Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

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:

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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

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

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

Galaxy Effect

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Video Games Weekly: Star Wars Battlefront

videogamesweeklyI hope everyone has survived their Fall Break! As I wrote in an earlier post, Star Wars Battlefront recently came out for the holiday season and as predicted, it’s pretty popular at my library. However, it isn’t doing as well in sales because it is competing with big ticketed games like Fallout 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. As such, the gaming community has given it mixed reviews, depending on who has played earlier versions of Battlefront. I was able to play Star Wars Battlefront on our library’s PS4 with tweens and teens on International Games Day, and I LOVED IT. Without further ado, here is my review!

Platform: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Rated: “T” for Teen, for violence. There isn’t any blood.

Single or Multiplayer: Both. Multiplayer is way better though.

Series Quick Synopsis: Star Wars Battlefront is certainly not the first Star Wars video game. The first Star Wars Battlefront game was released in 2004, followed by sequels in 2005-2009. The 2015 version of Star Wars Battlefront is not exactly a sequel to the 2004 version but rather, a reboot.

swbattlefront

This is why it has received mixed reviews; some players believe it’s a waste of money to buy the same game but with significantly better graphics while players like me are happy to replay old games for the sake of nostalgia. Take a look below to see 2015 compare to 2005:

Picture: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/axKN8h2ROso/maxresdefault.jpg

Solo and Co-Op Missions: Players have the option of playing through missions either as single player or co-op mode. There are different kinds of missions like training, survival, or battles. Training isn’t too long, probably about ten minutes. Training is the game’s way of teaching you the controls, which is great because it’s been a few years since I’ve played Battlefront!

Survival mode is where you and another player try to survive waves of enemies coming towards you. The longer you survive, the more difficult it gets. I played one survival battle with a teen, and we got decently far! This is for players who want to play with each other, not against.

At International Games Day, I had the tweens/teens play battles against one another on a split screen. Players can choose between a regular Battle or a Hero Battle. Hero Battle was the popular choice because players can choose to play as main characters like Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader.

Picture: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/wW6ccK9RJ3I/maxresdefault.jpg

One thing I noticed is whomever plays as Boba Fett has a crazy advantage over everyone else. Boba Fett has a jetpack, which means he can fly around the map and get to higher ground. I was playing as Luke Skywalker and a teen was playing as Boba Fett, and he would fly on top of a ship to try to snipe me. Like the movies, Luke Skywalker has the ability to use his lightsaber to deflect shootings, but this is a special capability that has a time limit. So if you have teens playing against one another, be sure you enforce the rule that they have to change their “hero” after every battle.

Players win battles by getting 100 points. You win points by killing your opponents. The cool part about battles is you can choose to have AI bots in the game, or just play each other. So even though the teen who was playing as Boba Fett was sniping me, I still beat him because I was running around killing his AI.

The one thing that is missing from battles is…THERE ARE NO SPACE BATTLES! This makes me sad because space battles have appeared in previous Star Wars Battlefront games. They’re really fun, but I’ve heard rumors that a new Star Wars Battlefront has been green lit and will include space battles. However, you can play in space in multiplayer mode.

Multiplayer: Online multiplayer mode is probably Battlefront’s best asset. This does mean that players have to have an online account in order to play online, which can get annoying because that is an extra cost. Some justify that cost with the different kinds of accessible multiplayer modes, and players can play with 8-40 players. That’s right, 40! There are five different online player modes: Fighter Squadron, Supremacy, Cargo, Blast, Droid Run, and Walker Assault. I haven’t had the chance to play all of them yet because of the holiday…sorry! I’ll talk about my two favorite ones, and give you links to the others I haven’t played yet.

Fighter Squadron: This is a space battle where you can fly Star Wars ships. Players can play either in first person or third person. Playing in first person means you can see what you’re doing from inside the cockpit, which means your shooting will be more accurate. If you play with a third person view outside of the ship, you have a better idea of who is around you, but your aiming will be less accurate. Players get points for killing enemies: one point for AI, three for a human player. Players also can control hero ships, like the Millenium Falcon or Slave. Like most space games, the experience can make you dizzy, but it’s really fun!

