Great apps for young filmmakers and animators

Jun 21, 2016

There are so many impressive tools available to tweens and teenagers who want to take a shot with creating films. From adding eye-catching special effects to exploring the rich history of cinematic lore, these five apps assist students in animating and filming movies.

Animation Desk (Free)

This 2-D animation app provides students with a color pallette and multiple brush tools for creating frames that will make up their animated short. Before getting started, students should tap the question mark icon for labeled layouts of Animation Desk’s features, which include onion skinning for viewing an overlay of contiguous frames and X-Sheet for repeating them. There’s a rotoscoping tool that imposes line drawing over live video. Confident animators can add their creations to the AniZone YouTube channel, or forage the video listings for inspiration from their peers. Animation Desk is not iOS universal, but boasts paid and free versions for iPhone and iPad.

Stop Motion Studio (Free)

Next up is a superior stop motion animation app. Stop Motion Studio offers many in-app purchases, including a Feature Pack for $4.99 that includes image importing, remote camera via Wi-Fi, special effects, paint tools, green screen, 28 themes, 16 foreground images, sound effects, and 4K Ultra HD. The ultra high definition makes videos pop, providing screen resolution four times better than Full HD. The basic version of the app lets students add images from their camera roll to create silent animations or animated GIFs, which are all the rage these days.

FXGuru: Movie FX Director (Free)

Hollywood filmmaking relies heavily on special effects, including Michael Bay-esque digital explosions, manipulating landscapes or increasing faces in a crowd. FXGuru offers free and paid event simulations, the former indicated by a silver boarder in the Effects menu. If your young Christopher Nolan wants to simulate a satellite crashing to earth, they can do so by simply recording video of any location, hitting record, and waiting for the chaotic clip to process. As for the paid side, individual effects range from $0.99 – $4.99, with the Super 64 pack going for $19.99.

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Shot Designer (Free)

Upon launching the Shot Designer app, developed by Hollywood Camera Work, students will be met with a button that links out to the official website page listing all key video tutorials. Currently, the video tutorials must be view on a desktop computer, as the recent updates to iOS 8 disrupted their video codes. These tutorials are essential for any teenager interested in using Shot Designer, as they cover timeline animation, shot lists, storyboarding, and set and lighting. The app allows users to visualize scenes from a new vantage point as well. iI your student is serious about filmmaking, we recommend upgrading to the pro version for $19.99, as it unlocks scene organization, sharing features, and the desktop version of the app.

Artemis Director’s Viewfinder ($29.99)

Artemis Director’s Viewfinder is used by professionals as well as seasoned directors to reproduce any camera, aspect ratio and lens combination. It is quite expensive but it can replace the traditional viewfinder by having an iPhone and the app. Artemis simulates the field of view of the lens of the shoot making lens selection easier.

IMDb Movies & TV (Free)

All aspiring auteurs need to study their predecessors. The IMDb Movies & TV mobile app provides information on new releases, movie trailers, showtimes, but most importantly a searchable database and loads of behind-the-scenes trivia. Students can track the careers of anyone listed, whether directors, actors or even music editors. As some high schoolers are interested in making their own short films, home movies or documentaries, this free app can help create a deeper connection to the top minds in cinema.

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Stephen Danos

Stephen Danos is the Associate Editor for,, and Appolicious. He has contributed to articles published on TechCrunchThe Chicago Sun TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere.

He received his BA in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming).

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