For our second assignment, we were asked to create cinemagraphs. I found that creating a cinemagraph is all about great masking. I learned that getting good footage is not that easy. Nothing like going out with a webcam, a tripod and a laptop to make me realize how little I knew about filming. I knew what I wanted to get, but intent and being effective came to a crashing halt when I reviewed the what I had captured on my laptop after shooting. I lacked control and it was a miracle I got anything usable. The scenes needed to be crafted with a dependency on stills. I realize I am ill equipped and need to spend more time with a good camera. I will be investing in one soon. On the bright side, after a week of visually studying my environment during the course of my days, I am encouraged by the fact that Washington D.C. is a beautiful and interesting target rich city for cinemagraphs, full of architecture, art, life and fascinating movement.
“Home Sweet Home”
Theme: Warmth and goodness, milk and cookies on a bright afternoon. Holidays. Safety.
Process: Inspired by some of the never ending pours I discovered in my research I was originally looking for a champagne bottle, but that footage was expensive (and worth it, see my notes above about filming but I could not afford it). I came across this stock footage. I decided that since this would be my first cinemagraph I would have to settle for milk instead. I started thinking of milk and all its connotations to youth and worked to create a scene around it. I created this in Photoshop, placing items in the foreground and a window in the background. Blending modes allowed the window to mesh nicely with the cup. I added an element of light, like dust, just when you look at light through a pane in just the right way and feathered the mask with low opacity for softness.
“Fall Be Like….”
Theme: The seasons changing, endless raking and yard work. November.
Process: I created this in Photoshop. First, I recruited my sons to help me with my project. I had my 9 year old Marcus blow some leaves and my 11 year old Xavier rake leaves into a pile and help on”set”. That was a headache. If you have ever tried to have kids be still for a few moments you can imagine how challenging this was. We must have raked that pile about 10 times, and the camera kept moving, it was just a mess. Lots of “No, not that way….this way!!” and “No YOU, No you!!”….Yes, there was a bit of wrestling involved and not with the camera. No harm, no foul. We laughed and yelled at each other, but we finally figured out an angle that might work. In post production, masking and getting the leaves to loop almost seamlessly required allot of layering on the pile. I would like to return to this one at some point and maybe get his scarf to flutter a little bit.
“Spring Be Like…”
Theme: Cherry blossom time in D.C. The beauty of the Lincoln Memorial. Spring. Reflection.
Process: I drive by the World War II Memorial everyday on my way to work. On October 31, I left work a little early and went down to take some footage of the fountains. Of about 20 minutes of footage, I found a snippet of about 2 minutes that would work. My only problem was that although in person, you can see the Lincoln Monument in the distance quite clearly, in the footage, it looked small and could barely tell what it was. Following Prof. Golden’s encouragement on his video tutorial to experiment, I searched for a better image of the Lincoln Monument and decided that the feeling of DC in Spring was more important than actual visual accuracy of the area. I then added the cherry blossoms at the top to provide a foreground and make the scene more intimate, as though the viewers vantage point is from under a tree which is a very common experience during the Spring. Getting the fountains masked and color corrected took some work to get it to a point where I was satisfied with it. I prefer working in Photoshop as it seems well suited for cinemagraphs. I also like that everything is in one file one you import video, whereas After Effects is not as simple and uses linked files, projects etc. I do understand that AE has more powerful masking, animation options, key framing and rendering. Once I get more comfortable in it, my view may change.
“Gotta Go Fast”
Theme: Need transport. Need to get somewhere quickly. Missing cab, where is a cab when you need one?
Process: Developed in After Effects, I used stock footage of a street found here first masked and separated the trees and the foreground. I used track matte to isolate the car, added a still of the woman hailing the taxi and the smartphone with the GPS in the foreground. I created the bus flashing footage in Photoshop using the “cut out” method we learned in module 1 and imported it as footage. Finally I masked the trees on a duplicate layer of footage and placed them over a freeze frame of the background.
Imagine if the masters had Photoshop? Here is my take on Magritte’ “Son of Man”.
“Grandson of Man”
Theme: Fun with modern art. Modern art looks at itself.
Process: I returned to Photoshop for this one. I was thinking of a feature image for my cinemagraph research post and was thinking about the surrealists when I saw this self portrait by Magritte. He said of his painting:”At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” I think the deeper meaning is in the apple , described as the “fruit from the tree of knowledge” in Genesis, it is what tempted man from innocence. In this way, Adam and Eve became aware of themselves, from son of God to son of “man”. In Magritte’s time, the highest visual art was two dimensional, his medium was painting. In our time, “grandson of man” animation and video have taken on full prominence. We are a visual society with video at the forefront. Or, it is just a guy with a floating apple in his face. You decide.
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
Stock footage and images used for compositing were provided by unsplash.com, pexels.com, freeimages.com and 123RF.com.
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