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									O ’ R E I L L Y            D I G I T A L          S T U D I O

Learn the nuts and bolts of planning,
production, post-production, and distribution.

                                  DV Filmmaking
                                                 From Start to Finish

                                                            Ian David Aronson
                       Artistically Using Still
                                       Images                                               13
Any film, video, or animation project is essentially just a series of stills. Each         In this chapter
frame is a discrete still image, slightly different than the last. When quickly
displayed one after the other, these stills appear to form an image that moves             Animating Still Photos to
(as mentioned in Chapter 2, this is called persistence of vision).                          Simulate Camera Movements

Understanding the way still images function on screen gives you both
tremendous control and creative freedom. Some of the first artists to take
advantage of this were cartoonists. Pioneers of the animated form, such
as Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame, created still images on clear cells of
acetate and then layered them one on top of another to create animations
that functioned more or less like frames of film or video. In fact, many of
Jones’s techniques, including keyframes (which provide the foundation of
all motion graphic programs in use today) and in between frames (which
provide the basis for tweening, or intelligently filling in frames between key-
frames, in animation programs like Macromedia Flash) are directly relevant
to composite techniques in DV filmmaking. Especially when you’re working
with still images.


   There’s a great documentary, Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens—A
   Life In Animation, that explores Chuck Jones’s work as a director at Warner
   Brothers, and the techniques he and other animators used to bring Daffy Duck
   and Elmer Fudd to life. It’s fun to watch if you’re into animation techniques, or
   even if you just want to see clips of his cartoons. If an operatic “kill the rabbit,”
   brings back memories, this documentary is worth watching.

Including stills in your video doesn’t mean you have to create a slide show or
something that looks like a PowerPoint presentation. This chapter explores
ways to creatively incorporate stills into your work by animating a still
image to simulate zooms and camera movements. Using your digital edit-
ing system, you can not only simplify the process of animating still images,
but you can create smoother motion with precise control beyond what you
could achieve with a camera and tripod.

              Animating Still Photos

                                       Animating Still Photos to Simulate Camera
       NOTE                            I once worked as assistant editor on a PBS documentary directed by the
 To recreate the effects sequences     extremely accomplished filmmaker, Bill Jersey. People from around the
 illustrated in this chapter:          world were constantly visiting his office, where he would regale them with
      • Navigate to the ch13 folder    stories of his adventures behind the camera. He was equally talkative during
        inside the Exercises folder    production. After one very long and careful combination of pans, tilts, and
        on the StartToFinish DVD       zooms across the length of a very large head and shoulders portrait on the
        that came with this book.      wall of a mansion, he joked that Ken Burns would have been able to make
        Drag the entire folder to
                                       an entire film from just that shot. He was not belittling Ken Burns, but was
        your hard drive (remember,
        don’t try to work with video   making a reference to a style of filmmaking that Burns uses extensively in
        files directly from the DVD;   his work.
        see Chapter 10).                     NOTE
      • Follow the step-by-step
                                         Burns is by no means the first director to use still images in a film, it’s a time-
        instructions in each sec-
                                         honored technique that’s been in use for years. The 1957 documentary City
                                         of Gold, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, uses still images to
 The ch13 folder on the DVD also         tell the story of the Klondike gold rush. The 1962 science fiction film La Jetée,
 contains finished Final Cut Pro         directed by Chris Marker and mentioned in the sidebar “The Kitchen Conqueror
 and After Effects project files         and the Power of Still Images,” doesn’t use a single moving image—just an eerie
 that you can use as a reference.        selection of black-and-white stills and an excellent sound design. At the same
                                         time, Burns has made still images and camera movements his trademark, to the
                                         point that the controls for panning and zooming on a photo in Apple’s iMovie are
                                         called “The Ken Burns Effect.”

