You’ve probably seen them around but you didn’t know what they were called. Or you did know what they were called, but you didn’t know how they were made. Today I’m going to help you with that.
They’re called cinemagraphs. If you’re wondering why they’re called that, since they have very little to do with either cinema or with graphs, it has to do with the latin roots “cinema” (= movement) and “graph” (= I write).
They’re not quite movies, and they’re not quite photos. They are much less annoying (or funny, take your pick) than gifs, and much more arresting than still images. Readers love them, brands love them, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see innovative journalists start to use their powerful counterpoint to liven up a story.
To most of us they’re new, but they’ve actually been around since 2011, when photographer Jamie Beck and and web designer Kevin Burg came up with a way to blend video with still photography, to create an effect that preserves a slight movement and gives it a prominence it wouldn’t otherwise enjoy. Time is suspended, and a glimpse of permanence lends emotion that neither a video nor a still image could achieve. If you think that’s too poetic, take a look at some and tell me that you don’t feel it too.
How are they made? Apparently it’s not as complicated as it looks, especially if you know Photoshop. You choose the timeframe of the video that you want the movement from, and with masks, layers and loops, you superimpose the “stillness” of the first frame image.
So, is it a still image? Or is it a moving image? Or is it something else entirely? Like gifs and videos, we have here another example of media that can only be enjoyed on the screen. With their subtle messages and artistic choreography, cinemagraphs will give multimedia content a different feel. What will be interesting to see is to what extent they affect the message rather than just illustrate it.