Cinemagraphs, sometimes called “Living Photos”, are still images that contain some areas of movement that started from a short piece of video. These can produce some particularly unique effects or moods and are commonly used in advertising. A simple example of one would be a model that blinks at you with only an eyelid movement while everything else in the image is complete still. Some advantages of cinemagraphs include likely being much smaller in digital size than video as well as focusing the viewers attention on something specific in the image as well as just being eye catching in general.

A cinemagraph is typically created by first shooting some short video (10 seconds for example) using a camera held still. The video is then processed by masking in an area of the video that contains the movement of interest. Then a single frame of the video is chosen which remains static in the result.

I use a tool called Cinemagraph Pro from Flixel on my MacBook Pro. This tool works very well for me and I have no complaints at all with it.

A couple of my cinemagraph examples can be found on YouTube at the following links. These are from the same original video of a JetBoat ride in Montreal. Each has a different area of movement masked in to demonstrate the different effect produced.

  • JetBoat 1 - water is rushing by the boat
  • JetBoat 2 - person’s hair is blowing in the wind

Some of my lessons learned about creating cinemagraphs are

  • hold the camera completely still by bracing it or mounting it on a tripod, otherwise masking the movement area becomes very challenging
  • use a subject that has predictable or controllable movement, examples include a road with traffic a person acting as a model, an elevator moving up or down
  • do not make the cinemagraph too long

Recently, Flixel produced an Apple TV app that shows cinemagraphs which are particularly good examples of the art. This app is also an interesting indication in the area of streaming entertainment by acting as an interesting demonstration of cinemagraphs as well as directing people to the tool produced by the vendor.