                                       In his epic series on the Civil War, Burns relied on still images and dramatic
                                       readings of soldiers’ letters to tell his story. To keep the audience’s attention
                                       and develop a visual style beyond a slide show, Burns carefully moved the
                                       camera up and down the length of the photos, zooming in on details and
                                       faces to heighten the emotion of each shot.
                                       If you’ve ever tried to shoot stills, you know this is no easy task. To record
                                       a clean image, the plane of the camera lens must be identical to the plane
                                       of the photo—if the camera is slightly angled, the image will keystone and
                                       one edge will look shorter than the others. Smooth camera movements and
                                       zooms on still images are also very difficult. Shooting a still so it takes up
                                       a full frame of film or video requires a very tight zoom, which makes the
                                       slightest camera bobble especially noticeable to the audience. Even with the
                                       best equipment in the hands of a very talented cinematographer, pans and
                                       tilts can cause a camera to jerk, which is the last thing you want on screen.
                                       To avoid these problems in the pre-digital era, filmmakers placed photos
                                       on animation stands and shot them with expensive motion control cameras
                                       that automated each movement. (In fact, controlling these moves was one of
                                       the first uses of computers in filmmaking, long before computers were used
                                       to edit.) The results were fantastically smooth but frighteningly expensive.
                                       Fortunately, like so many other aspects of film production, digital tech-

156                                                                                      DV Filmmaking: From Start to Finish
                                                                                 Animating Still Photos

nology now makes it possible to get really good results without spending
big bucks.                                                                       Keyframes in Animation
Digital editing software today ships with motion-control features that
                                                                                 and Video
                                                                                 Keyframes indicate the important
you can employ to move an image through a frame of video, dynamically
                                                                                 frames where changes take place.
changing its position on screen. You can even simulate complicated pans          In the days of hand-drawn anima-
and tilts that would be exceptionally difficult—if not impossible—to cre-        tion, lead animators like Chuck
ate with a camera on a tripod. Using keyframes, motion paths, and the            Jones would draw the keyframes of
scale controls in Final Cut Pro or After Effects, you can create exactly the     a cartoon—for example one key-
movement you want.                                                               frame might be Elmer Fudd pointing
                                                                                 a gun at Daffy Duck, and the next
                                                                                 might be Daffy with his bill pointing
Simulating a zoom                                                                backward after Elmer has pulled the
You can easily simulate a zoom in Final Cut Pro or After Effects by changing     trigger. The less-senior animators
the scale settings of a still image. In Chapter 12, we used the scale settings   would then draw the in-between
to resize an entire clip. In this exercise, we use keyframes in combination      frames, the connecting frames that
                                                                                 create the smooth motion between
with scale settings, so that the image gets larger over time and fills more of
                                                                                 keyframes. Motion graphics applica-
the frame, to simulate a zoom.                                                   tions and video editing software,
                                                                                 such as Final Cut Pro, employ similar
In Final Cut Pro                                                                 keyframe operations. The editor sets
                                                                                 the parameters for each keyframe,
Here are the steps for simulating a zoom in Final Cut Pro:
                                                                                 for example Scale and Center, and
 1. Select File→Import→Files. The                                                the computer adjusts the frames in
    Choose a File window opens.                                                  between to create smooth, natural-
                                                                                 looking animated effects.
 2. Navigate to the ch13 folder on                                               Changes to a keyframe impact
    your hard drive and import                                                   the keyframe itself, as well as the
    zoom1068.psd.                                                                frames between that keyframe and
                                                                                 the keyframes before or after it.
                                                                                 Imagine three keyframes in a video
                                                                                 clip, one in the first frame, another
                                                                                 at a frame in the middle of the
                                                                                 clip, and a third in the last frame.
                                                                                 If the Scale setting were set to 100
                                                                                 percent in the first keyframe, 50
                                                                                 percent in the middle keyframe, and
                                                                                 100 percent in the last keyframe,
                                                                                 the image would start at full size,
                                                                                 shrink to half its size, and then
                                                                                 grow to regain its full size. If the
                                                                                 middle keyframe were changed to
                                                                                 a different Scale setting, it would
                                                                                 not impact the other two key-
                                                                                 frames, only the frames in between.
                                                                                 Likewise, if the first keyframe
 3. Add zoom1068.psd to the Timeline. Even though the image dimensions           were changed, it wouldn’t impact
    are significantly larger than a frame of video, Final Cut Pro scales the     the middle or final keyframe; the
    image to fit in the frame. (In case you haven’t recognized him yet, the      change would apply only to the first
                                                                                 keyframe, and the frames leading up
    baby in the picture is Luca, star of Big Luca. This picture shows him as
                                                                                 to the second keyframe.
    a pre-Godzilla–sized infant.)

