps/Disney/Disney1_w720_h423.png

Unlike Bejeweled and Candy Crush, this game also puts random items on the board for you to try to collect at the bottom.  Some of these items are rare, but are more likely to appear depending on the specific type of Disney emoji you are playing with.  There are many different types of “item collections” to keep you occupied, as well as special events.

Image: https://jaysenheadleywrites.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/img_9178.jpg?w=1355

It’s Free to Play…Sort of: This game is called a “freemium” game, which means the game itself is free, but players are encouraged to spend real money in order to progress quickly in the game.  In this case, Disney Emoji Blitz tries to get players to spend money to unlock special Disney characters and lives.  The game limits players to getting a maximum of 5 lives at a time, which essentially means you get to play 5 games then have to wait for your lives to regenerate.  Players also have to watch a few ads or can opt out of watching ads in exchange for more lives, but the good news is all of the ads are kid-friendly.

Image: https://www.google.com/search?q=disney+emoji+collections&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiA_-qRlc_SAhXLqFQKHcrxD3MQ_AUIBigB&biw=1432&bih=679#tbm=isch&q=disney+emoji+blitz+emoji+board&*&imgrc=Knndl1sr2TR08M

 

Sending emojis on your phone: The other bonus to playing Disney Emoji Blitz is when you unlock emojis, you can use them outside of the game.  You can add them to your keyboard, and from what I’ve tested they work on text messages and Google Hangouts.

Images: https://19807-presscdn-pagely.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/c15/41/Disney_Emoji_Blitz_Android_3.png Image courtesy of Daily Dot

 

 

Audience: This game is for anyone who wants to play a quick game on their lunch break, or any Disney fan.  It’s easy to play, and it gives you cute emojis.  What’s not to love?

 

Pricing: Free! Look for it on your app store!

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Video Games Weekly: Abzu

abzu

The video game Journey, which I talked about at length here, is one of my favorite video games at all time.  The same creator recently came out with a new video game called Abzu, which I pre-ordered because I loved Journey so much.  Although it’s not the same experience as Journey, I think many parents and librarians who are looking for video games that are rated E or T will be pleased to have Abzu as an option.

 

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Rated: E

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Storyline: There isn’t really a storyline in Abzu.  The best way I can describe the game is it is structured to be more like an experience instead of a story.  Your character is a diver, and you spend the entire game exploring the depths of the beautiful ocean.  That’s it. There aren’t any enemies, no goals, no time limits, you just swim about as you wish until you get bored.  Similar to Journey, you can discover a small narrative about the world’s history by examining hieroglyphics on walls, but they are vague enough for you to interpret them in a multitude of ways.

 

You’re probably wondering why gamers bother playing Abzu if you just wander around in a virtual world with little to do.  First, Abzu is a stunning work of art, but only if you are playing on a newer TV.  I just moved to an apartment that came with an older TV from the early 2000s, and the difference in graphics alone is enough to make or break the gamer’s experience.  I first tried out Abzu on the old TV, and I was bored after playing for about 10 minutes because the artwork looked clunky and unimaginative.  Then, when I tried it out on my 1080p Smart TV, I was stunned at the difference.  So, if you are going to give Abzu a chance, please be sure to play it on a TV that can produce high quality graphics!

 

The other reason Abzu is intriguing is because in a world of Call of Duty and other high stimuli games, it’s nice to be able to kick back and play a relaxing game.  The game did an excellent job on developing the artwork and musical score, and it feels similar to meditating.  Being able to divert my attention to something beautiful and relaxing is something that I find myself needing every time I read the news…and your patrons might be looking for the same thing!

Gameplay: The controls are basic, although there are some secret controls that the game doesn’t tell you about.  Here’s the link to an article that goes into more detail.

Audience: This game is tricky because it will probably not be appealing to large audiences.  One reason why I purchased it is I have had many parents complain to me that the XBox One doesn’t have rated E or T games for their kids.  This may not be the most stimulating game, but at least it’s an option I can give to these parents.  I also wanted to have at least one example of a video game as a piece of artwork in my collection, even if I know it will not circulate well.

Verdict: I recommend taking a look at how much Journey has circulated, and think about if patrons want/could benefit from a relaxation game.  If the answer is yes, buy a copy, but don’t purchase it for more than $20.  I don’t recommend this game for Teen Game Night programs because it’s a single player game and a little too chill for a program.

Pricing: $20 on Amazon

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Tech Talk: The Ongoing Quest for iPad/iPhone Printing, Or, How I Fell in Love with a Printing App

At home and in my Teen MakerSpace, I find myself on an endless quest to figure out how to print from a mobile device like a tablet or smart phone. This is particularly true when it comes to Instagram pics. For a while I was quite happy using an app called Print Your Insta, but when Instagram updated the app was no longer compatible. Thus began a new quest for wifi printing options. My quest was arduous, but I managed to find an even better app that opened my world to new possibilities.

