How Did They Do That? Air-Bike Cinemagraph

In our last How’d They Do That? post, Virgo Haan took us through how he created the #1 cinemagraph of 2015. This time, we’re checking in with Virgo again to learn about how he made the infamous “Air Bike” cinemagraph, as seen below. Let’s dive in and see what tricks Virgo has up his sleeves this time!

HOW IT’S MADE/TUTORIAL: AIR-BIKE CINEMAGRAPH

STEP 1. PLAN

Since my client was Happy Socks, I needed to think about a cinemagraph what would really show off their vibrant creations–this meant highlighting the feet and legs. As I was thinking of some ideas, I remembered from my childhood how my mom would lay on her back and do these bike/peddling moves in the air. I knew immediately that this was something I could use. I also realized that if I turned my image upside down, it would look like the real thing, only without the bike, (which is even cooler). So, from there, most of my energy went into finding some nice legs and a bright wall.

STEP 3. THINK ABOUT THE LOOP

My biggest worry was how to achieve a seamless, repeating loop.  This is the “king” of all loops… in the best cases, the viewer never understands where the loop begins, and where it ends. To achieve this you need some luck, a model who can move like a robot, a lot of support to your models body, patience, and some post-production skills.

STEP 4. SHOOT

This is my gear list:

  • Camera: Sony a7rii
  • Lens: Zeiss FE 4/24-70
  • Tripod: Manfrotto Compact Light Aluminum Tripod

Camera settings during this shot:

  • Speed: 1/80
  • Aperture: 4.0
  • ISO: 640
  • WB: Daylight
  • Focus: Manual
  • Video quality: 4K full frame

All of the light came from a window at the right side of the room, and it bounced back from a white wall on the left side. In these conditions, I didn’t need any additional light source. My model, Stina, was lying on a yoga mat. I double-checked all of my settings, and manually focused on Stina’s legs. With that, we were ready to shoot.

Contrary to popular belief, Stina is in fact not a robot, so, we needed a lot of luck to achieve one rotation where the start and end points would be as similar as possible. To raise this possibility we tried many different techniques for peddling:

  • Slowly peddling 
  • Peddling really fast
  • Peddling while holding her breath
  • Meditating during peddling
  • Peddling for as long as possible…

Now, we could only hope that luck was on our side.

After shooting was seemed to be around 50 different takes, and since she did all of the pedalling without holding her hands up, we needed to take some shots of her hands.

STEP 5. FILES AND SOFTWARE

If you do not have your own material to work with, you are welcome to use mine, but remember, its only for your personal use. 

For post-production we are going to use Flixel Cinemagraph Pro. You can try the app for free forever (with the Flixel watermark). Or, to remove the watermark, you can purchase /subscribe to the the software. Find my discount code here.

STEP 6. FIND BEST FOOTAGE AND IMAGE

At first, I browsed through all of my footage to find a place where the pedalling was the most stable, and the speed as constant as possible. Mark the best potential time codes somewhere so it is easier to find in Cinemagraph Pro. Also, find the best image of her hands.

 

STEP 7. TRIM YOUR CLIP

Import the footage into Flixel Cinemagraph Pro. The first thing what we will do is find the best section of our clip where the start and the end look as similar as possible. For that I used the Trim section–the timeline which you can find at the bottom of the window. On that timeline is a white trim box, where the start and end are trimmable, representing the start and end of your final clip. I trimmed my clip so that the legs position would be in the end as similar to the position at the start. You will see a half transparent frame on top of your footage. You can change which frame is the master frame, but by default it comes from the begging of your clip. You can use this as a guide for finding a similar end frame. When you drag the purple marker over the video, and hit a point when there is little to no ghosting/blur around the image, this is possibly a good point to end your trim.

As you can see, the start and end are not matching perfectly, but we can fix it later.

STEP 8. IMPORT STATIC IMAGE AND CUT OUT SUBJECT

On a bottom left side of trim window there is popup menu, from where you can import a static image. Find it from your computer and press the import button.

Now we need to mask out everything that should be moving on our final Cinemagraph. For that, we will select the Mask editor where we can find a few simple options for our mask brush:

  • With the brush, you can paint over an area so you can see through your static image
  • With the eraser, you can paint your static image back
  • Size – makes the brush smaller or larger
  • Hardness – makes the brush edge harder or softer
  • Opacity – represents if the brush deletes everything at once, or just a thin layer of your static image
  • Mask All –  will mask your entire image, so you cannot see your static image anymore
  • Unmask All –  covers all of your moving, so all you see is the static image

From the view menu, you can zoom in to edit in a closer view

Fortunately, masking is very easy this time, all we need to do is few strokes. Be aware not to leave any shadows unmasked on the wall. TIP: Press overlay mask to see what you’ve painted out.

STEP 9. FADE LOOP AND MAKE IT FASTER

In the loop section, there is a purple handle at the start of the timeline, and a green handle at the end. Use green handle to adjust the fade longer or faster. If the fade is very long, you’ll see a transparent ghost from the beginning of the clip, at the end, and this is OK for some cases, but not this time. Try to make this fade long enough to smoothen out the jump between the start and end, but short enough to avoid a long ghost.

Use the speed handle to make the pedalling a bit faster–it will help to hide jump in the end of a clip.

STEP 10. FLIPPING

At bottom of the Adjustments section, there is a Transform section from where you can find four options:

  • Rotate anticlockwise
  • Rotate clockwise
  • Flip vertically
  • Flip horizontally

As the image I used is upside down, I used a horizontal flip so that she appeared to be biking up right.

STEP 11. EXPORTING/ UPLOADING/ EMBED CODE

These subjects are all covered in the end of Brathwait watches ad tutorial.

(Flixel Marketing Manager)

When Cassandra was six, she was asked to share a story with her class…and hasn’t stopped telling them since. Now she does so through photography, video and writing, but with the same sense of wonder - and love for glitter - as her inner kid.