Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Still Motion

Andrew Kornylak embraces the multimedia possibilities of modern digital cameras

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Creating Stillmotion
Decide on the final video format. For example, 30 fps or 24 fps, 1280x720 HD with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This will drive your decisions about camera frame rate and image framing.
Plan your lighting. If you use strobe lighting, you need strobes that can handle firing continuously at high frame rates and that “freeze” motion more than continuous lighting would.
Set up your camera. Choose a frame rate that you can interpolate easily to your video frame rate. For example, 10 fps divides evenly into 30 fps video. That way you don’t have to cut out images or match up, and every three still frames would become one video frame.
File type and size, RAW or JPEG, determine how long your clips can be and how fast you can shoot, so be aware of how long your camera is capable of sustaining continuous shooting for different file sizes. The shutter speed also is critical to how the final product (both motion and stills) looks. A slower shutter speed gives you a more blurred look to motion. Faster shots equal crisper images. Too slow, and it can be a blurry mess; too fast, and you lose some of the feel of motion in the images. This is all personal opinion, so experiment. A good starting point on my Nikon D3: 10 fps, large JPEG, cropped DX mode at 1⁄60 sec.
Set your camera to manual exposure, manual focus. If you must use autofocus, set the camera to fire regardless if your image is in focus or not (AF-C priority select on the D3). Select a fixed (not automatic) white balance.
Reset the frame counter to 0. Turn noise-reduction off. Make sure the maximum continuous buffer is at its highest setting (Max Continuous Release on the D3).
You can shoot handheld, but as with video, it looks better if you use a tripod, shoulder-mount or even a Steadicam.
Plan and shoot your sequences. With these settings on a D3, you should get about 120 images or 12 seconds for each clip. Remember, it takes some time to refresh the buffer between clips. There’s a limit to how many images you can shoot before the image naming wraps (from 9999 to 0, again on the D3). It’s a good idea to shoot a single divider frame between each sequence to make editing easier.
Download all your images to a computer. They will be named sequentially, but you’ll still need to group them into sequences. This is where the divider frame comes in handy. Create a separate folder for each sequence (seq001-skating, seq002-jumping, seq003-talking, etc.).
Color-correct the sequences in Adobe Camera Raw. Select all the images in a sequence and open them at the same time in Camera Raw. Adjust one image and then try applying that setting to all the other images. You may hit on a few good adjustments for your particular lighting situation, and you can save those as presets. If your lighting and exposure were consistent throughout each clip, this will be easy.
Create a folder for your Final Cut Pro project and assets. From Camera Raw, export each sequence as a jpeg into separate folders in your FCP project folder. Don’t resize.
Open Final Cut Pro and create a new project with the video settings listed here and save it into your FCP project folder along with the sequences. A good starting point is Apple ProRes HQ, 1280x720, 30 fps.
In Final Cut Pro, go to User Preferences and then the Editing Tab to set the Still/Freeze Duration. This tells FCP how many frames to give to each still photograph you import. If you set it to 00:00:00:03, for example, it gives three video frames to each photo. That’s a good setting if you shot at 10 fps and you’re using 30 fps because your motion will still look real-time.
Import all your image sequences by folder into your Final Cut Pro project.
Drag a sequence folder into the timeline. Final Cut Pro automatically lays down a clip from all the images in that folder, based on the Still/Freeze Duration. Now you can edit these clips just as you would video.

To see more of Kornylak’s work, visit his website at www.akornphoto.com or his blog at www.theblindmonkey.com. He also has a Vimeo channel with more of his videos and Stillmotion sequences.


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