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Looom Looom

Facing a long stretch of social isolation, people around the world are resolving to use the time to pick up a skill. It can be a language, baking, musical instrument… or, if you’re new to it, animating.

If you choose the last one, you’re in luck: an Ipad app has launched, with perfect timing, to help you learn. Looom (with three Os) bills itself as “a new way to create hand-drawn animation”; really, it’s an unusually intuitive tool for making animated loops. The software is designed with beginners in mind — the creators compare it to bowling with gutter guards — but pros are also having fun with it (see below).

The creators are animator-designer Eran Hilleli and programmer Finn Ericson (known collectively as Iorama.Studio). The pair developed Looom in their spare time over the course of a year and a half, working remotely from Israel and Sweden respectively. Their immediate inspiration was an approach to animation that involves stitching together loops, as Hilleli explains:

We were inspired by an animation looping technique where you keep animating on a small number of frames over and over again. Caleb Wood recently [described] this technique as “weaving loops.” While teaching this technique to students, I was amazed by how their line of thought and flow gets cut every time they are stopped by the software, and need to duplicate the whole animation and offset it. I was curious how it would feel if the software simply allowed your flow to continue. The result of this experiment was the first prototype of Looom.

The app uses a stripped-back interface, enabling users to create simple loops (“threads”) and layer them in complex sequences (“weaves”). Frames are drawn with two-handed touch gestures and, optionally, the Apple Pencil. There are no keyframes, no timeline. Hilleli compares the process to playing “a Game Boy for animation”:

[It’s] a playful approach to animation. From physical toys we took inspiration for designing the user interface to feel tactile, taking cues from classic toys like the View-Master discs or Etch A Sketch knobs. Early video games were designed around huge technological constraints. The creative solutions involved in these creations gave birth to products full of character. With Looom, we look for these constraints that will give character to the tool rather than simply try to make every feature you can think of.

The loops can be exported into desktop animation software like Adobe Animate (although early user feedback has pointed out hitches with this). However, Hilleli insists that the professional aspect will remain secondary to the app’s playfulness. He himself currently uses it as a “meditation tool” more than anything else:

We really are not trying to make just another animation tool that simply has all the functions laid out. We are treating Looom more as an instrument where the flow of use is the focus. So for example, instead of simply giving you the ability to add more and more frames, we are looking into ways of chaining reels and perhaps find a new way to create longer animations… With that being said, we are always making sure the things you create can be used professionally out of the app. This will all improve as the app grows too.

Other pros have been meditating with Looom too. Below are a few projects made on the app by established animators. Discover more through the tag #madewithloom. The app is available for Ipad for $9.99.

Caleb Wood:

James Paterson:

Fabric Lenny:

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