One of the hardest things to achieve when creating a cinemagraph is the fabled “perfect loop” which is created when you cannot define the start or end point of the movement in the cinemagraph. It is a complicated process in some cases as creating the perfect loop depends on a number of factors. Fortunately, using software like Flixel’s cinemagraph pro helps reduce some complexity quite a bit. That being said, we do have to go over a few things to get you off on the right foot.
Find the Right Movement or Subject
Getting the perfect loop is based largely on a repeated movement where the in and out points are similar, if not exactly the same. Looking for this kind of movement helps you get started on the right track. Any sort of back-and-forth movement is perfect for this. Movements that have no distinct directionality are good as well. I would like to emphasise that finding the similar in and out points is optimal.
Distinct colours, movements and subjects can throw off the perfect loop as it triggers your mind to pick up on that and focus in on it. Think of how your brain is able to pick out a person wearing a bright red outfit in a crowd of people. These triggers expose the loop and are distracting elements. The less distracting elements that you have in the loop the easier it is the make the mind believe that it is seeing a continuous “perfect loop” and not just a looped video.
When in Doubt…. Bounce!
If your subject has a non-directional movement like the piece of octopus in the cinemagraph above then using the bounce setting in cinemagraph pro is optimal. The reason being is there isn’t a noticeable fade as the clip is just playing to the end and bouncing back. This works great for subjects that are blowing in the wind or bobbing back and forth. It does not work so great for subjects that have a noticeable directionality to their movement. So if you are pouring something out and it suddenly starts going backwards, the effect is lost.
Cross Fading is an Art!
Now, if you have something that has a distinct pattern and direction, you have to use the crossfade setting. This is where it gets a little tricky. The reason being is that you are essentially blending the end of the initial clip to start of the following clip. So if the start and end points are completely different there will be a noticeable “ghost” on the loop as fades in. To lessen this ghosting, try adjust the in and out points so that they are as similar as possible.
Start with your clip length and trim it so you have a rough starting point. Above the slider at the bottom, use the in and out arrows to fine tune the trim. In a perfect world, this should be the end of it. However, often you will need to adjust the length of the fade to make the transition as invisible as possible. Finally if you are still having issues, try adjusting the speed of the clip. If the footage is a little slow, it gives our eyes times to catch up to the transition. However, if it is gone in a blink most people may just miss it.
On the Hunt
The last tip could also fit into the first tip. If you simply can’t get the perfect loop to occur, try moving the entire clip to find a better transition point. Having a little more footage to work with is often a bonus here. However, in some more difficult situations, longer clips are not necessarily better. Also note that I said clips not footage. Meaning the actual footage may be long but the clip length in cinemagraph pro maybe adjusted. I have used ultra short clips in some cases because there was only one tiny moment where everything lined up properly. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the clip length!
I hope that these tips helped you in your quest to find the “perfect loop” and make some magical cinemagraphs. Keep an eye on CinePix’s new youtube channel for an upcoming tutorial on this.