The Wireless Printing Service

If you work in a public library, the most reasonable suggestion is to use a wireless printing host, such as PrinterOn. One of the library’s that I worked at used this service and it worked fine for us (most of the time). It can have some issues, especially if you have an IT department who is concerned with security issues. This service can be open to the public, which is great for patrons who bring their own devices and need to print.

For something like a Teen MakerSpace, you do not need to have an open wifi printing network, you just need a wireless compatible printer. Sometimes these are called AirPrinters. Whatever they are called, they allow you to send a print job over a wifi network.

The Polaroid ZIP Printer

You can also buy and use something like a Zip printer if you have a small Teen MakerSpace, like I do. The device itself works fine, but the paper is expensive – and small. It’s great for doing something like a remote photo booth and printing off quick pics to send home with your teens, but not ideal for a long term situation.

printing3

The Print to Size App

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Even with a wireless printer, Instagram is not set up to print. It’s one of the main flaws with the app in my opinion. So you have to use a printing app to get your Instagram pic from your device to a printer. Some of the various apps I have tried include HP Snapchats, PhotoPrint LT, and Print to Size.

The best app I have found is an app called Print to Size, which appears only to be available for Apple products (sorry). It allows you to pick your paper size, easily drag and size your pictures, and to place multiple pictures on one sheet of paper. It’s quick, easy and incredibly versatile. You do have to have a wifi/airprint printer to use your mobile device to print over a wifi network. This app is not just great for printing your Instagram pics, it is a one stop app for all your photo printing needs.

Insert and size your image

Insert and size your image

You can then send your image to the printer or export it as a PDF or JPG

You can then send your image to the printer or export it as a PDF or JPG

You can easily print your Instagram pics at a 3.5 x 3.5 size on a 4×6 sheet of paper, trim the edges, and have an old fashioned looking Polaroid picture.

Print, trim & make a classic looking Polaroid image

Print, trim & make a classic looking Polaroid image

You can print in a variety of sizes or make your own collages

You can print in a variety of sizes or make your own collages

This quest has also served as a great reminder to me that sometimes it is a good idea to go out and try new things even if you think you are happy with what you have. I loved my Print to Insta app, but it only allowed me to print my Instagram pics. Now I can print any of my pics, in any size that I want. Being forced to try something new helped me find a better product.

Video Games Weekly: No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky has gained a lot of media attention in the gaming community over the past few weeks.  It was one of the most anticipated games of 2016 for the PC and PS4, but has flopped almost as hard as the hype after its release.  The number of users simultaneously playing No Man’s Sky on the PC dropped 90% last week, which is way more dramatic than what it sounds. Still, many gamers are disappointed with No Man’s Sky, so much so that the game has brought around the discussion of the ethics of game returns.  So, what happened?

YouTube Trailer:

Platform:  PC and PS4 (I played through on my PS4)

Rated:  T

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Background:  No Man’s Sky is a ginormous space exploration gameUnlike other space adventure games, or really any game before it, No Man’s Sky has algorithm-generated 18 quintillion planets in the game. I’m not making this up; it would take players five billion years to visit each planet for one second.  Each planet is unique with various animal species, alien races, plants, minerals (like Carbon and Iron), artifacts, atmospheric levels, and terrain.  This was the top selling point to No Man’s Sky, but it functions like a double-edged sword. On one hand, holy crap this game is huge and still manages to have beautiful graphics even though it is all generated by math. On the other hand, the game gets boring after a few hours because it’s like there are the same floating balls in space with different pretty colors and there isn’t much to do.

Image: http://cdn.gamerant.com/wp-content/uploads/No-Mans-Sky-E3-2014-Trailer.jpg.optimal.jpg

Storyline: Your character, called “traveller”, wakes up to a spaceship wreck.  I’m not sure if your character is a human, alien, or what…who we are is one of the great mysteries in the game.  Your first mission to is to harvest all of the materials needed to keep yourself alive and to rebuild your spaceship.  Along the way, you learn about Atlas, which is this mysterious diamond-shaped thingie floating in the sky.  Supposedly, Atlas is a central computer system where all data is stored (get it? Like how Atlas holds the sky on his shoulders?).  Everything the traveller learns, from alien languages to the names of species, comes from Atlas structures.  That’s…pretty much it.  The game is an exploration game, so the plot is minimal.  If anything, it feels non-existent, and I struggle to say if that is even considered the “plot”.

Image: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/ALoQ2UFdRug/maxresdefault.jpg

Controls:  The controls are simple to navigate around planets and it feels like a first-person shooter. The one thing that is annoying is the lack of a formal tutorial, so you’re left to your own devices to figure out how to create items in your inventory, recharge items, and equip new items.  Sure, there are tiny pop-ups in the bottom right-hand corner that give you tips and instructions, but they’re really easy to overlook.