Supremacy: Players go against another team in a 10 minute battle. Each team tries to take over five control points that are all over a large map, while taking enemies out. This is probably the most chaotic type of multiplayer game because there are 40 players on the map, and there are vehicles both on the ground and in the air. This multiplayer map is definitely for people who are looking for a challenge and don’t mind playing online.

Verdict: A good purchase for core collections. Patrons of all ages, not just teens, will enjoy it!

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Pricing

$59.99 on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Battlefront-Standard-PlayStation-4/dp/B00W8FYFBA/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1448755442&sr=1-1&keywords=battlefront

Tech Talk: Osmo Review

At The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH), we are in the process of creating our MakerSpace. Because our space is a smaller space, we are focusing on tech that can be used in a variety of ways which for us has meant iPads. One of the tools we bought and evaluated to use in our MakerSpace is Osmo. Osmo works with an iPad in some pretty unique ways.

What is Osmo?

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Osmo is an iPad gaming and creation station. It is a pack that you purchase separately to use with an iPad. It is unique in that it uses a reflective device to make the area in front of your iPad your play or creation space. It takes your iPad out into a more 3D space.

It turns out that Osmo is targeted more towards a younger age group then teens, but it has some versatility that makes it very workable for a Tween and Teen targeted space. And the Masterpiece part is really awesome. The official website is here. You do have to set up an Osmo account and download each app for each component individually. And there really is the potential that they can create more apps to use with the camera device and expand the ways in which you can use Osmo.

Product Description on Amazon

  • Genius Kit includes a set of 5 different games that allows children to explore science, math, art, and more!
  • Kids and adults alike can cultivate their minds and creativity through Osmo’s games
  • System comes with reflector, base and five apps: Words, Tangram, Newton, Masterpiece, Numbers
  • Designed for anyone aged 6 and up, this educational toy can be enjoyed by nearly everyone in the family
  • Works with latest iPads: iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4 iPad Mini, iPad Mini Retina, iPad Air

The Basics

Osmo comes in a variety of packs: a starter pack or a genius pack. The starter pack has Words, Tangrams and the Base, plus you can download the Newton and Masterpiece app to use with the base. The Genius pack also includes a Numbers set. We bought the standard pack for around $80.00 which means I have not seen how the Numbers set works. The genius pack is $99 on Amazon. Although we didn’t buy the genius pack so we don’t have the Numbers pack, it is available for purchase separately if we wanted to go back and buy it.

Tangrams

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Me on the easy level.

The Tangrams set gives you a few shapes and then asks you to recreate the image you see on the screen using those shapes. I started on the medium level thinking it would be easy and it was not. I apparently am not good at Tangrams. I then went back to the easy level and was able to do that okay.

Words

The Words set puts a word on the screen with a missing space and asks you to fill in the blank with the provided letter tiles. These were super easy words so although I thought it wouldn’t have a lot of appeal for teens, I did think it would be useful for those who might be struggling with reading or were learning English as a second language.

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The cool part about this feature is that it allows you to upload your own photos and create your own words, so it has adaptability. I thought it would be a fun way to do a school visit or SRC program: You would create a specific word bank for your purposes and allow teens to play a game.

Newton

Me trying to play with the Newton app. All those lines are because the camera picks up the grain of my desk. Be sure and add a blank piece of paper in the play space if this happens, trust me.

Me trying to play with the Newton app. All those lines are because the camera picks up the grain of my desk. Be sure and add a blank piece of paper in the play space if this happens, trust me.

Newton is a game that uses the space in front of your iPad to play a more advanced version of like pong. I am not awesome at video games and I was not awesome at this. As far as games go there is a lot more you can do with an iPad so this was kind of a throwaway in my opinion, definitely not a recent to purchase Osmo.

