Sock Puppets allows just about anyone to quickly and easily create short animated movies using not only sock puppet characters, but (via in-app purchases) aliens, politicians and Halloween characters. The adorable app is from a software company Smith Micro -- not exactly known for its consumer wares. Sock Puppets is powered by Anime Studio, however, and some time ago the company bought up applications like Poser, and now offers some cool specialized visual artist tools.
As for Sock Puppets, I can tell you the app is a lot of fun. My kids have already created a number of short films with it. The free version comes with a few basic sock puppets, but for about $5 you can unlock all the added characters, plus extended recording and the ability to save to your camera roll. There's also a fully unlocked version of the app for $4. It's well worth it. Basic recording time is 30 seconds, but extended is 90 -- just enough time for kids to get in enough story.
Creating animated puppet shows
To create a video you select your puppets, a background, some props and tap the record button. The app detects voice, and attempts to move the mouth of the puppet along with the vocals. The puppet animations are well-done although more than once the audio clipped, causing a small glitch in some movies.
Since this isn't a pro app, you're not going to see extensive support for phonemes or the ability to separate vocals from music -- it's just mostly going with the overall sound. Still, it's quite good and looks fluid and natural. Combined with the animations used when moving a character around, it's a lot of fun to see.
While recording you can move your puppet around, not just side to side, but in a pseudo-3D which scales the puppets up or down, depending. Not all puppets can do this, as the sock puppets are locked into sideways motion only. In-app purchased puppets like the aliens and Halloween characters can move all over and can be resized during the animation. My kids enjoyed scaling a creature up or down as if they were shrinking or growing.
What's cool is you can just tap and move any character at any time, and pinch to scale them.
Sock Puppets alters your voice as well on a per-puppet basis. You can tweak the settings of the voice changes, customizing them to your liking. I found the defaults to be quite pleasing and well-done. They matched the look of the characters, especially (my favorite) the aliens.
Recording is easy enough, as there's a record button available while you move stuff around, but saving your masterpiece to the camera roll will require an in-app purchase. You can share your video to YouTube without this, although the export can take a while.
While there are a lot of apps to distract kids out there, I found Sock Puppets easy to use and a lot of fun. My kids agree -- they created over a dozen short movies within a few days, and all of them looked excellent. If you're willing to spend $4 you can buy the "complete" version with all characters, sets and utilities unlocked. I'm hopeful Smith Micro will expand Sock Puppets with more characters in the future, but it also has me more intrigued with their pro apps (which was perhaps the goal as well). We'll keep an eye on the consumer efforts from the company going forward, especially if Sock Puppets is an indication that the company is looking to provide more of these fun tools.