Custom Animated Watch Faces for Apple Watch

A few weeks ago David Sparks over at MacSparky wrote an article about how to make custom watch faces for your Apple Watch. Of course, I immediately downloaded David's R2D2 image and made it my watch face (in fact, I was reading his article while I was waiting for Rogue One to start in the theater).

David Sparks' handy work on my wrist!

David Sparks' handy work on my wrist!

But what if you want an animated watch face other than the pre-installed animated faces that come with Apple Watch? It is possible to make your own custom animated Apple Watch faces, but it is a bit of a hack (but luckily a very easy hack). Apple introduced a new feature starting with the iPhone 6s called Live Photos. The way Live Photos works is that when you are using the Camera app on your iPhone 6s or newer the phone is taking 1.5 seconds of video up until the point you press the shutter button. This mesh of video ending with the still photo you took is then displayed to your iPhone screen when scrolling through photos in the Photos app. Live Photos also work on the Apple Watch. So the way you can create an animated custom Apple Watch face is to take a photo with an iPhone that supports Live Photos and then use that photo as a "Photo Watch Face" for your Apple Watch. So now, when you raise your Apple Watch or wake the screen the Apple Watch will play the 1.5 seconds of video leading up to the still photo you took. iMore has a nice article detailing the steps on how to setup custom photo faces for your apple watch here.

So what I thought would be really cool is to create an animated BB-8 Apple Watch face. Luckily I own a Sphero BB-8, so taking a Live Photo of a moving BB-8 was relatively straight forward. I simply took some black cloth to use as the background and set my BB-8 unit in front of it and took some photos while BB-8 was moving around.

My setup of recording a short video of my BB-8 Sphere in action. My iPad Pro was the controller and my iPhone 7 took the still photo/Live Photo.

My setup of recording a short video of my BB-8 Sphere in action. My iPad Pro was the controller and my iPhone 7 took the still photo/Live Photo.

It took several tries to get a photo that was taken at a good point in BB-8's movements that resulted in a good animated sequence for the Watch Face. Another thing you need to think about is framing up the picture properly for the square Apple Watch Face. I took the photos with the iPhone vertical (in portrait mode) and I framed the shot so BB-8 was in the upper left-hand portion of the photo. That way I could add the time and one complication to the watch face in the lower right-hand corner. You can setup the Apple Watch Face to display the time as well as complications in various places on the watch face, so make sure you choose where you want the time/complications to be and leave that portion of your shot (before you take the photo) as blank space in the photo. The end result was my very own custom animated BB-8 watch face!

A short video showing my custom made BB-8 animated Apple Watch Face

Custom animated Apple Watch Faces aren't just limited to the method I just described though. You can also setup a short animated sequence of images in a program like Keynote and then take a photo of the animated set of charts using a Live Photos enabled iPhone and make a custom animated Apple Watch Face that way as well. When I get some time to play around with that method I will try and do a write-up on that as well. In the mean time have fun making your own animated watch faces with the Live Photo feature on the iPhone!

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