Recently I had an opportunity to try my hand at creating the new hotness in cyberspace, Flixel Photos Inc.’s Cinemagraph Pro for Mac, what they are calling a living photo creation software. Cinemagraph Pro allows users to easily create Cinemagraph images, a media form that combines elements of a moving video to a high quality still photograph or referred to as 'hybrid photography.' In February, Flixel released a professional version of the app for Mac with upgraded features previously only available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
The software itself is very simple, raw, and young. It provides a very appealing platform for creatives interested in something new and exciting, but like most first generation software it still has some minor issues.
Support for UHD (4K) resolution video output
Seamless looping options
Offers the option to upload high resolution cinemagraphs directly to Flixel's site as well as Twitter and Facebook.
The Flixel uploads also provide an embed code so living photos can be placed onto websites and blogs.
Before beginning my week long escapade into the Cinemagraph Pro software I read what the App offered users: "An intuitive interface enables swift navigation amongst a full suite of editing modes and with just a few clicks; your living photos are shared with the world. It's never been easier to create beautiful professional grade Cinemagraph images. Intuitive Creation. Fast Results."
I was really curious to test out the interface of the software. I first approached Cinemagraph Pro without visiting their tutorial in an effort to test how intuitive the software really is. The layout is incredibly simple and as someone who's accustomed to using Adobe Creative Suite, I found myself over-analyzing what I was suppose to do. After a few minutes I understood the program and began creating a basic workflow. Flixel boasts that it's intuitive and fast, and I agree: it is.
Once I was familiar with the software, I could create interesting Cinemagraphs in under ten minutes.
You begin by uploading video into Cinemagraph Pro by creating a new document:
The video file opens. Pretty simple, pretty easy, on the top left you've got the Trim tool (video editing tool), Mask tool (to determine what area to keep in motion), the Loop tool (have your Flixel repeat), and the Effects tool (color filters)
I brought my trimmed section into effects and chose an effect called Process, on the right you can see some of the color filters provided.
After choosing my effect I masked the area of video I wanted to remain in motion.
Once I had my completed Flixel I had the option to directly upload to the Flixel site or generate a .gif. I had been experiencing compression issues when exporting .gifs, and then trying to re-upload and embed them for this article, so I chose to directly upload to the Flixel site.
Here is what the finished product looks like:
Render Issues Explained
I found myself having difficulties when it came to rendering/uploading my living pictures. The software provides two options when rendering your Flixels either upload them straight to the Flixel community site or directly to your computer as a .gif or .mp4 file at 1080, 960 or 720 resolution. What I encountered was serious compression issues when I saved the gifs to my desktop. Occasionally a 1080 .gif would have gradient banding and sometimes it wouldn't. When I did have a batch of decent looking .gifs, I would upload them into imgur.com to see how they would hold up, and often times they would look worse. I tried experimenting with different resolutions sizes and I would usually be confronted with serious compression issues. In an effort to get the .gifs web-ready for this review, I started directly uploading my Flixels onto the Flixel community site. With this method, the .gifs looked great: high quality, no gradient banding, practically perfect.The only downside was I couldn't pick what resolution size the .gifs uploaded.
After prepping this article and having work around the compression and banding problems I realized that my ability to control the output of my Flixels was really limited.
These were Flixels I shote for and created. The first two were exported at their largest resolution and uploaded through Imgur. The last three were directly uploaded to the Flixel community site and embedded into the article.
I'm really excited to see the capabilities of this software in a year or two, but presently I feel the software is in it's very early stages with some kinks to work out. It's definitely a fun tool for creative professionals or companies looking for new ways and unique ways to market to their customers.
What I liked
- Speed and usability
As you can tell from the walk-through above, this program could be used by almost anyone with basic computer skills. It's quick, easy, and straightforward.
- Zoom Feature
The Zoom feature wasn't mentioned in the walk-through because it's a keyboard command, but an especially useful one when making selections for masking. The program (similar to Photoshop) allows you to zoom into the video (Command +) while creating a mask. I came across this on accident and was very impressed that it was a command built into the program.
- Masking Tool
The Masking tool is what makes this program so incredible. Not only can you mask an area of video and determine whether or not it will stay in motion, you can change the size and opacity to refine your selection.
The effects are a nice additional feature of the software. There's an array of color, black and white, and mixed color and black and white options.
What Could Use Improvement
- Rendering capabilities
- .gif gradient banding
- .mov file exporting issues
Before I walk away from this article, I really want to know how people feel about this 'hybrid photography' movement with Cinemagraphs. There are lots of photographers and companies trying to push the envelope and explore new and interesting ways to creatively express themselves. Are Cinemgraphs going to have a place in online portfolios and galleries? Are companies going to work with photographers to create Flixels? What are your thoughts?