by Margaret Powers
I am nearing the close of my digital storytelling explorations for #etmooc, I decided to try two new tools. I’ll talk about one in this post and the second in another post because (while writing) I realized each one requires a fairly detailed explanation. The first is FlipToon, which is an iPhone app that allows you to create flip books. I downloaded it as a free app a few days ago (it’s now 99 cents) and when I started thinking of ways to create and share digital stories, I realized it could be a fun medium to try.
To begin, I looked over the basic how-to screen before starting in on a test story. It took me a little while to figure out how I could manipulate images within one page with the copy/crop feature and how I could start with the same image on the next page with the “previous page copy” button. Having all of these options always on the screen means that the icons are quite small and the workspace is also pretty tight. I struggled to get my drawings to look how I wanted and thought more about how valuable a stylus might be for this type of activity. Have other people found them to be helpful for writing or art projects?
After I finally felt comfortable with all of the tools and capabilities of the app, I thought about what I wanted to animate. I tried a few different sketches in color and black and white and finally settled on the idea of drawing a dancing ballerina. I realized that with my limited drawing skills, it would take far too long for me to add color to every page if I wanted to use different images so I stuck to black and white and began sketching.
After a few pages, I decided to make my closing image have a touch of color and I used the pink pencil to add some color to the ballerina’s tutu. Then I put on a cover page and added a title: A Ballare (which means to dance in Italian). The idea I had in my head of the dancer gracefully flowing and twirling reminded me of the flow and cadence of Italian, which I love.
Unfortunately, once my story was finished, I started running into problems. First, when I went to create a movie of my book, I realized that I had added an extra page at the end of the book. I went back to edit but couldn’t find a way to remove it. I worked for a while, adding one final, “final” page so the story wouldn’t end with a blank page and then returned to try to make my movie. Next, I tried to add some music for my ballerina to dance to but the player kept freezing and a few times after selecting a song, it was silent when I played my movie. Luckily, along the way, I saved one copy of my story to my photo album because then the most frustrating development occurred … the app froze to the point that I had to shut it down and close it and when I re-started it … my story was gone!
There’s no ability to save your story within the app as you’re working on it (aside from leaving it open in the app … assuming it doesn’t freeze). This means that you can’t return to edit a story you were working on earlier or re-open an earlier story and add more to it or re-import your story if the app freezes and you lose your work! After all of the time I spent working on my drawings, I couldn’t bring myself to start again so instead, I took the earlier copy I had saved to my photo album and sent it to my computer. Then I put it into iMovie and added my music there, with a little title slide and uploaded it to Vimeo so I could share it with all of you.
While I love the idea of making flip books on mobile devices and being able to share stories this way, I’ve deleted FlipToon from my library for now. I’m guessing and hoping there are other apps out there with similar capabilities but I don’t want to run the chance of my own (or my students’) work being lost because of the app limitations.