Chapter 13, Artistically Using Still Images                                                                      157
      Animating Still Photos

                               4. Double-click the image in the Timeline. The image opens in the Viewer
                               5. Click the Motion tab in the Viewer. Final Cut Pro displays the Basic
                                  Motion settings for the clip, including the Scale setting. The actual pixel
                                  dimensions of the image are 1440×1068, which is twice the size of a mini
                                  DV frame (this includes compensating for nonsquare pixels in Final Cut
                                  Pro; see Chapter 11). To fit the entire image on the screen, Final Cut Pro
                                  automatically scales the image to 50 percent of its original size.
                               To simulate a zoom, you can set the image to go from 50 percent of original
                               size in the first frame of the Timeline, to 100 percent in the last frame.
                               6. Click in the Timeline window, and then press the “home” key on your
                                  keyboard. This moves the Playhead to the first frame in the Timeline.
                                7. Click the Insert/Delete Keyframe button next to the Scale field in the
                                   Viewer. The diamond at the center of the button changes from white
                         7         to green, and Final Cut Pro adds a keyframe to the first frame in the



                               8. Click the End key on your keyboard. This moves the Playhead to the
                                  last frame in the Timeline.

158                                                                         DV Filmmaking: From Start to Finish
                                                                                  Animating Still Photos

 9. Click the Insert/Delete Keyframe button next to the Scale field in the              NOTE
    Viewer. Final Cut Pro adds a keyframe at the end of the Timeline.
                                                                                    Depending on your computer’s
10. Click in the Scale field, and type 100. Final Cut Pro scales the image to       processing power and the amount
    appear at full size. Because the image is considerably larger than a frame      of RAM you have installed, you
    of video, only a tight close-up of the baby is visible.                         may be able to preview this effect
                                                                                    without rendering (for more on
11. Move your Playhead back to the start of the Timeline, and preview the           rendering, see “Rendering per-
    effect you just created. Because you added keyframes before changing            formance and hardware require-
    the Scale settings, the image now gradually changes from a reduced size         ments” in Chapter 10). If your
    of 50 percent in the first frame to 100 percent in the last frame, simulat-     computer doesn’t allow you to
    ing a zoom.                                                                     preview the effect without ren-
                                                                                    derings, you can use the arrow
12. Save your work.                                                                 keys on your keyboard to manu-
                                                                                    ally scroll through each frame
In After Effects                                                                    and see the results of your work.
                                                                                    You can also render the sequence
Here are the steps for simulating a zoom in After Effects:                          by following the instructions in
                                                                                    Chapter 11.
 1. Select File→Import→File. The
    Import File window opens.
 2. Select zoom960.psd and click
    Open. After Effects imports the
 3. Select Composition→New Com-
    position. The Composition
    Settings window opens.



 4. Select NTSC DV, 720×480 from the Preset pull-down menu (or another
    preset if you’re working with a different video format; see Chapter 11
    for more detail).
 5. Click in the Composition Name field, and type Zoom. This names the
 6. Click OK to create a new composition and close the Composition
    Settings window.
Chapter 13, Artistically Using Still Images                                                                      159
           Animating Still Photos

                                          7. Add zoom960.psd to the Timeline. The still appears in the Composition
                                         The pixel dimensions of this image are twice the size of a frame of video.
                                         Unlike Final Cut Pro, which automatically scales a still image to fit a video
                                         frame, After Effects displays the image at full size, so parts of the image do
                                         not appear on screen.

                                                                                 8. Click the twirl-down icon for the
                                                                                    first layer in the Timeline.
                                                                                  9. Click the Transform twirl-down
                                                                                     menu to access the Transform
                                                                                     controls for the layer. (For more
                                                                                     detail on the Transform con-
                                                                                     trols and scaling a layer in After
                                                                                     Effects, see Chapter 11.)
                                                                                10. Click the stopwatch icon next
                                                                                    to the Scale controls in the
                                                                                    Timeline. When you click the
                                                                                    stopwatch icon, After Effects
                                                                                    enables you to change a property
                                                                                    over time. In this case, you will
                                                                                    scale the clip to make it smaller
 9                                                                                  in the first frame, and then grad-
                                                                                    ually increase the image to full
                                                                                    size, simulating a zoom.

          10       12               11

160                                                                                    DV Filmmaking: From Start to Finish
                                                               Animating Still Photos

11. Drag the Current Time Indicator to the first frame
    in the Timeline.
12. Double-click in the first Scale field, and enter 50.
13. Press Return (Mac) or Enter (PC). After Effects adds
    a keyframe at the Current Time Indicator’s present
    location, and scales the first frame of the image to
    50 percent so it fits entirely inside the frame.
14. Drag the Current Time Indicator to the last frame in
    the Timeline.
15. Double-click the first Scale field, enter 100, and
    press Return (Mac) or Enter (PC). After Effects
    adds a keyframe in the last frame of the Timeline,
    and then scales the last frame of the clip to 100 per-
16. Preview your effect. As the Composition plays, the
    still increases in size, until it becomes a tight close-
    up at the end of the Timeline.
17. Save your work.

Simulating a camera movement
When you changed the size of the image in the last
exercise, you also radically changed the framing. When
the image appeared in the Timeline at 50 percent of its
original size, the entire frame was visible—including a
sliver of Luca’s father and a nice buffer of empty space.
At 100 percent, Luca’s face appears too close to the
left edge of the frame (in film terms, he’s crowding the
edge) and there’s an unbalanced amount of space at the
right edge.
You can compensate for this by repositioning the still. In
Chapter 12, you repositioned an entire clip after scaling
it to frame out some problematic trees. In this exercise,
because you’ve already added keyframes at the begin-
ning and end of the sequence, you can reposition the
still in the last frame of the Timeline without changing
the position of the still at the beginning. As a result, the
still will gradually change position over the course of
the sequence. By combining the camera movement with
the zoom you added in the last exercise, you can create
a very polished effect.

Chapter 13, Artistically Using Still Images                                             161
             Animating Still Photos

                                      In Final Cut Pro
                                      Here are the steps for simulating a camera movement in Final Cut Pro:
                                       1. Click the “home” key to ensure the Playhead is in the first frame of the
                                      2. Click the Insert/Delete Keyframe button next to the Center field in
                                         the Viewer. Final Cut Pro adds a keyframe for the Center value at the
                                         start of the sequence. You can now reposition the clip at the end of the
                                         sequence without changing its position in the beginning.


