Pixelart In Motion: Creating Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs are a specialized art form that combine still photography with video to create a hybrid medium. The term “cinemagraph” was coined in 2011 by visual artists Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck to describe their innovative photo-video hybrids (https://www.reddit.com/r/Cinemagraphs/comments/tgwjm/a_note_on_the_distinction_between_cinemagraphs/).

Cinemagraphs are still photographs that have been animated with motion, but that motion is very limited and isolated. For example, a cinemagraph may show a person standing completely still, except for a hand moving or some hair blowing. The rest of the image remains frozen. This isolated motion is what creates the unique living painting effect.

Unlike regular videos or gifs, the motion in cinemagraphs is deliberately subtle and repetitive, almost hypnotic. The focus remains on the still photograph, with only a touch of movement to imbue an ethereal, magical quality.

Appeal of Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs have a unique appeal that captivates viewers. The illusion of subtle motion in an otherwise still image creates a magical, whimsical effect. According to Donna Santos, “People are mesmerized when they’re shown cinemagraph images. Cinemagraphs appeal to a wide audience. The strange phenomena of cat videos make it clear: people love to share silly or cute short video clips and GIFs.”

Cinemagraphs allow the viewer to focus on the finer details of a scene by isolating motion to specific areas. As described by Jamtion, “Cinemagraphs are living photos that capture a moment in time by combining still frames with video…They focus the viewer’s attention to the important parts of an image.”

This combination of stillness and subtle motion gives cinemagraphs a unique aesthetic appeal. Viewers enjoy poring over the image, discovering new details that come to life. The effect is often described as magical or whimsical.

Creating Cinemagraphs

The technical process for creating cinemagraphs involves capturing video footage, editing in software like Photoshop or After Effects, using masking techniques, and exporting as a gif or mp4.

First, you need to record a short video clip, ideally 5-10 seconds long, with a tripod for stability. The key is to have most of the scene frozen, with only a select moving element (1). When recording, it helps to avoid too much camera movement or zooming. The clip should have good focus and consistent lighting throughout (2).

Next, bring the clip into Photoshop or After Effects for editing. Isolate the section you want animated by masking it out frame-by-frame. For example, masking a person’s arm or having a flag wave. With the subject masked, freeze the rest of the scene. Add stylized motion blur to the animation for a smooth loop. Finalize the composite and export as an animated gif or mp4 (3).

The meticulous masking and compositing creates the signature “living photograph” effect. With practice, the technical process allows endless creative possibilities for stunning cinemagraph art.

(1) https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-create-a-cinemagraph-in-7-easy-steps

(2) https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-create-a-cinemagraph-in-7-easy-steps

(3) https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-create-a-cinemagraph-in-7-easy-steps

Subjects for Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs work best with simple subjects that contain subtle motion. Some effective subjects to consider are:

  • Nature scenes like waves, clouds, or trees blowing in the wind. The repetitive motion makes for an eye-catching cinemagraph. As an example, this cinemagraph of waves crashing on a rocky shore highlights the continuous motion of the water while the rocks stay frozen.
  • Urban environments and cityscapes, with things like car lights trailing through a night scene. This city cinemagraph with light trails uses the movement to create visual interest.
  • People in repetitive motions like dancing, clapping, or other actions. A cinemagraph of a dancer with flowing fabric makes great use of the flowing motion.

The key is choosing subjects with subtle motions that loop seamlessly. Complex or chaotic scenes don’t work as well for cinemagraphs. Keeping the subject matter relatively simple helps highlight the isolated motion that makes cinemagraphs so captivating.

Artistic Style

Cinemagraphs allow artists to convey emotion and set a mood in creative ways by controlling focus and movement in an image. By isolating motion to specific parts of a photo, cinemagraph artists can emphasize certain elements and direct the viewer’s attention. This selective motion creates a dreamlike quality and often evokes a sense of wonder or nostalgia.

For example, an artist may choose to animate falling snow while the rest of the scene remains still. This draws the eye to the delicate motion of the snowflakes while preserving the serene feeling of the winter landscape. Alternatively, the artist could focus motion on a person’s expression, bringing their emotion to the forefront against an unmoving background. Carefully controlling the interplay between motion and stillness is key to using cinemagraphs to create an artistic style that conveys a desired mood or feeling.

Cinemagraph artists also think cinematically, using techniques like slow motion and panning to guide the viewer through the image and reveal details over time. This results in a dynamic visual storytelling within a confined space, distilling the emotional essence of a scene into a brief,looping moment (https://medium.com/@wayweroll/cinemagraphs-a-new-art-form-2664478ffbe1). With artistic insight and technical skill, cinemagraph artists can craft elegant and emotionally evocative works of digital art.

Cinemagraph Design Principles

Creating an eye-catching cinemagraph requires following some key design principles to direct the viewer’s focus and highlight the intended motion in the image. According to guides from
blog.gallereplay.com, the main principles to focus on are:

Composition: Frame your shot intentionally to highlight the motion and use the rule of thirds for best composition. Position the moving element off-center to create visual interest.

