Incredible “3D” motion from Canon Rebel T2i/550D stills

by planetmitch53 Comments

You’ve seen “3D” motion done before – but this time we have a little tutorial on how it can be done and this time it is with Canon Rebel T2i/550D (reviews) still photos.

Redrock Micro

First, the 3D video from stills

Desert Motion from XNcreative on Vimeo.


Second, the tutorial from Jeff Farmer at Xncreative

“We had recently taken some landscape photos at various locations across the western United States. As usual, the photos never do justice to actually being there; smelling the desert air, feeling the breeze in your face. So, when I got back to the studio, I thought it would be fun to breath a little life into some of the shots and recapture a bit of their original grandeur. Adding motion was the first thing that popped into my head.

Canyon Original from Jeff Farmer

I took the individual photos and cut them up in Photoshop CS4 Extended. There are multiple options for isolating various elements, but for this project, I chose to do so by simply using a hard erase tool. I like to then come in and clean-up the edges with a softer erase tool. This can be very tedious and time-consuming, but it allows me to make sure I’m eliminating what I want and maintaining the kind of edges I want. These various elements are then separated onto their own layers, foreground, background, etc.

Spider Rock Cutout

Spider Rock Cutout

Where certain elements are going to be moved, new information has to be created to take its place on the original background, either with the clone tool or by cutting and pasting other parts of the scene. You could use editing options like ‘Content aware” in CS5, but again, I prefer to do all of this manually. (If you knew in advance what you were planning, you could actually take several photos in front of and behind the various elements, such as a tree. When I took the pictures used in this test footage, I had no intentions of doing this.)

Canyon Cutout

Canyon Cutout

The individual layers were then imported into Apple’s Motion and animated in the timeline with set key frames. Foreground elements were set to move faster than background ones. Some elements were also given a slight motion and/or gaussian blur, depending on their speed or the depth of field I was wanting to achieve. (On most landscape shots, however, the depth of field is usually very wide, unless a boulder or branch happens to be very close to the camera.)

Resampled Canyon

Resampled Canyon

Each shot required running through several trial runs before the motion felt right. I’m still not quite happy with the time ramping of the final shot, but just haven’t had time to tweak it.

Motion Set Up

Motion Set Up

The final piece was edited in Final Cut Pro.”

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)

Zeiss Cinema Lenses


  1. Jacob

    Not impressed. Ironically, everything looks flat. Yes there’s pop between foreground, middle, and background but it looks like 3 pieces of paper just shifting over each other.

  2. Amila C

    Agree with Jacob. see the moon shot in the middle. moon moves, but the foreground shadows, and highlight areas not moving. seems like he is an armature Compositor. His photoshoping is ok for me. But he have to improve knowledge more about lighting and shading systems on matte painting, ease in-out motion and 2D compositing main principles . . .

    hope helped little . .

    Cheers . .

    1. Jeff Farmer

      Folks, these are 2D stills. Of course it’s not 3D. Consider it merely another example of what can be done if your client slaps a stack of stills on your desk and you want to give them something more than the typical slide show.

      Landscapes shot with a long lens are going to look “sandwiched” between an XY plane.

      And yes, we could have spent hours shifting shadows and highlights, but when it’s not for a paycheck, at some point you have to ask yourself how much time you want to spend.

    2. Fred McMillan

      Amila, sorry, I can’t help it but I must comment here. I saw the links you gave above, and then I read your commenting him about “improve knowledge more about lighting and shading systems on matte painting, ease in-out motion and 2D compositing main principles”. This ticked me off.

      His work here is pretty much brilliant. It does not look 3D because it’s NOT 3D, and can never will be. Whereas, with all due respect, is far from what I consider professional. After 25 years in advertising and hundreds of motion graphic, I’m not really excited to see the kinds of work you show, with cheesy songs and a pace that is all over the place. Your ‘knowledge of matte painting’ is nowhere near the kind that suits a TV production. Your colours are overdone, and your sense of design (composition, fonts, etc) is just horrible. It’s worse than some of my students.

      I’m sorry, but please improve upon yourself if you can comment on other people’s technique.


