We first discovered Ligthtwell – software that lets anyone turn their work into an interactive app for iOS without knowing a line of code – when its creators Hullabulu launched the tool in April this year. 

Only a few months down the track and no doubt after hours of hard work from the team, the New York based company has already released new features such as lip syncing and updates to the interaction manager feature. Lightwell is available on iPhone, iPad and Mac OSX 10.11+.

Lightwell helps creatives to build mobile apps without writing a line of code – letting you go from 2D art to an entirely interactive, animated experience that compiles into native iOS app. Hullabalu creates interactive storybook apps for children such as The Adventures of Pan.

Being from this background, it has created a tool that's primarily aimed at creating narrative-driven playful experiences – but it could be used to produce any type of self-contained app with animated graphics and a relatively small amount of interactivity.

All you need to do is drag and drop your artwork, characters and props into the Lightwell desktop app – which is currently only available for Mac – then create custom animations, interactions and dialogues before publishing your project directly to the app store - all within a Photoshop-style interface. Check out how it works in the video below.

Here are the latest updates to Lightwell.

Lip Syncing 

The most exciting update is Lip Syncing, which can be found in the dialogue panel. Instead of creating an entire animation, link sounds in your scripts and watch it automatically animate into dialogue. 

Automate your character’s mouth and speech movements by adding a sound file, line text and images.

Image Sequences 

Upload a series of sprites on a layer and control how they are displayed. This could be adjusting the frame speed, number of repeats, or if it auto-reverses or not. Although the small tool has been around for a while, its perfect for bringing image layers to life. 

Interaction Manager Updates

Interactions can now be grouped together and set to play all at once or sequentially. When set to 'sequential', the interactions within the group will only trigger if its previous interactions have been triggered.

Alongside this, each interaction will be limited to the times it can be triggered. Once it has reached that limit, it will automatically be skipped over in its containing group.
These two controls can be combined in as many ways as you want.

Other features

Features include creating movement and interaction between characters and objects (such as shake, jump or topple) or your own interaction, as seen in the images below. Test a project in a companion previewer app to see what the layout looks like on both iPad and iPhone. Users can also add their own sound and dialogue, text and music. 

If you need any help along the way, Lightwell has a bunch of video tutorials on its website explaining how to create particular features - such as cutting assets, ambient motion and organising layers - so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started. There are also a few ready-made scene templates to get your creative juices going.

You can download a free 14 day trial here, or the Lightwell Creator option for US$7/£5.36 a month (or choose to be billed annually). A Lightwell Team option is coming soon. 

Hullabalu has developed other tools in house: Pegasus, an animation and story engine tool, and Artemis, its own art and design tool suite. Some of the features and technology within these are in Lightwell.