Image: https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/zhOlVW8eCSkIQGSRx3LbRNmmHu4=/2016/08/15/44526efc-3af7-4e81-b076-67d82a3c428e/no-mans-sky-tips-and-tricks-4.jpg

Gameplay:  The first time I played No Man’s Sky, I spawned on a horrible starter planet. The planet was desolate, had really high toxicity levels in the atmosphere, and no artifacts that I could find.  I was so frustrated because I had to spend equal amounts of time harvesting minerals to prevent my exosuit from deteriorating and collecting materials for my spaceship.  I also kept dying from stupid drones, which is extremely aggravating in this game because you spawn at your broken down spaceship and have to go all the way back to where you originally died in order to recover all of your inventory items.  At first I didn’t mind dying because the game’s loading screens were quotes from famous science fiction novels, and of course I thought, “OHHH LIBRARIANS WOULD LOVE THIS!” but it got old after like, five deaths.

After a few hours of attempting to rebuild my spaceship, I raged-quit and started a new game.  The second starter planet was much, much better. I found new aliens, found plenty of artifacts, and it only took me a half an hour to rebuild my ship!

Image: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Lgjvv19Rsbk/hqdefault.jpg

Okay, but is it fun?: The short answer was it is not fun for me personally because the game made me feel ridiculous lonely.  For one thing, players have to learn alien languages in order to converse with other NPC-aliens.  This is a cumbersome task because players unlock a handful of words at a time, and often have to make decisions based off body expressions from the other alien.  Players can’t even interact with the animal creatures on the planet…they tend to run away or attack you when they see you!  Together, these experiences isolate players from other living beings, which can get depressing.

The game is “multiplayer” because technically human players are zooming around the same 18 trillion planets; but the likeliness of you finding another human player is very very low.  Even if you manage to land on the same planet as another person, you can’t see them.  Sure, you can talk to other humans online while playing the game, but it’s not the same experience as interacting with each other in the game.

Image: http://65.media.tumblr.com/a4aed1555a1edddbc4d449abb4071536/tumblr_nr7jipFngR1uabvlio1_1280.jpg

I often thought to myself while playing, “this is what the Mars Rover Curiosity feels like every day” and then I was ultra sad thinking about how it sings “Happy Birthday” to itself all alone up there in space.  But, is this loneliness experience a bad thing?  I suppose not, because this game successfully manifests the idea that every human on Earth is just a teeny-tiny speck in this endless universe.  It’s the same as the mix of humbling, scary, and existential feelings I had when on standing on top of a mountain in New Mexico while on vacation.  It’s pretty remarkable to experience that same mix of feelings while sitting in my living room.  So, kudos to No Man’s Sky for that.

Now, is the game fun? I would argue for a few hours, yes, but the unfortunate thing about No Man’s Sky is that weighty loneliness is felt playing the entire time.  There isn’t a whole lot to do in No Man’s Sky other than harvest materials, roam planets, and contemplate big philosophical questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”.

Audience: This game is for a niche type of gamers, and I am simply not part of that group.  While No Man’s Sky did nothing for me but trigger an existential crisis, other players who love to grind the hell out games will flourish in No Man’s Sky.  What I mean is there are certain types of gamers who love completing repetitive tasks in games, which is called grinding.  The thing that brings these types of gamers joy is the experience of exploring new planets, species, etc. over and over and over again. The planet combinations are endless, and there are definitely gamers out there who are going to do their best to discover and explore all 18 bajillionwhatever planets even if the math proves it is IMPOSSIBLE to do so.

Verdict: After a few days, I grew tired of No Man’s Sky. The game is too repetitive and overwhelming for my taste.  All you do is find a new planet, land on it, explore, gather materials, maybe learn a few alien words if you’re lucky, rinse and repeat.  This game is great for gamers out there who love to grind in video games, but I think those gamers are the type who will go out and purchase the game for themselves.

I recommend this title as an additional purchase for circulating library collections.  Your average gamer will tire of it quickly, and those who will love this game will most likely purchase their own copy.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Pricing: $60 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/No-Mans-Sky-PlayStation-4/dp/B00ZQB28XK/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1472863067&sr=1-1&keywords=no+man%27s+sky

App Review: Prisma

Knowing my love of photo apps, several people have wanted to make sure I know about the new Prisma app. Prisma allows you to transform your picture into a work of art based on the styles of many famous artists. It’s actually a fairly easy app to you, in part because it is limited in functionality. It does all the work, so there isn’t a lot that you, the user, have to do. You can manipulate the degree to which your photo is changed, you can split the screen so only half the photo is changed or the two halves of the photo are changed to different degrees, but you don’t have to worry about things like contrast or brightness or exposure.