      1. Author

        Fred thanks for your comments and for being constructive! In Amila’s defense, he is from Sri Lanka and often admits in the planet5D forums that he has some learning to do (and that his English isn’t perfect either). But we love that there is discussion and respectful constructive criticism! Thanks

  3. SBG

    Agreed. Looks flat and fake. Camera mapping in a real 3d app can certainly produce convincing results, but these aren’t them.

  4. Marshall Baker

    While I agree that is very 2d, it is still a fun concept, and i really appreciate the tutorial.

    I don’t mean this to sound harsh Amila C, but your work doesn’t look much different, certainly not drastic, and I don’t see any tutorials from you on here(though I haven’t searched the site)

    Thanks for your tutorial Jeff.

    Alternatively, another great 2d photo to 3d tutorial can be seen here:

  5. Ellsworth

    This is something slightly old and is a technique used everyday. I guess it’s nice every once in awhile to get a refreshing like this.

  6. Frederic Jenkins

    This was really unimpressive. If he had used an actual 3D program to do camera mapping, it would have looked a thousand times better. Instead, it ended up looking cartoony and flat.

    1. Alain

      Motion does work in 3D. Some segments were ok, but the main issue was simply the choice of subjects.

      When you do these kind of shots, you really need to work the shadows if you want to make it looks real.

  7. Stephen van VUuren

    This technique was really brought the forefront by the film “The Kid Stay in the Picture”.

    Some shameless self promotion – I’m working on an IMAX film ( using method similar to this (plus other stuff). For those criticizing the “flatness” – you are missing the point as that’s precisely the appeal. And for my film – not altering the photographs with texture maps, shadows etc. is very important.

    Plus for certain subject at very high resolutions (e.g. IMAX) texture mapping fails (as does 3D models). You can see some of my first footage (work-in-progress) here:

    And I have a vimeo channel for photographic animation:

  8. Allister Whyte

    Love it,showed it to a ”non camera” type friend,he thought ist was a real fly over,congrats,the effect is cool,you put alot of work into these.

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  10. Mark Wheadon

    Errm — isn’t the whole point that it catches your eye; that it doesn’t look entirely real? It’s somewhere between anime and reality — nice.


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  13. Ben

    Great work Jeff.
    Question. Did you scale down the images slightly for the first frame and animate their scale up 100% by the last?


    1. Jeff Farmer

      In the first shot, which is of Spider Rock in Canyon De Chelly (pronounced “shay”), the entire composition was scaled up a tad, and then the Spider Rock layer was individually scaled-up even further – but not 100%.

  14. Kendrick

    I’ve seen this concept used a few different places to varying degrees of success, but ultimately it doesn’t matter how it looks, the point of this was to show us how he did it! Thanks for taking the time to share your techniques Jeff. Don’t listen to the haters!

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  16. McKay

    To the average person like me it looks great. The snob purist out there are just snobs. Thanks for the tutorial, great job!

  17. cindy

    what’s with the haters? constructive criticism is one thing, but a lot of you on here are just being malicious and criticising from behind your computer screens. i think it is great for what it is, and i highly appreciate the tutorial.

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  20. David

    I’ve done this, using nothing more than PS and Final Cut Pro. I suspect it can be achieved with Vegas and Premiere as well.

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  22. detailtag

    The point isn’t to look real, it’s to provide an effect. Trolls be damned, superb job.

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  24. misterkofa

    Looks great! Calm down guys. I’m sure with a Michael Bay budget, a lot of time, and a paycheck, this example would be 10X better. What’s different from the examples many of you posted is that you had an idea of what you were going to do before you did it. And I’m guessing you were getting a paycheck as well. This is different. It was a last minute idea and I think it was executed beautifully. And thanks for taking the time to write it up.

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  36. images

    I was brought to this site because I googled how to turn still images into video. I am simply trying to learn how to turn a still photo into a short video so that I can use it in iMovie. Things like this do not impress me because first, I want something that someone at my level can achieve, and second, because if you spend that much time working on it at your level, I want to see something that does look like it has results behind it and something I can visually appreciate. I’ve worked with Photoshop before and I greatly appreciate all the tedium one goes through to get to an end result, but I’ll leave it to the professionals. All I wanted to know was a simple way that regular folks like me could turn a still image into a video. There doesn’t appear to be one. This seems to be something that impresses professionals, so I’ll leave it to them.

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