Sometimes, landscape images that you take to feel as if they’re missing some motion. Maybe you couldn’t get an in camera exposure as long as you wanted, or maybe you just want to see what an image would look like if it could move a bit more. Or maybe you need a GIF maker app.
Either way, learning to animate landscapes is both fun and a great way to retool old photographs of yours. This guide will teach you how to animate landscapes piece by piece, and help you create some cool animations for yourself, or to share with others. The application that I will be using in this tutorial is Pixaloop, which is thankfully available on both iOS and Android’s respective marketplaces.
Time to create some animations! This is the image that I will use in this guide: (Scroll to the bottom to see the final animation).
This is both a serene landscape and a great photograph, with stellar motion already present in the waves and clouds. I do, however, wish that that motion was more real, and so I’m going to fix that! Before I jump into actually animating, however, I want to divide this image into components. The first component for me is the earth. I don’t want the earth to be animated, so I’m going to remember that the earth shall not be included in the animation. The second component is the sky. I want the sky to follow the path I already see in the clouds, from right to left. The third component will be the water. I want the waves from the water to be crashing back and forth on the beach. Now that I have all that written down, let’s get to it!
Animating my Landscape’s components
The first step to creating any animation in Pixaloop is going to be creating a new project. To do this, simply press the bright orange “+” sign when you open the application, and select the image you are working on animating. Then, this is what your screen should look like:
Now that we have our image ready, we can start animating. Open the “Animate” menu, present on Pixaloop’s toolbar as the first item on the bottom left of your screen. This is where almost all the work for this image will be done.
Finally, we can start actually creating the animation! The first step is going to be drawing in the paths of my animation. When working with natural elements, such as the water and the clouds here, I prefer using the default path tool. If I was working with artificial or polygonal elements that I wanted to animate, I might choose to instead use the “Geometric” path tool. These are the first paths I created for my animation:
When you press the play button to see how your animation is coming along, don’t panic. At this point, we haven’t told Pixaloop where and where not to animate, so it’s going to animate literally anything near a path aggressively. Let’s calm that down a bit. Now that I have worked on my sky and water components, I need to get the land to stay still. The first step to doing this is to create a freeze mask on the inner part of the land. Using the “Freeze” and “Unfreeze” brushes, you can create a mask that stops your animation from being present on part of your image. This is what my mask looks like:
Now that I have my mask, I want to also lower the amount of motion that is occurring between the land, ocean, and sky. To do this, I’m going to create anchor points. Create anchor points using the “Anchor” tool, and remove them by selecting the “Remove” tool and pressing on them. Also remember, you always have the option to use the undo tool in the bottom left of your screen! This is what my anchor and path layout looks like now:
Let your Landscape breathe; Slow it down
The next step is going to be to limit the speed of the motion of your animation. Most animations aren’t going to have the serene quality that landscapes often do, so they don’t benefit from as sluggish a speed. For landscapes, on the other hand, I prefer a very low amount on the speed slider. Below, you can see the speed I chose. It’s actually relatively high for a landscape animation, in my opinion!
Lastly, I wanted to add some motion to the entire image. Make your way to the different motion filters by going back and then swiping to right on Pixaloop’s toolbar. These different visual effects allow you to add some form of a consistent motion to the entirety of an animation. While they are not vital for landscapes, I think that these motion additions are great for several reasons. The first reason is that this will make the move across the animation feel more continuous like a color grade might a photographic composite. The second is that, since our land isn’t moving, it feels a bit strange before we add this motion. This motion allows the animation not to capture the viewer’s focus in the edges between the land and the other elements, but rather suggests to the viewer to take it in as a whole.
And, there we have it. A quick animation that can easily be replicated on any of your favorite landscapes, be they of lakes and mountains, forests, or seascapes as shown above. One thing that I didn’t do here, which you might want to try, is a simple sky replacement. These are very easily done with Pixaloop, so don’t worry about complicated masks. Furthermore, the sky replacements are already animated for you! Have fun with it, it’s never been so easy to adapt your photographs into animation! Here is how my final animation came out: