Size really does matter when it comes to creating high-quality
animation on still photos for broadcast. In order to do good zooms and
pans on a still image you need to be able to work with large digital
photos – and that means lots of pixels.
In the old days a Rostrum Camera was used to animate stills. With a
Rostrum Camera you get the best results panning and zooming on large,
sharp images. A small photo restricts the camera moves and a grainy
enlargement looks awful. Working with stills in Final Cut and Avid is
like using a digital Rostrum Camera.
A 720x480 pixel dimension is the base size for working in DV.
Unfortunately, a 720x480 pixel frame is not large enough to create
serious zooms and pans using the Motion feature within FCP. You can
import a 1440x960 pixel image if you want to try some simple 2 X moves.
But, if you want a tight 3-4 X zooms you will need at least 2000 pixels
to keep the picture sharp. If you start importing 2000 pixel images
into your timeline, FCP will crash.
If you are just adding a few stills to a production you can get by
working within FCP. But, if you are working with lots of stills and
want Ken Burns style animation the Motion feature in FCP is clumsy and
Adobe After Effects allows you to work with large photos. But, AE is
expensive and more than you need for still animation. With AE you have
to work outside FCP and import the animated stills back into your
Moving Picture from stagetools.com
is a dream come true for still photographers working with FCP or Avid.
It is a plug-in that allows you to work with stills up to 8000 x 8000
pixels in your timeline in an extremely friendly interface. At $199 it
may seem expensive, but that’s $400 less than After Effects, and once
you get into the grove with Moving Picture you will discover it is
worth every penny.
As a FCP plug-in Moving Picture works as a video filter effect. You
place a small still or a dummy video clip in the timeline and then open
Moving Picture as filter.
When you apply the Stage Tools filter the Moving Picture screen will
appear. Load your large pixel photo and use the yellow box frame to
create zooms and pans. The process is very intuitive. A timeline at the
bottom lets you adjust the timing of the moves. A preview window let
you see what the animation will look like. When you are done click OK.
Back in the timeline, render the clip and Moving Picture will apply the
moves using the large photo in your media files. The small photo in the
timeline is unaffected and stays there to remind you of the name of the
still clip with a visual thumbnail.
If you want to change your move: Go back to your still clip, apply the
Moving Pictures filter, change the timing of the pan or zoom, and then
Creating a good digital workflow is helpful. Here is one that I use for
working with Final Cut Pro:
Collect all the original high-res photos that you will be using in one
folder. If you have been working in 35mm these will most likely be
50mb+ slide scans or 17mb digital camera files. You won’t need files
Create a “Stills_large” folder for your FCP media files. Prep your
original pix in Photoshop by:
Resizing pixel dimensions to 2000x1330 for a full frame 35mm. Save
as a Tif file. The size can vary. The 2000 pixels width for a
horizontal or 2000 pixels height for a vertical is the important
number. This size will allow Moving Picture to do a 3- 4 X zoom. If you
know you need to zoom in tighter than 4 X you can go up to 8000x8000
pixels. Try to keep most of your pix in 2000 pixel range. It makes it
easier for FCP to render.
- You don’t need to crop any of the large photos for Moving Picture in FCP. Leave them full frame. They will be cropped for your 4:3 or 16:9
timeline on the Moving Picture screen. Moving Picture and FCP will take
care of all the square-to-round pixel issues when you render your
animation. This feature is helpful because trying to keep track of the
different frame sizes for DV, SD, HDV, and HD will drive you nuts.
- If the project is for broadcast set a 1.2 gamma for each photo. It
might look dark on a computer screen set for 2.2 but on a TV monitor
that reads 1.2 it will look great.
- Create a “Stills_small” folder that you will use in the FCP still bin
that you will use in the timeline. They all should be 720x480. They
don’t have to be perfect. They are just little dummies. In Photoshop
take the first pix in your “still_small” folder and go to “image size”.
Clear “constrain proportions”, enter 720x480 pixels and save it to the
“Stills_small” folder. If you know how to work with “actions” in
Photoshop you can save the “Stills_small” resizing as an “action” then
apply the “action” to the “Stills_large” folder. If done right the
action will resize all the large photos to small and put them in
- Place both folders with your FCP media. Use the “Stills_small” in
your FCP media bin for you timeline. When you load photos into Moving
Picture get them from the “Stills_large” folder.
If your project goes to an uncompressed online edit use the same
folders in your online system. Your Moving Picture EDL will travel from
offline to online.
Moving Pictures makes working with stills in FCP at lot of fun and a
lot more productive. You can get a demo download from
www.stagetools.com. They have
good help and tutorials. Give it a try.
William Campbell is one of the original platypuses (class of 1999). A
former Time Magazine photographer he has produced shows for Discovery
Communications, National Geographic, Nightline, NBC, and CNN. He is
currently trapped in the Northern Rockies working on a PBS documentary.