Let’s look at what it does. Here’s my original photo:

prisma11

There are currently 29 filters to choose from. They include things like Gothic, Transverse Line, Paper Art and Mondrian. They also have my personal favorite, Heisenberg. Yes, that Heisenberg, from Breaking Bad. Here’s what the picture above looks like using some of the filters available on Prisma. I took screen shots so you could see the name of each filter being used.

prisma9 prisma3 prisma2 prisma1 primsa8 primsa7 primsa6 primsa5 primsa4As you can see, it does in fact turn your photo into a stunning work of art. And it is very easy to use. You literally just choose your art style by clicking on it, the app does all the work, and then if you would like you can adjust the degree of filtering by swiping your finger from left to right on the screen.

I can see using this filter to create some cool pictures and then downloading them to do things like add text to make end cap signs. Or bookmarks. Or incorporating the pics into flyers or on social media.

Or you can create pictures and mod podge or transfer them onto canvas or wood blocks. Make them into buttons or key chains. There are lots of creative opportunities for this app. The best part: it was totally free.

App Review: Pokemon Go, the very basics, safety issues, and Pokemon Go and libraries

This weekend my timeline flooded with posts about Pokemon Go. Then on Sunday afternoon, The Teen came home from a friend’s house declaring they had walked 3 miles trying to catch Pokemons. So I decided I needed to figure out what this Pokemon Go is because my teens are definitely in to it.

Pokemon Go is an app that you download to your mobile device. You then use it to go and “catch” Pokemons. You can use the Pokemons that you have caught to battle other players in places that are called “Gyms”.

Here’s how it works:

pokemon9

After you create your character, you follow a map on your phone to try and find Pokemons.

pokemon10

Once you are close enough to a Pokemon, you then try and catch them, hence the “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” slogan. When you are close, it then gives you a prompt and turns on your camera. You can take a picture with your Pokemon.

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You then use your finger and kind of fling the Pokeball to catch your Pokemon.

pokemon4

Once you catch it, it is added to your Pokedex. It’s like a Rolodex of all your Pokemon. Yesterday I met a man my age walking around the neighborhood, he had 42 Pokemon in his Pokedex. I have 6.

pokemon5 pokemon6

You can also apparently go to Poke Gyms and battle other players, though I have not done this. This man’s house is apparently a gym and people keep showing up at the middle of the night to do their gym battles and he kind of wishes that maybe they wouldn’t:This Guy’s House Was Turned Into A Gym On Pokémon.

Pokemon Go and Safety Issues

It’s also important to know that there are some inherent safety issues to consider in Pokemon Go, because you have to go places to catch Pokemon. For example, I had no problem with my kids walking around a certain defined radius of our local neighborhood to catch Pokemon, but not all kids will have this luxury because they live in unsafe neighborhoods. And there is also the issue that we live in a time where POC probably feel less safe walking around playing. The Mary Sue had this important post on the subject of race that you will want to read: Black Geek Writes About How His Experience of Pokémon GO Is Affected By Race. To highlight this point, on my neighborhood FB group this morning someone posted that there was a “dark skinned man” parked outside her house taking a picture and she thought he was casing the neighborhood, but many other people responded that he was just probably playing Pokemon Go. However, apparently, some robbers are in fact using Pokemon Go to target people: Robbers use Pokémon Go to target victims. So while Pokemon Go may be a lot of fun, not all players will have the same experience and it is important of us all to be mindful of that.

You’ll also want to remember not to catch Pokemon and drive, there have already been a couple of accidents related to Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go and Libraries

Some libraries have discovered that they are Poke Stops (they help you level up and give you special stuff) or Gyms and are capitalizing on that. In addition, some libraries are hosting Pokemon Clubs for players to meet and share their tips and tricks.

Bethany (@bookrarian) on Twitter is doing some cool things with Pokemon Go at their library, including setting “lures”. See also:

How local attractions are using Pokemon Go to lure visitors.

How ‘Pokémon GO‘ Can Lure More Customers To Your Local Business

Is LureSquad The First Monetized ‘Pokémon GO‘ App For Businesses?

Pokémon Go is doing what few apps can – driving real-world traffic

Why Pokemon Go and The Library is a perfect partnership – ALSC Blog

You’ll definitely want to be aware of this game so that you can be ready to talk to the people who come into your library about it. And honestly, it’s fun. I think I will keep playing.

Everything You Need to Know About Pokemon Go

CNet Article

Playing Pokémon Go Is Helping People With Mental Health Issues Feel Better

28 Things People Who Don’t Play Pokémon Go Will Never Understand

Pokémon Go Actually Started As A Google April Fools’ Prank

5 things we learned from ‘Pokémon Go’

Pokemon Go and Libraries

Pokemon Hunters WILL Visit You! : Libraries

Pokemon Go! at the Huntington Library and Gardens

Catching ‘Em All at NYPL with Pokémon GO

Cincinnati Library

Edited to Add Concerns About Privacy As Well

Pokémon Go is automatically granting permission to read your Gmail

Pokemon GO Raises Privacy Concerns with Apple Users

iOS version of Pokémon Go is a possible privacy trainwreck

You Should Probably Check Your Pokémon Go Privacy Settings

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version

I get a lot of email where people ask how I created such and such of a graphic. Today, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips, tricks, and filters. A decent portion of my current teen programming involves teaching teens how to do fun photo tricks and then to translate that into their own artistic creations. I myself use these tips to create images that I use on social media, both personal and for the library, on crafts that I create, and I even use them to make a variety of photo announcements. Each year I make party invitations and keepsakes for the girls designed to capture the essence of who they are in that year. I also like to design my own party invitations and holiday cards.

