In his end-of-year review article Ways of Seeing: From Stills to Motion at the Time magazine website’s LightBox section, influential art director/creative director Phil Bicker mentioned Cinemagraph as evidence of a key trend in image-making in 2014 – merging still images with moving pictures.
“Elsewhere Gifs and memes evolved to the more subtle, and sophisticated Cinemagraph to bring the still photo to life in other ways…”
Cinemagraph+ and Cinemagraph Pro make the creation of hybrid stills and video images easier and faster than ever before. Their popularity will only increase now we have truly entered the era of the hybrid via cameras like Panasonic’s Lumix GH4 and its recently introduced 4K Photo Mode. This new firmware feature allows you to shoot 4K UHD video in loops or straight through then extract good quality 8 megapixel still frames for publication or use in hybrid applications.
A Project for Cinemagraph Pro
I recently put Cinemagraph Pro to work in a mini-project documenting some of the amazing wildlife that lives in this little part of Sydney’s North Shore. I have no plans on making this into a documentary or even a short film, so cinemagraphs – also known as flixels or “living photographs” – seemed like a great way of making use of the very short video grabs I have been shooting recently.
Our feathery friends tend to land on a branch or a fence, sit, watch for worms or stare at us for a moment then suddenly fly off on to resume their missions. Some come back time and again while it can be ages between visits. For a while I shot photographs of them but the fun in watching them is their quirky habits and surprises. The challenge lies in effectively depicting those habits and that lively quirkiness.
Being new to Cinemagraph Pro and the flixels or living photographs concept, my first attempt followed a roundabout path. I had hoped to show you my first living photograph or cinemagraph below followed by a looping movie showing you that living photograph in situ, with added text.
But there seems to be a problem embedding the Cinemagraph iframe code into this blog page and the page doesn't seem to allow for looping movies either. My deepest apologies.
The best I can do is recommend you click the play button a few times so you can get a sense of what this movie is meant to look like. I can also point you to Flixel's Cinemagraphs gallery to see what others have done with this software.
Update: Here's the Cinemagraph from Karin working without the youtube video:
And the youtube version:
Note: This video is best viewed in loop and autoplay mode but due to readers' feedback from previous posts, such option wasn't implemented for this video.
Several days ago one member of the ten-strong local kookaburra family surprised us by landing on a branch just meters away from our front door. Usually they never get that close. She sat there, watching us while we stopped sweeping the terrace and got out our cameras. Even more surprisingly she sat long enough for me to shoot 15 seconds of video footage. The light was fading fast so my exposure was not perfect but it would do.
Lately I have been keeping my GH4 at the ready for moments like these, set to movie mode and with 4K Photo switched on and set to 16:9. That day I had my Canon 24mm-105mm f/4 lens attached via a Metabones Smart Adapter so it would act as a telephoto zoom lens.
I am looking forward to purchasing the new Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens some day soon though – filming wildlife clearly demands fast and long lenses. 4K video definitely benefits from the very latest lens designs.Cinemagraph Pro for Mac makes creating living pictures aka flixels easy, fast, fun. We love it Click To Tweet
A Hasty Modus Operandi
I did not have time to grab and attach my Panasonic GH4 to a tripod or even a monopod, so the footage is shaky. That does not really matter, though, when Final Cut Pro X, Adobe CC 2014’s Premiere Pro, After Effects and other NLEs do such great jobs at stabilizing footage via software these days. I chose Tripod Mode in FCPX’s stabilization function and it worked perfectly.
My footage was a little flat and dull-looking so I applied a 3D Look-Up Table to clean the footage and balance the tones. I have been mostly shooting video using a flattened Cine-like D picture style for ease in grading so I chose the 3500 Clean Straight HDR log v.4.0 LUT from LookLab’s extensive SpeedLooks Studio Log set.
Though Cine-like D is not a true log setting it is close to the ball park. Brightness and contrast can easily be modified in your NLE or a grading (and now editing) application like DaVinci Resolve 11.
I imported my now contrastier footage into Cinemagraph Pro then set to work. The software is pretty straightforward. I chose the very first frame as the still frame that would supply the background. I then moved the moving frames selector further along the application’s timeline to select some of those quirky moves kookaburras often make.
A Result & An Improved MO to Come
When I was happy with Cinemagraph Pro’s rendition of my footage, I exported it as a ProRes movie for importing into Final Cut Pro X. It had occurred to me that this project would benefit from some text – adding and styling text in FCPX is fast and fun.
The finished result is what you see here. I am now accumulating similar footage of the many other birds that live here or visit such as peewees, wood pigeons and brush turkeys for similar treatment. I will refine my post-processing methods so they are consistent and repeatable.
This first attempt was quick and dirty, as they say, but I am pleased with the results and even better is that my partner, formerly an advertising creative director, saw it and approves. We may well use similar methods in some coming viral marketing projects and for a video channel that is in the early planning stages.
I am very happy with how fast and easy all the software proved in use, especially Cinemagraph Pro. Its latest version is 4K-savvy and would be terrific for producing content for display in those LED screens at the inner-city train stations. It also works great for exporting footage for later use in other applications.
I really enjoy shooting and editing in 4K now even when outputting as 1080p HD. Shooting digital stills as raw files taught me the value of plenty of data to begin with even when you need to throw some it away for publication in small sizes in print or the web.
My experience with Cinemagraph Pro these last few days has set me off on a new voyage of creative discovery alongside my other more formalized documentary and short movie work. For me, 2015 looks like being the year of hybrid digital stills and video.
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)