Creating cinemagraphs with Photoshop

In this step-by-step workshop video tutorial, create a living photograph by combining video from Adobe Stock with clever masking techniques in Photoshop.

Hi, I’m Chris Converse and thanks for joining me today. So the project we’re going to create today is going to be this living photograph here, or a cinema graph. And we’re going to create this by combining an Adobe Stock video inside of Photoshop with a still image. We’ll create the composite and the still image inside of Photoshop, and export out a video that we can use on social media channels, on your website, anywhere that video is supported. So to follow along, if you’d like to download a video to follow along, you can go to the Adobe Stock website. On the main site you can come in here and search videos for windmills.
I’ll search for windmill space Dutch, so we’ll get a more traditional looking windmill. And you basically want to find a video file where the camera is still on a tripod and only the subject is moving. So these first two would be good candidates. You want to avoid a video like this. You don’t want the camera actually moving. You want it stationary. And if you want to use exactly the video that I’ll be using I’m going to be using this video here, which is file number 90495227. And I have that downloaded on my desktop here. So to begin, let’s go over to Photoshop.
And inside of Photoshop what we need to do is, typically when you work with video you have to create a timeline and then create a video timeline, and then import some video into your project. However, inside of Photoshop if we simply open the video file we can just have Photoshop create all of that stuff for us automatically. So let’s do that. Let’s go to the file menu. Let’s choose open.
Then from the desktop we’ll choose our video file. Click open one more time, and then Photoshop will take care of setting up the file for us. It’ll automatically open the timeline panel, which I can see down here. I’m going to extend the width of this. I’m also going to come down here and extend the magnification of the timeline so that the duration of the video takes up the full width of the timeline panel. Now, if I come in here and click on the playhead, and drag this and jog the video I can actually see the video playing inside of Photoshop.
So I’m going to zoom out here a little bit, since I’m on a smaller screen here, just rearrange my panels a little bit.
So now if I click and drag again, I can see the video. Now, one interesting thing about this video is if you watch the video long enough, after about seven seconds, the camera does move a little bit. It’s a little hard to see, but in a cinema graph when the looping point gets to the end of the video, and we go back to the beginning, if the camera moves we’ll see sort of a jump in the video. So we’re going to constrain our cinema graph to the beginning part of this particular file. So to begin, let’s bring the playhead back to the zero mark. Over here in the layers panel we automatically got a layer group by importing this graphic, this video, however. But I don’t want to have this in a video group. What a video group does is allows us to line up a series of videos inside of Photoshop. So it will behave much like a non-linear editing tool, like Premiere, for example. However, we want to use this more like a layout tool, like we would more traditionally modify photographs inside of Photoshop. So to do that, we can simply select this video group, go to the layer menu, and just turn off that group, or ungroup it.
Now let’s come down here and let’s rename layer one to video.
And I’ll get to the video icon here. Now let’s select this layer and let’s duplicate this layer. You can hit command + J on the Mac, or control + J in Windows to create a second copy of the video. And now on the second copy, I’m going to scrub the video. And what I want to do is find a frame where the two windmills that are not going to be moving are in an interesting state. So I like them when they’re sort of in this position where they make two Xs, as opposed to maybe just being vertically, for example. So I’m going to drag the playhead to about right here. And in the timeline panel, you can see I’m on frame 25. So right about there. Let’s come over to the layers panel. Let’s come in here and rename that video layer to still, then we’ll right click and choose rasterize layer. So now we’ve basically converted that video into a static frame, or a photo on that layer. So now if we jog the timeline we don’t see any motion at all.
Next in the timeline panel, I’m sorry, layers panel, let’s come in here. Let’s add a new layer.
Let’s go to the color swatch. Let’s click the foreground color. Let’s choose like a really bright pink color, click okay. Let’s fill the entire area with that color, so under the edit menu, come down and choose fill. We’re going to fill with the foreground color. Let’s click okay. Then in the layers panel, let’s come in here and set the opacity down to about 70%.
Now with that created, let’s grab that layer and let’s drag it below the still layer.
Now in the timeline panel, let’s come over here, let’s select the layer one, our pink layer. And if you get your cursor to the end of the clip here, when you hover over this you’ll get this little right and left arrow. Again, you’ll see exactly that same icon in tools like after effects in Premiere. Let’s come in here and click and drag, and just make the duration of that layer, that artwork, the same duration as the video that’s on the bottom layer.
So now with that in place let’s come over here to the still layer. Let’s select this, let’s add a layer mask. So click on the layer mask. And now what we’re going to do is we’re going to mask out a part of the photo to show the video underneath. And the reason we added the pink layer is just so we can see the mask we’re adding, since the video and the photo are going to match exactly. So it’s going to be hard to tell where the mask is. Then when we’re done, we can just simply hide the pink layer and render out our final project. So with the mask selected here, let’s go over to the brush tool.
Whoops, down here, select a brush. Then for the brush size let’s come in here and set this to a soft brush in this size. We’re going to keep this at about 150 pixels.
Make sure we have black on the foreground. So let’s click on our foreground swatch in the toolbar, make sure we have black.