      NOTE                            3. Click the End key on your keyboard to ensure the Playhead is in the last
 You can use the same technique          frame of the sequence.
 of adding keyframes and repo-
                                      4. Click the Insert/Delete Keyframe button to add a keyframe in the last
 sitioning a clip to create simple
 pans and tilts or complex orches-
                                         frame of the sequence.
 trated movements in any clip.         5. Click in the Canvas window, and drag the image to reposition it. In the
 (Remember, a pan is always a             example, I dragged up and to the right to create a greater feeling of bal-
 horizontal movement and a tilt
                                          ance. Note that as you drag the image, the values in the Center fields
 is always vertical.) To create a
 basic camera movement, add               change to reflect your adjustments. (To ensure your Browser window
 one keyframe at each end of the          looks like the illustration, select View→Image+Wireframe and also
 Timeline. To create more compli-         select View→Show Title Safe.)
 cated pan/tilt combinations, sim-
                                      6. Preview the effect. Your sequence now contains a zoom, along with a
 ply add additional keyframes at
 various points in your sequence         pan/tilt combination. If you were using a camera mounted on a tripod,
 and reposition the clip at each         this combination would be very difficult to achieve—using keyframes
 point.                                  in Final Cut Pro, it’s a very straightforward procedure.
                                       7. Save your work.

162                                                                                 DV Filmmaking: From Start to Finish
                                                                                Animating Still Photos

In After Effects
Here are the steps for simulating a camera movement in After Effects:
 1. Drag the Current Time Indicator to the first frame
    of the Composition.
 2. Click the stopwatch icon next to the Position con-
    trol. After Effects adds a keyframe to the first frame
    in the Timeline.
 3. Drag the Current Time Indicator to the last frame
    in the Timeline.
 4. Click in the Composition window, and drag the
    image to reposition it. In the example, I dragged up
    and to the right to create a greater feeling of bal-
    ance. Note that as you drag the image, the values
    in the Position fields change to reflect your adjust-        2
    ments. Because you clicked the stopwatch icon in
    step 2, After Effects automatically adds a keyframe                            1
    to the last frame of the Timeline when you reposi-
    tion the image. As a result, changes you make to the
    last frame of the Timeline don’t change the position
    of the image in the first frame of the Timeline.
 5. Preview your Composition, which now contains a
    zoom, along with a pan/tilt combination.
 6. Save your work.

       NOTE                                                                                         4
   You can preview an effect manually by clicking on the
   Current Time Indicator and dragging it through the
   Timeline. As you move the Current Time Indicator to
   the right, your effect plays in the Composition window.
   If you move the Current Time Indicator to the left in the
   Timeline, your effect plays in reverse.
   You can control the playback of your preview by dragging
   the Current Time Indicator at different speeds. You can
   also drag it back and forth through a short section of the
   Timeline, a technique called scrubbing, to carefully review
   a particular part of an effect.

Now that you’ve mastered a few fundamental techniques, try some experi-
ments. Create a new Composition using multiple keyframes to create com-
plicated movements and even more nuanced zooms. If you’re looking for
inspiration, watch The Kid Stays in the Picture by Nanette Burstein and Brett
Morgen (it makes a truly innovative use of still images; see Chapter 11) and
then build on the techniques you’ve learned so far.

Chapter 13, Artistically Using Still Images                                                              163
            Animating Still Photos


