Experiments in film making #1


After discussing A3, I decided to make a ‘film’ of my photos to show them rather than an ‘interactive ebook’. My initial draft ebook was too busy / distracting in retrospect and I’ve already tried pulling it back towards something more paperbook-like. However, this felt like a pale imitation of the physical object. I may ultimately make a paper book (perhaps as part of SYP) but for now I’m working within the restraint of digital only assessment and how to show the work to the best effect.



My starting point was ‘how to make something more interesting than a slide show’. There are some interesting examples of people animating photographs using After Effects but this seems to be a major project in its own right. Oh to have the resources of U2 …

I looked into the basic technicalities of putting a simpler version of this together – separating the elements of each photo into layers, filling in holes in the background, and animating within After Effects. As well as the time required to do this for a large number of photographs, it became clear that shooting would have to be done with this end in mind – photographs would have to contain elements against clean backgrounds to allow effective animation.

A lower-tech solution is to make use of panning effects around photographs to suggest movement. The 1962 film La Jetée seems to be a reference piece in this kind of approach …

La Jetée (1962) [english subtitles] from D. Brion Ebey on Vimeo.

This is more than ‘showing photographs’ it is making a narrated film using photographs but I chose this as a starting inspiration for my first experiment.

Experiment #1

Tools – I looked at and quickly dismissed a number of tools for video making, mostly because they offered very little control over the movement or aimed at providing quick output for social media content: Photoshop, Adobe Spark Video, Adobe Premiere Rush, Lightroom slideshow. I have Premiere Pro as part of my Adobe subscription and have used it before, so I went with this.

Photo edit – when making this kind of series the edit changed from my preferred photos to something that would allow continuity of movement throughout the frames. This is the first hazard, it potentially becomes something other than showing the best photographs and more about making an ‘animated’ flow work.

Adding movement – after some trial and error, it is not difficult to add movement by panning and zooming using key-points, though it does seem to be very heavy on computer resources. Premiere Pro also offers a range of ‘transitions’ to move between stills. For this kind of approach, image files need to be large so that detail is retained when zooming.

The curse of aspect ratio – similar to the ebook the aspect ratio is dictated by standard screen dimensions and making the most of the display area, so 16:9. This raises challenges in respecting the original crop of the image, versus making the most of the screen. In experiment #1, mostly tried to make use of the full screen.

The outcome

It was unsuccessful because it was too much about movement and not enough about showing the photographs. This also meant a number of photos that were not my first choice were included. Lessons for the next experiment:

  • Stick with the best edit of the photos for the photos themselves, not for creating movement. It must be primarily about showing the best work.
  • Respect the crop of the photos to show them to best effect. This means finding a way of dealing with the black space in the frame around them. Leave it black or layer it with something textural / video – there will be a fine balance between creating visual interest and making distractions.
  • Movement quickly becomes tiring / annoying. The most successful clips were those with very little or no movement. For the next experiment I will avoid large experimental movements such as panning down an element and zoom through doors into the next frame!

In conclusion, I think I am in effect after something more akin to a slide show than a film and just need to make it as interesting as possible. Perhaps I’m still wounded through hours of sitting through slide show projections as a child and need to realise the form in a way that is contemporary with the benefit of new technology over 35mm colour slides.

Quick refs

New Territory Media blog – https://newterritory.media/5-ways-to-use-still-photos-in-movies-that-are-not-the-ken-burns-effect/

Learn about Film blog – https://learnaboutfilm.com/use-still-images-film/

2 thoughts on “Experiments in film making #1”

  1. I worked around the aspect ratio problem by using the space next to the photograph for captions. Is that a possibility for you?

    1. I’m not generally a fan of text alongside photos unless there is a really good reason for including it – I don’t have one. I’m working on a piece of prose to narrate the video – aiming for a psychogeographic feel. I’m exploring a couple of options with the space, one is just to embrace the blackness as part of a projection, the other is to output in 4:3 – I’ve discovered that Keynote will output video in that ratio. Thanks for feeding in ideas – it’s very much appreciated.

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