How to Create Animated Images Using Simple Video Overlays

Have you ever wished you could bring your still photo to life after you’ve taken it? Thanks to mobile technology, creating moving images, animations and cinemagraphs is easier than ever and accessible to anyone that has a smartphone. There are lots of different ways to add movement or special effects to your photo but the simplest way is by enhancing it with video overlays. These animated overlays will bring a cinemagraph type effect to your photo right from your mobile phone.

After a quick online search I discovered that there are lots of different smartphone apps on the market that you can use to bring your image to life so I downloaded a few to try out. For this road test I am comparing three of them and applying the filters to shots from my personal camera roll to see how they work on real life photos. I’ll be reporting back on how easy they are to use, the best and worst features of each app and also the cost of use. It is important to note that while these apps are free to use and come with a selection of supplied overlays, to remove the watermark, increase export size or quality and unlock additional overlays does often require in-app purchases.

Note- the animations have been saved as GIF files for compatibility with this blog and as a result have been compressed and lost some image quality.

Lumyer

Lumyer is a basic app that will add fun, animated overlays to your videos and still images. Creating a ‘Lumy’ is relatively simple, you select the video effect you’d like to add to your image and then place it in the desired area of your image and scale and rotate to fit. There are not a lot of editing options or ability to mask or soften the edges but you can adjust the opacity of the effect if you want it to blend more naturally into your image.

You can access over 300 different effects and the app offers 35+ free ones to experiment with. As well as photographic effects there are a lot of fun selfie add-ons and seasonal themed overlays. Here are some of the best free ones that I tried out:

I love the icy feel these floating snowflakes add to this image I snapped in Norway

I love the icy feel these floating snowflakes add to this image I snapped in Norway

Some gentle cloud movement to add to the balmy feel of my holiday snapshot from the Bahamas.

Some gentle cloud movement to add to the balmy feel of my holiday snapshot from the Bahamas.

They have some fun free selfie add ons like this one, sunglasses and flower crowns.

They have some fun free selfie add ons like this one, sunglasses and flower crowns.

I tried to add a free steam overlay to my coffee cup but unfortunately it looks more like smoke.

I tried to add a free steam overlay to my coffee cup but unfortunately it looks more like smoke.

I purchased an additional bird overlay at a cost of AU$1.49 and didn’t realise that it also came with sound effects which was a nice bonus!

In this image I have combined the flying birds overlay with the free moving clouds download that I adjusted the transparency of for a nice natural effect.

In this image I have combined the flying birds overlay with the free moving clouds download that I adjusted the transparency of for a nice natural effect.

Pros

  • Ability to save Lumy as a live photo or gif

  • Easy to share as an MP4 straight to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp

  • A few great free filters

  • Some video filters include sound effects

Cons

  • A lot of the overlays are a bit cheesy

  • You can only combine two filters in the free version

  • Exported file is small at only 640px

  • It costs AU$5.99 to remove the watermark

  • Vertical image format not supported yet

  • No masking and limited editing features

Get it at: lumyer.com | Free (with in-app purchases) on iOS and Android

Werble

Werble works on the same basic premise of Lumyer but has much more sophisticated features for placing and editing your overlays. This app also offers multiple layers which allows you to overlay many different effects which are simple to reorder and edit as desired. The tool menu gives you the ability to change the proportions, colour and speed of your video effects - just to name a few.

I found the Starter pack and free overlays to contain a great assortment of animations to experiment with and the packages of additional effects available for purchase seemed like reasonably good value - some of them bundles of 100 for AU$10.99. I also liked that you can watch a video previewing all the effects prior to purchase so you know exactly what you are getting with each pack.

I was able to mirror the same cloud effect onto the reflection in the sand and adjust the opacity.

I was able to mirror the same cloud effect onto the reflection in the sand and adjust the opacity.

I adjusted the colour of these petals to match the exact shade of the cherry blossoms in my photo.

I adjusted the colour of these petals to match the exact shade of the cherry blossoms in my photo.

I purchased the Coffee themed animations and effects pack for $3.99 which came with 23 different effects (much better value than the $1.49 per effect pricing with Lumyer) and also the Sky pack which came with 17 overlays. These effects were great to add onto photos I already had on my camera roll and I could definitely see myself using them in the future.

I love this particular effect for adding some movement into this coffee cup.

I love this particular effect for adding some movement into this coffee cup.

I combined some steam with a fun coffee top overlay to fill my mug in this image.

I combined some steam with a fun coffee top overlay to fill my mug in this image.

In addition to adding video overlays you can also add some movement to your original image using the Pulse tool. I found this to be a bit hit and miss but perhaps after a bit more experimentation you would be able to get some good results.

Pros

  • Sophisticated export options

  • Unlimited layers

  • Easy to drag drop layer order

  • Extensive layer editing options eg. blend modes, colour, lighting

  • Share straight to a multitude of social platforms

Cons

  • Couldn’t find a way to save original files to edit or export later on

  • No layer masking

  • Costs $6.99 to remove watermark

Get it at: werbleapp.com | Free (with in-app purchases) on iOS and coming soon to Android

Story Z

Story Z is a multifunctional app that enables the user to add motion and ripple effects to animate their original images as well as adding their own and supplied video overlays. However, for the purpose of this blog we will just be discussing the video overlay features.

One of the clear advantages of this app is the ability to mask your layers which allows you to apply the video overlay on just a portion or the background of your image, resulting in a much more realistic effect.

In the overlay feature the free effects are a bit more limited than what you get with the previous two apps but the bundles are the among the cheapest with a pack of 5+ for $1.49

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To get this effect above I searched for ‘free storm cloud video’ and downloaded one to my phone. I then overlaid it using the ‘Motion’ feature of the app which enables you to add your own video effects. Using the eraser tool I brushed out the sky in the background and adjusted the storm clouds video underneath. Being able to add your own video elements allows for a lot more creative freedom and you can shoot your own video assets as well as using any free resources you find online.

Pros

  • Layer masking with smart brush and erase features

  • Supports multiple image sizes and formats

  • Sophisticated layer masking

  • Can add your own video effects

  • No watermark on exported images (provided you watch an ad)

Cons

  • Limited number of available video overlays

  • You do need to watch some ads but that’s the trade off for a free app

  • Can only export video at 1200px unless you purchase premium app

  • Editing tools seem to only apply to the original image and not the video overlays

  • Can’t create looping effect with added video

Get it at: storyzapp.com | Free (with in-app purchases) on iOS and Android

The Verdict

If you have no experience and don’t want to spend a cent you can certainly obtain some great free video effects using the apps mentioned above. Matching the right image with the right filter can be a bit of an art but it is a great starting point for creative experimentation. There are of course limitations in the assets available both in app and online but you will still be able to exercise your creativity and create some great moving images using what you can download or shoot yourself.

There is not much of a learning curve required to use any of these apps, a basic understanding of layers and masking will help but there are enough video tutorials and resources around to help you if you need it. Luckily most smartphone video and image editing apps have similar functions so once you know how to use one you should find it easy enough to navigate and operate others.

Have you tried any of these apps or anything like it?