                         The Kitchen Conqueror and the Power of Still Images
 In January of 2004, I went to a conference on digital         Design Cinema “where we can let things stew, enjoy the
 technology for independent producers, sponsored by the        moments, and allow people to think.”
 Independent Television Service. (ITVS funds a number          In response to an email in which I asked how she went
 of independent projects each year, if you watch public        about integrating stills into her work and animating them,
 television you’ve probably seen their work. For more          she wrote the following:
 information, take a look at The world of
                                                                  I spent a lot of time sketching on paper and in
 independent media is small enough that, at the confer-
                                                                  Photoshop before I moved into motion. I created
 ence, I ran into an old friend from film school, along with
                                                                  posters, short animated sequences, and collages. I
 several other people I’d met at similar conferences in
                                                                  then created many Photoshop files, in the aspect
 years past. For me, one of the main benefits of going to
                                                                  ratio of the film screen, to sketch out what I wanted
 a conference is meeting people who are working in areas
                                                                  to happen visually. When I found that the style and
 of digital media similar to my own, and exchanging ideas.
                                                                  character of the scene was developing, I turned these
 At this conference I met a number of interesting people,
                                                                  sketches into storyboards, to visualize the flow in
 including a media designer who had recently earned an
                                                                  more detail. I was constantly printing out my sketch-
 MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and
                                                                  es, storyboards, and written ideas, and plastered
 produced a short film as her thesis project that made an
                                                                  them all over the walls around me, so that I could
 innovative and effective use of still images combined with
                                                                  see what I was doing as I was working.
 live action video.
                                                                  The transitions between the market scenes and the
 In Shereen Abdul-Baki’s film, The Kitchen Conqueror, the
                                                                  dream sequences were born out of a total frustra-
 main character walks through the isles of an ethnic food
                                                                  tion with the computer and how the tools were
 market and slips into daydreams about “marriage, love,
                                                                  dictating the visual style of my piece, which I was
 independence, and cultural identity.” The conscious, tan-
                                                                  not satisfied with. I left the computer and ran to
 gible world of the main character is shown to the audience
                                                                  the Xerox machine, where several hundred copies
 as live action video, while Abdul-Baki uses still images in
                                                                  and photographs later, I ended up with transitions
 various states of motion to explore her character’s dreams
                                                                  that were far more interesting and which spoke a
 and reflections. Abdul-Baki points to a number of creative
                                                                  much simpler and poetic language. I think that it
 influences, including Chris Marker’s La Jetée, a story told
                                                                  is important to get out of the computer, to try and
 entirely with black-and-white still images, voice over nar-
                                                                  find inventive ways of approaching things. We are
 ration, and some sound effects (the film was later remade
                                                                  trained, just by the nature of what we see every day,
 as 12 Monkeys, starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis).
                                                                  to accept a certain language of visual communica-
 In an email exchange related to the material in this chap-       tion. The nature of digital production lends itself to
 ter, Abdul-Baki explained that she wanted to explore the         constant editing, tweaking, and reworking. You can
 concept of Design Cinema (a term she coined for a form           do all sorts of interesting things with just a digital
 combining aspects of live action video, animation, motion        camera.
 graphics, and graphic design) in which visual design was
                                                               It’s very interesting, if not slightly ironic, that even though
 not only an aesthetic consideration but a driving force to
                                                               she was working with digital video and ultimately mas-
 communicate what her story was about. Citing Iranian
                                                               tered her project to DVD, Abdul-Baki made a creative
 films, which “concentrate on slow, long shots and cre-
                                                               discovery using the analog technology of a photocopy
 ate a space in which we, the audience, are given time to
                                                               machine. As I wrote in the opening of this chapter, you
 breathe,” she said she also wanted to use stills to cre-
                                                               can use stills in extraordinarily creative ways—perhaps
 ate a slower-paced contemplative environment. Likening
                                                               even ways no one has tried before. Most importantly, you
 her work to the international “slow food movement” (in
                                                               can tailor and fine-tune the presentation of each still so it
 which food is prepared with care and eaten accordingly, as
                                                               perfectly fits the tone of your film and your artistic sensi-
 opposed to fast food, which is produced and consumed at
 high speed and in mass quantities—see www.slowfood.
 com), she said she wanted to define a unique space within

164                                                                                          DV Filmmaking: From Start to Finish
                                                                               Animating Still Photos

You can use the techniques described in this chapter to move a still across
the screen (horizontally, vertically, or in any combination you’d like). You
can also zoom in or out, and combine zooms with simulated pans and tilts
to achieve some very sophisticated effects.
Chapter 14 explores the creation of static and animated titles using Final
Cut Pro and After Effects. It also examines ways you can use Photoshop to
manipulate still images (including using layer masks to create transparency)
and incorporate them into your titles. Chapter 15 then shows you how to
bring your title sequence into your project and use keyframe and opacity
controls to finesse some very smooth transitions.
You never have to use a static, or nonmoving, image again—unless you’d
like to.

Chapter 13, Artistically Using Still Images                                                             165

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