American in Spain

First Cinemagraph Attempt

May 11, 2011

Faucet Animated ThumbnailJust this year, as far as I'm aware, a new sort of digital photography art form has emerged, called cinemagraphy. It's so new that there's still no Wikipedia page for it! The general idea is that you create a photograph with some bit of it that is not exactly still. It's published in the infamous "animated gif" format that plagued "world wide web" pages back in the 1990's. The trick is to get the file size down below a megabyte so that it can be downloaded more or less as instantaneously as a regular jpeg photograph. As I have discovered, this is not easy. I made my first attempts without reading any tutorials. I just figured out what had to be done and attempted it. I tried about six different subjects, and most of them came out terribly, terribly wrong, so I'm only going to share my best two. The trick is to record a video of something where only a small portion of the viewing area is moving, the movement has to be such that it returns to the exact original position after only a second or two, and it has to be something that can repeat over and over again somewhat believably. Some of my failed not-good-enough-to-share attempts included my hand tapping on a table, a lone car driving down the street, and several shots of my eyes. It turns out to be damn near impossible to keep your head perfectly still for five seconds. It's totally unclear to me how people can manage to make cinemagraphs of a model's hair blowing gently in the wind.

Okay, okay, if I'm to be perfectly honest, this was really my first attempt, which turned out to be very educational about how A) absolutely zero camera movement is allowed, B) the subject needs to be very, very simple, and C) the background can't be moving at all.

Creepy Eyes

This one is not perfect. My head moved quite noticeably in the original video. I made it by taking a still frame and cutting eye holes in it to show the video behind. It's by far the best of my eye movement attempts, but you can still see a little movement of the area around the eyes.

Faucet Cinemagraph

I can't think of an easier subject than a dripping faucet. Even at 720p HD, the gif is only 2.5 MB, so sized down for the blog is safely in the "under 500 KB" goal range. There are no artifacts from a moving subject or camera. I'm very happy with this attempt.

Like with most photography projects, I will now be doomed to run every event I see through a "would this be good for a cinemagraph?" filter.