The Grid Photo

I like the grid photo as it is a great overlook of an event, a year, or a relationship. For example, when The Teen got her black belt this summer I created a grid photo that highlighted the events of that day. I use the grid photo choice in the Photo Shake app to make my grid photos.

Black belt day

Black belt day

Hey look, it's TLT!

Hey look, it’s TLT!

A Variation on the Grid Photo: The Stacked Photo

The Teen and The Bestie

The Teen and The Bestie

I made this stacked – also called a collage photo – using the DipTic app. You can put a variety of pics together in various sequences using this app.

The Blended Photo

I am currently obsessed with blended photos, which I create using the Fused app. This is two photos blended together. The first photo is the Sunburst background that I found in the Pic Effect Free app. The second photo is of The Teen on black belt test day. Before I could use the photo I first had to turn it into a white silhouette, which I did using the Silhouette app. Then the Fused app blends the two together to create an awesome looking photo.

example57

Here’s another example. In this one, Thing 2 is turned into a silhouette and blended with a galaxy pic.

example52

The Image Overlay

Although there are many apps that can do image overlays – like Aviary and Be Funky to give a couple of examples – you can also do this using the Fused app as well. This is the foundation of one of the six – yes, six! – variations of Christmas cards I made this year.

example51

As you can see, I used a grid photo of the girls and fused it with a silhouette of a Christmas tree. I then went on to add text, snow effects (stickers in the Candy Cam app), and such to make it look like a photo card worthy of one made in a store or online.

example59The Blue Brick Wall

Another thing I am obsessed with: the blue brick wall. Here’s what it looks like:

example9

Here’s how I make it happen. First, I took a picture of a painting that The Mr. did a couple of years ago:

example7

Then I used the Stenciler effect on the Be Funky app to make it look like this:

example8

And then I just added my text. This one is quick and easy but has been one of my favorites.

Galaxy Effect

example50

Just in time for Star Wars Reads Day, I discovered a cool way to make galaxy effects on my photos. First step, use the Space Effects app to put stars and galaxy effects on your photo. And then, use the Fish Eye filter in the FotoRus app to give it that circular planet look. It helps that I was dressed up as a Jedi and had a R2-D2 prop on hand.

Some of my other favorite Be Funky effects include: Holga Art, Motion Color and Pop Art 6 (which makes it look like a comic book page).

Image Chef

While helping The Teen with a recent poetry project, I stumbled across an app called Image Chef – there is also an online version – that can help you create fun images quickly and easily. Behold:

example44 example43 example42

The Shanghai Filter

If you, like me, loved the cover of A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, then you will like the Shanghai Filter. I swear they used it to make the cover of this book. This is a filter in the Hipstamatic app. Hipstamatic is an awesome – though it can get expensive quickly – app that I love. The only issue I used to have with it is that you had to select a combination of film and lens before taking your picture and it required you to really understand how they would all work together. In the newest update of the app you can now take a picture with your regular camera and then use the various films and lens on your picture to find the combination that works best for you. Hallelujah! And it goes without saying that right now my favorite is Shanghai:

example46 example39 example5

Adding Stickers for Pizzaz!

There are a lot of apps out there that have what they call stickers. My favorite to date is Candy Cam. They had a wide variety of amazing winter and holiday stickers that I used to create my various Christmas cards. I mentioned I made six of them, right? Yes, I have issues. But the stickers in Candy Cam allowed me to take my photo from this:

example64

To this:

example65By the way, the snowflake picture itself was created using the PIP feature in FotoRus.

Putting It All Together

I am not an artist. I am not a photographer. And I am not a graphic designer. I’m just a YA librarian that loves to make displays, flyers and promo materials and a mom that is obsessed with her kids. But using a variety of apps I am able to transform a really crappy picture that looks like this:

example60

Into something else altogether. First, I make the image more focused and cut out all the extra bits using filters and the vignette effect in the Aviary app:

example61

Then I add text using the Over app. There are other ways to do this, including right there in the Aviary app, but I am most comfortable using the Over app.

example62

Then, I load my saved picture into Candy Cam and add my sticker effects. In this case, I chose snow.

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It may seem like a long process, but I do it so often that I can create entire images in less than 5 minutes. There are probably easier ways to do this. A graphic artist could do these same things using one program I imagine. That is not my skill set. So I use apps. Often times I will use multiple apps to create one image, saving each step of the way in case I make a mistake. And in case you are wondering, my cards printed out nicely and I could mail them traditionally or electronically to whomever.

