Content Story: Cinemagraphs

Have you ever seen a moving image? No, not a video, a still image with an element inside of it that is moving. These are called “cinemagraphs,” and the moving element within these images provide a sense of animation that a still image cannot produce themselves. 

I created three cinemagraphs for my animation and motion class, all of them using Adobe After Effects. These are the first cinemagraphs I have created. 

Cinemagraphs are made by taking a stable video of a subject, then in editing software, you duplicate the video, lay it on top of the other video, and then freeze frame the bottom video layer. You then draw a mask on the top video layer so when the rest of the video gets cut out, only the part you masked will be moving. I created three cinemagraphs and I used Adobe After Effects to edit them all together. The first three I made turned out okay, so I took another crack at them and created three more cinemagraphs that I am much more proud of. 

The first cinemagraph I made is of me turning my head inside the car while looking out of it. The part that is moving is my face inside the car mirror. If you look closely, you can tell the raindrops on the car is completely static, thus making this a cinemagraph. When I exported this from After Effects initially, there were harsh color defects added to the final export that pretty destroyed the whole image, so I took the image to Final Cut, sent it to Compressor, and then exported a GIF that way. It looks a bit better, but you can still see some warping lines with the image, even with the lower quality.

The next cinemagraph I tried was with a bicycle upside-down in my basement. I spun the wheel and left the bicycle alone for a few seconds. When editing the cinemagraph, I thought it would be funny if I masked only the bike’s shadow, and kept the actual wheel frozen in frame. This turned out to give a pretty cool effect, and it might be my favorite of the three.

The last cinemagraph I did was a funny image of money dropping from the sky onto a jar. Believe it or not, the jar was so full of coins, none of the coins I dropped actually fell into the jar. This made it tricky to edit in After Effects, and I decided to mask the jar and the edge of the bed, with the coins repeating at the point where we could see no coins falling. I was able to cheat the shot because I filmed head on, so even though there were coins that landed on the bed, masking the bed to freeze it made it look like the coins were falling off from behind the bed, when in reality they fell on the bed.

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