Masterpiece

Masterpiece is a drawing app that uses the camera in pretty unique ways. You take a picture with your iPad and then can turn that picture into a line drawing. You then place a piece of blank paper in front of your tablet and follow the lines on the screen to draw the image you see. Remember how we used to use tracing paper or overhead projectors to recreate images for displays and such? This is a way to do that. While you are doing it the app is also making a video of you creating your masterpiece. And then you can save your masterpiece to the camera roll.

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I took a picture of a robot I made using recycled materials and used the Masterpiece app to try and draw it.

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This is the picture transformed into a line drawing so I can try and follow the lines and draw my robot onto paper. You can use a slide bar to change how easy or difficult the drawing is by reducing or increasing the number of lines it asks you to draw.

This function has a lot of potential:

  • Creating unique coloring sheets out of your pictures
  • Making displays, felt pieces, puppets, etc. out of your pictures (you would use your drawing as a template)
  • And of course the most basic, just learning how to draw

It was by far my favorite function and I thought worth the price of the entire package. But then I’m obsessed with taking my photos and doing creative things with them.

Final Thoughts

Although I definitely think a lot of this is better for younger kids and tweens, there are some ways that the play can be personalized and I think there is a benefit to that. Also, the Masterpiece function is really cool and I really would buy it for that alone.

Have you used Osmo? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

App Review: Image Chef

Recently, The Teen had to do a complex poetry assignment. One of the poems she had to create was a Concrete Poem, a poem that takes a shape. I would like to point out that the subject of her poem was me – go Mom! But we went looking for a way to easily create the shape poem. The most obvious answer is Tagxedo, but for me the task was an opportunity to explore new apps. This is how I stumbled upon Visual Poetry, which is a part of Image Chef. You can download Visual Poetry separately, but I highly recommend just getting all of Image Chef.

Description

“Now with video! Do amazing things with photos & text using ImageChef. Use our amazing photo and text templates, or arrange text and stickers manually. Output as images, animated GIF, or videos that you can post to Instagram.”

Image Chef is an app, but it is also an online resource as well. It is a photo manipulator, but it also does text images as well. Basically, Image Chef is a really cool resource. And, depending on what you are doing, it is really quick and easy to use. In a matter of minutes I made these three images:

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You can do the most basic elements for free, but you have to upgrade to the Pro version to remove the watermark or get HD images. The online Pro Version costs $9.99 a week, $24 a month, $49 for months or $100 for a year. That’s a pretty steep cost in my opinion. Similarly, the app itself is free but there are in app purchases necessary to unlock the full potential of the app. However, if all you want is a quick and easy but fun visual, this is a really good starting place. It has the least amount of functionality in terms of manipulating designs, which is what makes it so quick and easy to use. So users desiring more control over the details will want to look elsewhere, but it is definitely a good starting point and a great place for fun. And it is a great place for those who want to create Memes.

It does have some GIF, animation and video options, but I have not really tried to use those yet.

Pros:

There is a large number of image options to choose from. And I do mean a large number – the publicity materials say there are “1000s”.

It is quick and easy to use.

It’s fun.

Cons:

Unless you want to pay high dollar amounts for the pro version, you are stuck with a watermark and other restrictions.

You can’t manipulate the details as much as you can on some other apps.

Bottom Line:

It’s not my go to image app, but it does some fun things that I can’t do on other apps so I am definitely a fan of the fun.

App Review & Blended Pic Tutorial: Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app)

Monday my co-blogger Heather Booth sent me a text that said,” you might really like this app called Fused.” She had no idea what she was starting as I quickly became obsessed, for the MakerSpace and my teens of course! Using the app I was able to create these images:

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The “Love You” overlay in this picture is from Aviary.

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I used a silhouette of Thing 2 and blended it with a great pic of her.

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I used a silhouette of The Teen doing The Dumplin’ Pose with a picture of crowns to create this ode to Dumplin’.

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A picture of stairs overlaid with a silhouette that comes stock with the Fused app.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding Text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I'm probably doing it wrong.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I’m probably doing it wrong.

