Make Your Pictures Move

One of the many freedoms that digital-image manipulation offers is the capability to depict motion without need of a video camera. You can give the feeling of movement and the impression of passing time in a single image by using digital effects, a combination of still images, and your imagination.

Chicago-based photographer Jeff Schewe used digital techniques to add a temporal twist to an image of a long jumper in flight. By compositing seven photos–which were shot with a motor-driven, film-based camera–and applying subtle Adobe Photoshop effects to blur the trailing edges of the jumper's body, he conveys the feel of a short movie clip in a single image.

The long-jump piece, designed for a Motorola marketing brochure, is typical of Schewe's photo-realistic style. He prefers to scan his photos at very high resolutions and then work with the high-res files in Photoshop. For this image, he took dozens of photos in his studio of a man jumping, picked the best ones to create a cohesive series of motion, and applied masking techniques and blur effects in Photoshop.

Schewe also tries to retain the fine detail associated with film in his digital creations. Here, he added an extra layer atop the images to recover some of the grainy texture present in the original film but lost during the Photoshop manipulation. As a result, the final image doesn't appear digitized, even at close range.

Because the Photoshop files, with all their layers, can be as large as a gigabyte, Schewe's computer has to pack a lot of power. For this project, he used a DayStar Genesis Mac clone with a 400MHz Newer G3 upgrade and 1GB of RAM. Schewe also uses an Imacon FlexTight Precision II scanner, plus a Seagate Sidewinder AIT tape drive for archiving his supersize projects. He shot the original photographs with a Canon EOS-1N RS 35mm camera. His primary software tool is Adobe Photoshop 5.0.

See the sidebar ("Building this Image")
Get Moving

Schewe's final image is the result of compositing the best seven images out of dozens of photographs and applying blur effects to enhance the look and feeling of motion. The interplay between sharp and blurred edges--which gives the piece its real impact and movement--would have been difficult to achieve by camera alone.

mike@thatguy.com

October 1999 page: 102

1) The long-jumper image combines both outdoor and indoor photographs. Schewe first shot photos of the runway and sandpit outside at a track-and-field stadium on a misty day.

2) He then photographed the long jumper in front of a blue screen in his studio, using a motor-driven camera that captured the action at 6 frames per second. Schewe took many photos of the model jumping and then mixed and matched shots from the different takes to get seven sequential images that fit together aesthetically. He scanned the seven chosen photographs at 3,200 dpi, brought each one into its own layer in a Photoshop file, and masked the jumper from the blue background so he could swap in the misty background.

3) To accentuate the appearance of motion in the images, Schewe added blur at the edge of the jumper's body. He did this by duplicating each frame, lowering each duplicate's opacity, and then staggering the duplicates underneath and to the left of the original frames. This added a faint blur trailing each image of the jumper while leaving the sharp details of the jumper's body intact.

4) The Photoshop manipulation caused some of the original photos' graininess to drop out. To recover it, Schewe created a grainy gray layer, set the layer to Soft Light and Blend If: Gray in the Layer Options dialog box, and added the layer on top of the composite image.

5) Schewe finished by converting the color image to sepia, by applying a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with Hue set to 38 and Saturation set to 12.

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