And you can also use your bracket keys, right and left brackets to increase and decrease. So what I’m going to do is come in here and paint the area of the photo that I want the video to show through. Or I’m basically painting the animated parts onto the screen. So to do that, just simply click and drag, and begin to draw the shape that will show through. So I’m going to come in here and first start with the shape of the windmill. So as I do this, we can see that the state of the video is in a different state from the frame 26 that we captured earlier as the still frame. And I’m going to come in here and just sort of draw an oval around that shape. And I want to have a soft brush. I want to have a soft brush, so that this will blend nicely into that original photo. We won’t see any sort of hard edges, especially if anything like the clouds are moving or anything like that.
So come in here and just sort of paint around here. And the nice thing about this workflow is the pink is showing me the area that I’ve painted. If I come down to the timeline panel I can click on the playhead and drag this, and I can see the video now playing inside of that pink area. So I want to pay attention to what is actually moving in this area.
So I’m going to zoom up here a little bit to make this a little clearer, dragging the timeline playhead a little bit. And I’m paying attention to the areas, or the movement of the windmill blades. I’m also looking at the shadow. The windmill blades cast a shadow onto the main base. And so I need to come in here and increase the mask area, so that we can see the shadow fall across the base. So part of what’s going to make this believable is if we have all of the moving parts of the video showing through in our static photo. So I’ll come in here and move that around. I’m also looking to see where the blades show up down here across the bottom as well.
And again, masks are non-destructive, so you can always go in and add more space, add more of a mask area. And if you want to remove that, you can hit the X key, put white on the foreground, and come in here and remove the mask. So again, that’s a very nice non-destructive way to do this. So I’ll come in here and paint all of these areas. So now I’m pretty confident that I have all of the areas that I need for the motion. So now what I need to do is loop the video, and I need to pick a beginning point, and an ending point that match up. So that I can give us that nice illusion of that loop happening, and I don’t have to have a 15 or 20 minute video. I can have a very small video that’ll just continue to play. So to do that again, and I also mentioned that when we get past seven seconds, the camera moves a little bit. So what I want to do is I want to start the beginning of my loop as soon as possible. Now it’s also hard to tell on the video, but the video that I downloaded on this recording, it’s hard to tell on the recording, but the video I downloaded actually fades up a little bit before we get to full opacity of the video itself. There was sort of a fade in, so I need to skip a couple of frames in the beginning. So I’m going to come out here, get my playhead up here, so I can see the timeline panel. So I’m going to come in a couple of frames. I’m going to come into about 14 or 15 frames, somewhere in this range.
That’s going to get me past the fade in. And now I’m looking at the blades and I want to add some guides to the canvas area so that I can pick the beginning and ending points of that whole piece. So let’s go forward. I’m going to go forward here a little bit until the white blade here is pointing straight up and down. So with that in place I’m going to hit command, or control + R to bring up my rulers. And right on the Photoshop canvas I’m going to come in here and draw a guide, I’ll zoom up here. And I’m going to put a guide somewhere where it’s easy to sort of pick out the next area for that piece.
So I’m going to put the guide right here, so sort of the main area of the blade in the top corner is going to be right in this spot here. Now in the timeline panel I’m going to come down here and change what’s called the work area inside of Photoshop’s timeline panel. Now the work area is where we can set the beginning point and ending point of the video. So when we render this, it only renders what’s in the work area. So that’s a really nice, it’s sort of a trim, or a bleed in a tool like InDesign. So let’s come in here and set the beginning workspace to that frame right here.
Now we’ll zoom out a little bit. Now I’m going to jog the playhead, and I’m going to watch this blade.
So now that blade’s going around, now that blade’s at the bottom. Going to keep going, and I want to get that blade right to the position it was at before, which is right there. And then I want to back up a little bit, since the first frame has that blade right at that cross point of my guides. I want to have this one stop a little bit before it.
So I’ll grab the playhead and just drag this back a little bit, right to there. Then grab the work area. We’ll drag this back so that the work area ends at that frame. And now if I come in here and click play to preview this, you can also hit the gear and turn on loop playback, Photoshop will play this. It might not play in real time, which is what the red means down here. But we can kind of watch this and see that when the white blade gets toward the top the whole video restarts, but we get this sort of seamless motion happening.
Once we’re satisfied with that, I will stop the timeline. Let’s go over to the layers panel. Let’s hide that pink layer.
Now, if we come in here and sort of scrub the timeline we get the effect that we’re after, which is part of the photo is moving. The rest of it is static. So the two windmills are static, all the people inside are static.
And now to render this out, we go to the file menu, come down to export, then choose render video.
Once this comes up, you want to make sure that you choose the Adobe media encoder in this second group here. The Photoshop image sequence can be used to create a series of Photoshop files that you can share with people who use after effects in Premiere, if you want to use Photoshop in a more video production environment. But for this, we want to use this straight out from Photoshop. So choose the media encoder. For the format, choose the H.264 format. Up here you can choose your folder. Then you come over here and click render. So I will choose my desktop.
The file name up here. It’s named the after the Adobe Stock image. And then I can simply come in here and click render. Once the rendering is done, we’ll have an mpeg4 on the desktop that you can use in any project that supports video files. And now you can use the same technique for creating cinema graphs with any type of video where you can isolate the subject moving from a static background. And so with that, I’ll conclude this episode. I hope you enjoyed creating a living photograph with Photoshop and Adobe Stock, and with that I hope to see you on the next episode. -

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