Now I have been seeing images like this online for years and coveted knowing how to make them. And I’m not going to lie, there was a bit of a learning curve. Here’s how it works, you select a background image and a foreground image and the Fused app blends the two images together. It sounds simple, but there are a few key tricks that improve your outcome.

Tricks and Tips To Keep in Mind

1. It is helpful, though not necessary depending on what you hope to create, if your background image is a black and white silhouette. I found an app called Silhouette to help create this image, more on this in a minute.

2. A big key to your success if having 2 images that are both well taken photographs and that line up well together. For example, I tried to combine a baby silhouette picture of my girls with a current picture of them to show how they have grown and it was hard finding two pictures that lined up well so there faces weren’t being obscured in weird ways. Like, in one attempt you could only see Thing 2’s chin, which didn’t create a very successful end product.

3. Having a nature picture or just a cool colored photo works well, too. Try taking a picture of a neon sign, a sunset, or clouds. These images blend well with others and you don’t have to worry as much about the ways the pictures line up. This image uses a picture of the moon a friend of mine took (used with permission) and a silhouette provided in the Fused app.

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A silhouette of Thing 2 blended with a picture of the cloudy sky that I took.

First Step: Create Your Background Silhouette Using the Silhouette App

As I mentioned, I used an app called Silhouette to create the background silhouette for blending purposes. Here you need to start with a picture that has a stark contrast to begin with. If you can, pose yourself or your subject in front of a white or a dark wall and take your photo in black and white. Here’s my initial photo that I used:

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I then used the Silhouette app to make it into the black and white silhouette I needed for the Fused app:

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A picture with a darker background and a lighter focal point, say a person, will create a white or negative space silhouette.

Darker background with a lighter focal point=white (negative space) silhouette

Darker background with a lighter focal point = white (negative space) silhouette

A picture with a lighter background and a darker focal point will create a black silhouette.

A lighter background with a darker focal point=a black silhouette

A lighter background with a darker focal point = a darker silhouette

Either one works, they just work differently as the Fused app will color in the white space – the negative space – with your other photo. Of course black and white are relative terms, I should probably say negative and positive space The Mr. would say, because you can use an RGB slide bar to colorize your silhouette.

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue
Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

There is also an Invert option that can be used to toggle between a colored or a white silhouette:

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

It is also helpful to have as little in the background as possible to create your silhouette. Ideally, you would pose your subject in front of a blank wall in a contrasting color.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

And as I mentioned, you do not have to use a black and white silhouette, I just found that Fused app worked better if I did. Insructables has some more information on how to create a photo silhouette. Digital photography school also has some information about photographing silhouettes.

Don’t want to use an app? Here’s a tutorial for creating a silhouette using iPiccy.com

Second Step: Using the Fused App

After saving this to my camera roll, I uploaded it as my background picture in Fused. As my foreground I used this picture:

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The Fused app gives you several blending options and you just kind of play around with them to find an option that you like best. Within each option it also has a slide bar which allows you to increase the contrast and blend. I used the “screen” option with the two pictures above to create this:

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Please note, Fused does not actually have an add text option. I added the text using the Aviary app that I reviewed last week.

I love and highly recommend both of these apps. It takes a little bit of time and trial and error, and some attention to details, to get a good end product; however, as I learned more what worked and what didn’t it became easier to use. The key is having good pictures to start with and it probably won’t surprise you to know that I have tons of those to experiment with.

If you want to get highly sophisticated and have access to Photoshop, here’s a tutorial for creating the same types of effects using that program.

And here is a free online program you can use to create a double exposure effect.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

About Fused

BlendPic and InstantBlend are apps similar to Fused that you can also try. I was not able to use InstandBlend as successfully as I was Fused and I have not tried BlendPic. All of them have additional in app purchases. I paid for the upgrade for the Fused app after deciding I really liked it to remove the watermark from my images. In future upgrades of the app I hope that they consider better undo options.

About Silhouette

It’s free and does cool things so no harm, no foul.

Fused also can be used to make videos, but I have no idea how to do that part yet.

Now I’m sure there will be someone out there who will tell me there is a much easier way to do this. 🙂