And as I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t just do this for personal use. I go through these steps to create images for various promotional materials at my library. And I have created images that I have later used in crafts to make original gifts for people.

So these are some of my favorite apps, tips and tricks. What are yours? I’m always looking for new ways to create some fun so please share in the comments.

Photo Apps Mentioned:

Aviary (general editing and filters), Be Funky (filters), Candy Cam (stickers), Diptic (collages), FotoRus (Fish eye filter, picture in picture), Fused (blending photos), Hipstamatic (Shangai effect), Image Chef (quick images), Photo Shake (grid photo), Pic Effect Free (sunburst effect), Silhouette (turn a pic into a silhouette), Space Effects Free (planet, galaxy effects)

See also: Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

App Review: FotoRus

It’s been a couple of weeks since I talked about a photo app, so you probably thought that my obsession with photos and photo apps was dying down – but no! It is alive and well, I have just been waiting for the right moment. Like now, now feels like the right moment to discuss with you an app with a few fun new features that I have found.

fotorusFotoRus is an app that does multiple things. You can create a collage, add a sticker or edit like a pro using the pro edit feature. My two favorite things about FotoRus are the Mag Library feature (InstaMag) and the PIP (photo in a photo) feature.

Mag Library

Mag Library is short for magazine library. Here you can select a magazine spread layout and add your photos. You can’t do a lot of editing, which is the downside, but if you are looking for quick and easy layouts it is a definite plus. Even when switching to Pro Edit I couldn’t get rid of a few pieces of text that I wanted to. There are a ton of fun and creative layouts to choose from.

instamag

PIP

The PIP feature allows you to create a dual picture effect. I made holiday cards this year using the snowflake picture. There are also images like camera view finders, bottles, smart phone screens and, my other personal favorite, the audio cassette. As you can see, it kind of puts the picture in the background as an out of focus image and then it highlights it inside the selected picture.

kickysmixtape

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The App Details

Description from iTunes:

Including Professional Edit, Beauty, Special Effects, Sticker, Secret Album, and InstaMag!

【Sticker】
Apply hundreds of stickers with funny, cute and girly themes. Make your photo more expressive!

【Classic Collage】
Over 100+ Square, Portrait, Landscape, and Strips format and styles to suit all your artistic needs!

【Pro Edit】
Over a dozen powerful and must-have editing functions such as Filters, Scenes, Adjust, Lighting, Light pen, and etc! Come check it out!

【InstaBeauty】
Try our real-time beauty camera and take the perfect-looking selfie! Use our rich function sets to further edit your selfie including: Remove blemishes, whiten skin, remove eye-bag, and many more!

【InstaMag】
The most fashionable designer-style collages and posters! Easy, beautiful, with all kinds design styles to choose from.

【PIP Camera】
The most creative and professional-studio selfie with one tap of a finger! #1 in over 40 countries! Great for making your profile photos.

【Secret Album】
Protect you secret photos from others!

This app is available for both iTunes and on Google Play. It is free and there are ads.

You can also download FotoRus for your PC. I have not done this and can’t tell you how it works on the PC, sorry.

There are other apps that do some of the same things as FotoRus. For example, you can do a lot of the editing in Aviary, you can add text with Over, you can make collages with a wide variety of apps, and you can add stickers with apps like CandyCam and A Beautiful Mess. FotoRus is the only app that I have found that can do the PIP feature. And, as I mentioned, I really like the InstaMag layouts. For these features alone, I recommend this app.

For more app reviews check out the MakerSpace section or Tech Talk. Or click on the Tech Talk or App Review tag.

Video Games Weekly: Video Game Awards

Did you know the gaming community has the equivalent of the Academy Awards for video games? They do, and it’s called The Game Awards! This year is the second annual Game Awards, so the show is very new.

 

This year, the show was free to stream on December 5th on various platforms (it was not on live TV). Spectators could watch the show for free on YouTube, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Wii U, Steam, and Twitch, just to name a few. This show is free to watch, but that means you have to have an internet connection. Now that show is over, you can watch the entire event on YouTube here: http://thegameawards.com/watch-live/ Just to warn you, the show is two and a half hours long…but you can easily summarize it by looking at the winners.

Categories: There are a total of 14 categories that are decided with a jury and 6 categories that are decided by fans. As you can see, there are many categories to recognize subgenres in gaming, like roleplaying, shooter, action/adventure, etc. These are the main genres that I talked about in an earlier post.

game award categories

I really like these categories because there are many many video games released in one calendar year that excel in their respective subgenre and deserve recognition. My favorite category is “Games for Impact”. This category is for games that have brought light to a social  issue, whether it’s covering taboo subjects in gaming or portraying diverse characters/plot. This year’s winner was Life is Strange, which is no surprise to me. Perhaps I’ll review it later in 2016!

