The man who brought us living photos of space is back with a lush new cinemagraph series of mighty ocean waves. Armand Dijcks sheds light on his collaboration with photographer Ray Collins and the innovative techniques he used to bring these stunning photos to life.
The Initial Idea
Some time ago I took a still image with water splashes, frozen in time by using a strobe. Later, when working on some cinemagraphs I decided was curious to see if I could convert this still into a moving cinemagraph. Playing around with the Puppet Warp tool in Adobe After Effects I animated the splashes, and was surprised at how convincing the motion of the water looked. I’m sure this was not something that Adobe had in mind when they came up with Puppet Warp, but hey, it worked! Many people actually thought it was an ultra slow-motion video shot. To shoot a real slow motion shot like that, in this kind of resolution, you would need a super expensive high end camera like a Phantom Flex 4K, and probably a few hundred kilowatts worth of lighting.
Taking It to the Next Level
This made me wonder what else I could do. It seemed like a really cool idea to apply this technique to the work of a photographer who I admire a lot, and who’s probably one of the best ocean photographers out there: Ray Collins. At first I hesitated to contact Ray about the idea. Here I was, a total stranger proposing to mess around with his images. But when I finally sent him a rough example based on a low res image, he immediately loved it. From there, things moved quickly, and our collaboration has now resulted in a series of 4K cinemagraphs of some of Ray’s most iconic images.
As mentioned before, the cinemagraphs are created by animating the still images in After Effects, after which I use Flixel Cinemagraph Pro to create the perfect loop and mask out parts of the image that should remain static. I usually create an animation of around 4 or 5 seconds, and create a 100% overlap when making the cinemagraph loop. This way it’s not obvious where the loop starts and ends.
It turned out that certain images lend themselves to this technique better than others. There’s always a bit of trial and error involved. It helps to visualize in my head how the wave would move in real life, as I only have a still image to work with, and no video reference.
The nice thing about this technique is that it lets you take an infinitesimal sliver of time, and see it in motion indefinitely. In the near future I’m hoping to work with Ray on expanding the series, and we intend to edit them into a longer video with a custom soundtrack as well.
I also could imagine it would be really cool at some point to create an exhibition out of these, where they would be shown on large 4K resolution screens. Perhaps a bit less practical than hanging up a couple of prints on a wall, but the experience would be awesome!
It’s been a great collaboration so far and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ray for trusting me with his images. I encourage anyone to check out his beautiful work at http://raycollinsphoto.com.
Check out Armand’s gallereplay profile for more of his cinemagraphs!