Done properly, a Cinemagraph can be a beautiful and mesmerizing work of art. Done improperly, it can lead to rips in the fabric of space. In this article we're going to provide some tips to help your creations fall into the former category.
Find Your Scene
A good Cinemagraph starts with a good scene. In addition to standard photography considerations like lighting and composition, the added element of motion introduces a whole new realm of creative consideration.
The key is to spot motion that can be looped in a realistic and seamless way.
For those of you using the Free version of Flixel, that means taking the reverse loop into consideration; flickering leaves and flashing lights are good examples - a person walking forward and then backward isn't. Flixel Pro users can switch the loop type to just go forward, which combined with the Trim tool can yield great seamless results.
It's a new art form and a new way of looking at the world - be sure to check out the Gallery and Featured sections of the app for more inspiration.
100% Stability is the Name of the Game
Stability is important in standard photography, but it is absolutely crucial in Flixel. Without a perfectly stable capture, your areas of motion will seem like holes in your image (aka the "rip in space" effect).
Stability tip 1: Handheld captures don't really work
With the exception of surgeons, the reality is that people have shaky hands. The stability meter on the capture screen doesn't lie - if you don't see the thumbs up indicator for the entirety of your capture, your Flixel won't look its best.
Stability tip 2: Find a solid surface - or improvise
Part of the fun of Flixel is figuring out how to use the environment to your advantage. If you can't find a flat enough surface to rest your device on, improvise! Windows are great for achieving stability; just press your device up against the glass. In a pinch any vertical surface will do - just line up your shot and firmly press your device against it. This works well with the next tip…
Stability tip 3: Use the timer!
Tapping the record button can introduce a small shake to your capture, which is why we added the delay timer. By holding down on the record button, you can "charge" the timer for a few seconds. When you let go, the timer will count down to 0, and then start recording. This is a great way to give yourself a few extra seconds to get your device in a stable position.
Stability tip 4: Trim it
This one's for Flixel Pro users: use the Trim tool to eliminate shaky portions of your capture. Depending on the scene, you can create an effective Cinemagraph with just a few frames of animation.
Isolate Your Motion
Even with a perfectly stable capture, the "rip in space" effect can still happen if there is background activity behind your moving foreground subject. Adjust the angle of your shot so that the area you're planning to animate has a still background.
Also, if you're attempting to isolate motion on a living subject (blinking eyes, flowing hair, etc), keep in mind that they'll need to be perfectly still.
Less is More
If you find yourself painting the majority or entirety of your scene…you're doing it wrong. It may seem counter-intuitive, but small and subtle motions provide a stronger effect than fully animated scenes. Remember that the focus of your shot doesn't always have to be animated - subtle background animations can have a mesmerizing effect.
For Flixel Pro users, be sure to use a repeating forward loop whenever possible, and trim down to the minimum length needed to achieve your effect.
When painting your animation, be sure to use the reverse-pinch gesture to zoom in on your work. Make sure you're uncovering the entire range of motion, and that no pieces of the still part of the image are left out. Before you start editing, pay attention to the range of available motion that's shown in the initial overlay.
This is especially important if editing on an iPhone; small mistakes are amplified when viewed on a larger screen.
Go Forth and Create!
Cinemagraphs are a new art form, and represent a totally new way of looking at the world. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be seeing potential Cinemagraphs everywhere you go. It does take a little more effort than regular photography - but the result is well worth it.