Like the Academy Awards, the most coveted title is “Game of the Year”. I want to point out that you’ll hear many different games say they won “Game of the Year”. This is because “Game of the Year” is not awarded solely from The Game Awards. “Game of the Year” is something that is awarded by many different gaming publications, such as Game Informer, Time Magazine, and many many others. If The Game Awards becomes highly recognized like the Academy Awards in like five years, I can see how the title might become monopolized and rewarded to only one game per calendar year. Until then, you’ll see different games bragging about their coveted “Game of the Year” title, and they’re not lying! If a game has won any “Game of the Year” title, they’ll usually manufacture a “Game of the Year” version of the game, which usually includes bonus features. They’re usually sold at the same price you would buy the base game, so try to buy “Game of the Year” editions if you can.

Jury: *sigh*. In my opinion, this is the Achilles’ heel of The Game Awards. Like the Academy Awards, The Game Awards jury is not diverse. I will give credit where credit is due, at least The Game Awards tried to select jurors on a national scale, and 10 counties were represented. That being said, only two out of the thirty jurors were women.

UGH. We already know there are female gamers, female game developers, female game critics out there, so WHY IS THIS STILL A THING? The answer: the gaming community is still trying to be a boy’s club. And that is deplorable.   MTV wrote a great article about women and The Game Awards 2015, which you can read here: http://www.mtv.com/news/2615523/game-awards-controversy-female-gamers-and-critics/

Collection Development: The Game Awards is a great tool for collection development. I’d recommend taking a look at the nomination lists and making sure your collection has as many titles as possible, because I’m sure the gamers in your community will be looking for them. If you have a small collection development fund, you can decide to buy the winners, or you can wait to see if there will be “Game of the Year” editions released in 2016. I should also mention that you may not be able to buy all of the titles, because not all of them are console games (especially independent games).

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Tech Talk: HUE Animation Studio Review

Someone from HUE Animation Studio found TLT and reached out to me to ask if I would like a HUE Animation Studio kit to review and since I am actively putting together my library’s MakerSpace, I was excited to have an opportunity to review this product. One of the stations that I am working to put together is, in fact, a stop motion animation station. Our MakerSpace is small and it turns out that stop motion animation has been very popular at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. Earlier this year we put together 16 circulating maker kits and the stop motion animation kit has hands down been the most popular.

The HUE Animation Studio

The HUE Animation Studio

The kit that I received included a camera, computer software, and a booklet with basic instructions and some short film ideas for you to create to learn how to use your software.

Set Up

Set up was really very quick and easy, except for one flaw that turned out to be user error. I just popped in the installation disk and it quickly did it’s thing. You can use the HUE Animation Studio camera with a desktop or laptop. I was using a laptop and I couldn’t get the studio program to recognize the camera because the default on my laptop was for the built in laptop camera. The help pages at the HUE Animation website let me know what the problem was and I had to do some additional Googling to figure out how, specifically, to turn off my laptop camera. However, once I did this everything was good to go.

A note about devices from the HUE website: HUE Animation only works on a Windows PC or Mac. However, we do have a separate iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch app based on HUE Animation called myCreate. We currently have no plans to offer the app for Android tablets, Android phones, Windows tablets, or Chromebooks. The myCreate app has a similar look and feel to the HUE Animation software, without the full set of editing capabilities. Movies can be created with the app, exported to a movie file and then imported into HUE Animation for final editing.

My First Stop Motion Creation

I began by following the steps in the book to get an idea of how to use the software program. It’s really pretty easy, you literally take a picture, make a small change in your subject, then snap another picture. You can easily delete pictures, re-arrange them, etc. Thing 2 and I started out by recreating the disappearing donut outlines in the accompanying book. The steps were easy to follow and we had a movie in a matter of minutes.

We had so much fun that we quickly thought of another idea which I share with you here:

The HUE Book of Animation

In addition to helping you install your software and get started, the HUE Book of Animation gives you some good videos ideas to try with a step by step outline. The guide to what all the buttons on your screen are is handy to keep around in the beginning as well.

hue6

We used the guide to create our first movie that you watched above, The Disappearing Donut. You can see examples of the videos outlined in the book at the HUE Animation website.

hue7

Adding Sound

The first few creations we made did not include sound. I wanted to figure out the basics before trying to add sound. There is a built in microphone on the camera and you have the option to import audio froma file. I personally always opt not to use music in my creations in order to avoid any potential copyright issues. There are legal ways you can include music, like parody or using creative commons music. Definitely do some research before adding music. But we did add things like screams and dialogue and it worked well.

The Camera

HUE Camera Info from the Website:

  • Unique, innovatively-designed USB camera with a built-in microphone.

  • The camera can be removed from its base and plugged directly into a USB port for use as a webcam with online chat applications, such as Skype™, FaceTime, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger and every other major network. It will also work with web-casting services such as uStream.

  • Widely used as a portable classroom document camera/visualiser in conjunction with a whiteboard.

