Revised background paper for this Project:

How to make a cinemagraph:

I had already decided to do my final project on “animated gifs” and started to do some research about the format. I stumbled upon the work of artists Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg who used the technique to animate some of their fashion photography and preferred to name their work “cinemagraphs.” http://www.annstreetstudio.com

In 2011, Beck and Burr popularized “animated photos” making the animated GIF format trendy and well suited to commercial projects. In the early days of web design, animated GIFs were everywhere and the animation looked rather primitive. The advantage to this file format is an obvious reduction in size. Motion is one element that draws the viewers eye. Making the viewer hunt and wait for the motion seems to me to be a very clever and subtle technique and it makes perfect sense that this file format would have useful commercial application.

Fortuitously, a few days after I began research on my project, lynda.com published a tutorial on cinemagraphs: (search her site) http://www.lynda.com

What appeals to me about this format is the subtlety of motion and the reference to a still photo frame. The course author, Sean Duggan, advises that the part of the scene that will contain motion should be distinct because you have to create a mask and that the start and end points should be similar making it easier to create a loop. Duggan also advises that it is not to incorporate large areas or too much motion and if possible to capture the footage in hi res.

Duggan provides great instruction on the process:

  • a cinemegraph can be an animated gif or may link to a higher resolution video files
  • an effective cinemagraph has more in common with good storytelling photography
  • a cinemagraph is not a file format but rather a type of still image with just a hint of motion which is well suited to naturally repetitive motion such as water or wind
  • the content of a cinemagraph should look natural and not contrived… and can be mixed with photoshop composting to created imaginary landscapes…

In the lynda.com  tutorial these are the steps Sean Duggan recommends to create the cinemagraph: in Photoshop, use the motion workspace to import video footage which brings up the timeline panel, use judicious cropping; convert video layer into smart object; create a still frame by scrubbing through the timeline; pause and select everything and copy to a new lawyer to which you add a layer mask which you invert and paint with a white feathered brush on the still frame layer which cuts a hole so you see below to the video layer. Another important quality of the cinemagraph is continuous looping motion. This part of the technique requires a bit of practice to perfect and it involves cutting the clip at a spot where the motion start and end is the same, inserting a cross fade between two clips and tweaking the result. You can also add adjustment layers and paint on that mask. Save the file as a layered photoshop.psd, and when exporting, save for web legacy as a gif, changing the size to 50% and experimenting with settings of color reduction algorithms. A more complex project would involve compositing several subtle motion loops into the same project.

The obvious artistically commercial thrust of Beck and Burg begs this question. Are fine art photographers also working in this medium?

Apparently “animated photography,” as designated by Julien Duvier is not yet oversaturated by compelling work. Duvier works across genres; his style is not consistent www.julienduvier.com

As I looked through examples of cinemagraphs, I noticed the ones which appealed to me most had the most subtle and convincing motion and coincidentally warm red tones with a focus on food or fashion. You can view several examples at:

The fine art work of Gregory Colbert is acclaimed and inspirational:
A bio snippet from his site describes Colbert as ” the creator of the exhibition Ashes and Snow, an immersive experience of nature that combines photographic artworks, films, and soundscapes, housed in a purpose-built traveling structure called the Nomadic Museum. Ashes and Snow has attracted over 10 million visitors, making it the most attended exhibition by any living artist in history.” I love Colbert’s work.

This artist inspired the cinemagraph work of Jerology Calloway ; https://dakrolak.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/fine-art-to-cinemagraph
This art form intrigues me as I work on this project I spent another day at the New York Botanical Gardens inside the Conservatory where tripods and monopods are not allowed and created a shaky Cinemagraph to start. Now I will look around New Haven for ideas.

UPDATE | May 9, 2016
This project has been a tremendous learning experience: finding out about the format; preparing the project proposal, trying a few inept attempts without a tripod, refining my ideas, visiting several water garden locations in Connecticut, getting new footage, revisiting the Botanical Gardens in New York, interacting with the class and professor, tweaking my animations again and again, creating this blog, refining the post, being able to watch the animations  on my phone. I put countless hours into this project and am proud of the work presented here. I have never enjoyed compositing and do now. I possess  a greater understanding and appreciation of the techniques involved.

Perhaps, most important to me….lots of times I enjoy macro photography of flowers and by continuing this exploration and incorporating these images into other, more broad vistas which I have never enjoyed capturing before, I see the world differently in terms of photographing possibilities. It is now ok for me to step back. It is also fun to incorporate motion into the result. So now, for me, the most fun is not the single image but what happens after with imagination.

p.s. it is a tad challenging to display the animated gifs…so once I have a chance to figure this out, will updated the post – barbara reiner



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