Color: Use color contrasts to accentuate the motion and make it stand out against more static elements. Vibrant colors naturally draw the eye.

Timing: Choose a smooth, natural motion that loops seamlessly. The motion should not be jarring or too fast.

Flow: The movement should be fluid and effortless, guiding the viewer’s gaze through the cinemagraph.

Visual balance: Balance motion and stillness. Too much or too little motion can ruin the effect.

By mastering these core principles, cinemagraph artists can direct the viewer’s focus while creating visually captivating images that seem to come alive through subtle motion.

Cinemagraph Trends

Cinemagraphs have exploded in popularity in recent years. According to LearnTrakstar, cinemagraphs are being used more frequently in marketing and advertising to capture attention in a vivid, memorable way. Brands have adopted cinemagraphs for social media branding, as the looping animated effect helps the content stand out in busy feeds.

There are a few common stylistic trends in cinemagraph art today. Subtle motion is key – the goal is to have most of the image stay still, with only selective motion of certain elements. Popular subjects include splashing water, blowing fabric, swirling smoke, moving crowds, or natural motion like branches swaying in the wind. Most cinemagraphs use natural scenery or architectural backgrounds. The overall aesthetic tends to be bright, crisp, and high-contrast.

As cinemagraph adoption increases, artists continue to push the creative boundaries of the medium. Upcoming trends include using more bold colors, incorporating text overlays, and layering or collaging multiple animated elements. Marketers are also exploring integrating cinemagraphs into websites, mobile ads, and other digital content beyond social media.

Notable Cinemagraph Artists

Some of the most well-known and talented cinemagraph artists include:

Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg are considered the pioneers of cinemagraphs. In 2011, they coined the term “cinemagraph” and created a series of animated GIFs that went viral on the internet. Beck and Burg were inspired by the motion photography of Henri Lartigue and wanted to create living photos that encapsulated microscopic moments in time. Their technique involves taking a high quality still photograph and using video editing software to animate selective parts of the image. Beck and Burg have created cinemagraphs for major brands like DKNY, Coach, and Converse. (https://99designs.com/blog/creative-inspiration/12-successful-examples-of-cinemagraphs/).

Armand Dijcks is a Dutch cinemagraph artist known for his urban landscape cinemagraphs. He brings normally busy city scenes to life by animating elements like escalators, trains, or blinking lights while keeping the rest of the image still. Dijcks takes a minimalist approach, focusing on subtle motions that capture the rhythm of a city. He uses long exposures and tripods to photograph busy locations and carefully layers masks in After Effects to control movement. Dijcks has created popular cinemagraphs of locations like Times Square, Tokyo, and Amsterdam.

Julien Douvier is a French photographer recognized for his surreal, dreamlike cinemagraph work. Douvier combines analog and digital techniques, starting with medium format film photography and then animating portions of the photos in After Effects. His subjects range from portraits to landscapes, often isolating a single element of motion against a static background. Douvier’s goal is to create intriguing visual narratives that appear suspended in time. His cinemagraphs have been featured by Apple, Hermès, and Nowness.

Cinemagraph Resources

There are many resources available for learning how to create cinemagraphs and finding tools, stock footage, and creative communities:

For beginner tutorials, check out Adobe’s guide which walks through making a cinemagraph using Photoshop. Cinemagraphs.com also has an extensive list of video tutorials covering tools and techniques.

Some popular tools used to make cinemagraphs include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, Flixel, and Plotagraph. Many of these have free trials available to test them out.

For royalty-free stock footage to use in cinemagraphs, search on sites like Pond5, Adobe Stock, and Shutterstock. Make sure to look for videos that loop seamlessly.

There are active communities of cinemagraph artists on platforms like Reddit and Behance where you can get feedback on your work and discover new styles and trends.

With the wealth of online resources now available, anyone can start exploring cinemagraph artistry and developing their skills.

Creating Your Own Cinemagraphs

For beginners just starting out with cinemagraphs, it’s best to start simple and practice the core techniques. Developing a personal style takes time and experimentation. Here are some tips:

Focus on a simple subject with limited motion for your first cinemagraphs, like a waving hand or flowing water. This allows you to master masking and separating the static and moving elements (Source).

Practice using photo editing software like Photoshop to carefully mask the part of the image you want animated. Use precise tools and be patient. Clean masking is critical for a quality cinemagraph (Source).

Study cinemagraph styles and techniques you admire. Experiment with effects and composition to develop your personal aesthetic over time.

Share your cinemagraph creations and get feedback from others. Joining cinemagraph communities online can help you improve.

Be creative with subjects and motion elements. Look for unexpected ways to animate your images.

Refine your technical skills with each new cinemagraph. Aim to improve masking, composition, and motion rendering with practice.

Cinemagraph creation takes patience and persistence. Start simple, keep experimenting, and find your own style.