  • Perfect for creating animated films, live videos or time-lapse recordings with HUE Animation, available separately or as a bundle.

  • Use the camera for real time live video and for recording sound and video. The HUE USB camera produces excellent image quality even when projected onto a whiteboard.

  • Plug and play: simply connect the HUE camera to your computer’s USB port and it will be ready to use.

  • By connecting your HUE camera to your computer and a projector you can share students’ work, books, experiments and pictures.

The camera is my favorite part of this package hands down. You can choose between several colors. The flexible neck makes it incredibly easy to set up your shots in creative ways. I have used some apps and my phone to make stop motion movies and the camera really changed what I could do and how easily I could do it. All the information says that the camera can be used with other software packages that use a USB drive camera and it can be purchased separately so even if you don’t use the software, I highly recommend that you use the camera. It looks like the camera itself costs around $80.00. Please note, there are two different camera choices and a few different software options, I used the HD Camera and have not used the HD PRO Camera.

Filters, Special Effects and Chroma Key

The HUE Animation tutorial page (a useful resource) has a short video that shows some of the special effects ideas that you can do using the HUE Animation software:

The HUE Animation software itself is fairly straightforward and easy to use, in part because it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, like filters. After completing their movie the teens really wanted to be able to add a filter to make it look like an old fashioned horror movie. They could theoretically upload this version of their movie into another resource like iMovie to add some other features, but they found this process really easy to use and didn’t want to bother with the extra step. They also wanted to add dripping blood on the end credits which we later learned they could draw in in the same way that the lightning is drawn in in the tutorial video above.

A low cost green screen option for a stop motion animation station

A low cost green screen option for a stop motion animation station

The best part is that the software comes with Chroma Key so you can do green screening with it. There’s a tutorial for that as well. Since stop motion animation is usually done on a really small scale, I recommend buying a green trifold science fair background and cutting it in half to make your green screen. This is a very inexpensive way to create a green screen.

Another thing that could use some improvement is the option for adding text to your video. It is perfectly serviceable, but again I have used iMovie and feel that it handles that component much better. Other software packages seem to give you more options and have better spacing. Also, there are only a few color choices to choose from and one font.

Uploading Your Movies

This is where I ran into some trouble, though I have to give the HUE support team some huge props here because they really answered all my questions and helped me understand what was happening. Under the “Share” button you have two options: open in QuickTime or YouTube. I could not get the videos to upload directly to my YouTube account. Instead, I had to save them to my laptop as a QuickTime movie, log into my YouTube account, and go through the YouTube upload process that way. Directly sharing would have been much quicker and more convenient, but I kept getting a message that said my account couldn’t be authenticated. This apparently has something to do with my YouTube account itself and not the HUE Animation software. Irregardless, I was still able to upload my videos and share them via YouTube.

Final Thoughts

The interface itself is really easy to use and you can get quick results. So the software is very effective for new users for the very reasons that it is may be frustrating to more advanced users – it’s lack of more advanced features like filters, advanced effects and better text. The guides and tutorials available really make the product easy to use.

hue5

What Did the Teens Think?

The Bestie sits down to use the HUE Animation Studio

The Bestie sits down to use the HUE Animation Studio

The Teen and The Bestie walked in while Thing 2 and I were making one of our short films and they were very excited and interested. When I walked away The Bestie sat down and began making her first movie with no instruction whatsoever. In fact, she only had to ask me one question and it involved deleting a verbal track that was in the wrong location for her tastes.

The Teen and The Bestie working on their stop motion movie

The Teen and The Bestie working on their stop motion movie

Should I be concerned about this?

Should I be concerned about this?

This is their final product. All together it took them about 10 to 15 minutes, mostly because they were making it up as they went along. The software package does include some storyboard templates that you can open and use to help you set up a shot by shot layout of your movie. We just made it up as we went along, which also works.

I can tell you that in the space of about 2 hours we made around 10 short stop motion films. We made some using Flash figures, a Funko Pop Olaf, and more. We even made one using Legos with a painting of the Tardis as the background. We made a Lego alien and had it attack the Tardis. I can not even begin to tell you how much fun we had. And again, I adore the camera.

In the end, we did decide at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County to order this product for our stop motion animation station that we are putting into our MakerSpace, and I guess you can’t get a much better recommendation than that.

Please note, I only worked with the HUE Animation Studio kit on a laptop, I have not worked with the myCreate app on a mobile device or the HUE Intuition software. Also keep in mind there is a lot of information on the HUE website about licensing you will want to investigate before making any purchases. HUE Animation provided a copy of this product for review.

The Giveaway

The representatives at HUE Animation Studio have generously agreed to give away a studio package to one lucky TLT reader in the United States. Do the raffle copter thing below by Sunday (12/20) at Midnight to be entered to win. The HUE Animation Studio Kit will be shipped out by a representative at HUE Animation directly to the winner.
a Rafflecopter giveaway