Cinemagraphs are in. If you haven’t heard the term, a cinemagraph is a still photo that has some part of it animated. These images are meant for web display, and they’re a great example of how digital means for displaying images are bringing new aesthetics and possibilities. A cinemagraph is different from a video clip in that only a portion of the frame is in motion, and often that motion is subtle. Think of a photo of a model wearing a long gown that’s flowing in the wind. The windswept look in her hair and dress might convey the sense of motion, but by animating the dress itself, you’ve created something very different.
Cinemagraphs aren’t difficult to make, but you should plan it out to make the best use of your valuable time. The cinemagraph starts with a video clip. Plan the clip such that you’re able to isolate a moving element easily.
What’s easily? That depends on your Photoshop skills and the amount of time you want to spend making layer masks. You want to shoot the clip with the camera locked down on a tripod. Anti-shake fixes in video-editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro can allow you to shoot the clip handheld, but if you work from a tripod, you’ll save that editing step and you’ll be assured of good results.
Versions of Adobe Photoshop from CS5 onward allow you to import video frames as layers. This is a huge timesaver because you don’t have to manually create a layer for every frame, but it also means that as you import the frames, you have the potential of making a huge file. As you plan your clip and go about making the cinemagraph, be a harsh editor. You’re probably going to want to stick with just a few seconds, at most. You’ll recall that 24 fps is the typical frame rate for movies so even a 3-second clip will be 72 frames (with 72 layers!).
Here are the steps to making your cinemagraph. This isn’t the only way to do it, of course. There’s always more than one way to do just about anything in digital imaging. This step-by-step will get you up to speed quickly and easily, though. And if you’re a Photoshop expert and you consider yourself a layering machine, by all means, get trickier with the layers.