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.
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. When I showed some of these cinemagraphs to André Heuvelman, trumpetist at the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, it inspired him to get together with pianist Jeroen van Vliet to create a bespoke soundtrack for this cinemagraph series. I combined it with a compilation of the cinemagraphs, and the result became the short cinemagraph film "The Infinite Now" that you see at the top of this page.
This has been a great collaborative project, and I hope we can expand and build on it in the future, perhaps even bringing it outside of the digital screen and into real world exhibitions or performances.
PS: you can view the entire wave cinemagraph series here.