ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

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Ryan Kernaghan – Cinematographer

On this episode of Agitate, I’m chatting with Ryan Kernaghan. Ryan is a cinematographer that I’ve worked with on many TV spots. He also does films (check them out here) and his latest is “Bad Day for the Cut“. Today we’re talking about his recent trip to Sundance, gear and the American health care system.

 

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Joe Mcgivern – Photographer

Today I’m talking with Joe Mcgivern who splits his professional duties between hairstylist and photographer. Joe has been doing professional hair for over 20 years and knew his way around a set long before he picked up a camera. These days you can find him mixing it up, doing some of both. We are going to talk about his crossover into photography and how he finds coming from the hair styling end of things has helped him.

 

http://www.josephjude-photography.com/

 

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Cinemagraphs, Cinegraphs, Plotagraphs and Dynamic Imagery

So by this point if you haven’t seen, heard or even created a cinemagraph then you’ve had your head so far in the sand, you’ll be coughing up beach for weeks.

Brief  (very brief) History of Cinemagraphs
According to what the web says, cinemagraphs were coined by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, more than likely in the same way as stitching multiple shallow DOF (depth of field) images together creates what is now called the “Brenizer effect” even though both were created years previously but were, let’s say, popularized by the aforementioned. Ryan Brenizer, Kevin and Jamie would probably some of the premier artists in their fields when it comes to these specialty techniques. Doug Richardson out of Texas was one of the early pioneers having applied for several patents and creating his first cinemagraph commercially for Land Rover back in 2005. As well Gus Mantel used the effect to great success with his exhibit of cinema stills animated back in 2013.

Some of the first cinemagraphs I remember seeing were back in LA, in 2004 or 2005. They were located in bus shelters and on electronic billboards, back then called “living billboards” and such, they had yet to have a trendy name given to the method of a still image with an aspect of it portrayed in motion. It was very simple motion included into the still image; things like blinking eyes, lights turning off and on or a waft of hair blowing. Today we can do just about anything within the confines of a “cinemagraph”, including water, clouds, time lapses, and even rotoscoping, a technique where we go in frame by frame and mask off areas for the desired effect. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Creating a Cinemagraph . . . Simply
So what’s the best way to create a cinemagraph?
Well you need to get some very good motion footage. From there you can use a few different Adobe products to get an end result but probably the easiest is using Photoshop (CS6 or later, including CC). So Adobe made Photoshop video capable back in CS6 in 2012, with that you can drop your video file onto the PS icon or select import and bring it into PS.

From there, basically, you’ll create a still frame from the video portion of specific time you want frozen. With that still layer on top of your video layer, you’ll create a layer mask and simply paint in the motion from the layer beneath. They are tonnes of tutorials that can show you how to do this on Youtube.

A second way to create a cinemagraph is solely from a still image. This involves animating sections of the image to create the illusion of realistic movement. There are a few methods to create these cinemagraphs, one is with the use of the “Plotagraph” app. Its not cheap though. If you are interested in this method you can also try tutorials using both Photoshop and After Effects; both methods will require you to be in your most attentive state (no red wine tonight) as they are quite complicated and intensive to create realistic results.

 

Example of an animated still image (Plotagraph style)

Example of an animated still image (Plotagraph style) gif format

One last method to creating this type of dynamic imagery is by layering a still file with a video file and simply changing the blending mode of the motion file. For example, in the image below I took an archived image I had from Glenariff Forest Park of a girl watching the rushing water fall over the rocks at Ess-na-Larach. I sandwiched this image along with a video file of snow blowing, changed the blending mode and voila.

— Example of a still image and motion file layered together

File Formats
If you do an Instagram search for cinemagraph, you’ll find tens of thousands of images with moving elements within them, some good, some not so good but all of them are video format files and usually mp4. For social media there are two formats of choice, gifs being self loading and looping while mp4’s require some finessing in whichever video player you want to play them through, on whichever platform they are located. For example, you won’t be able to loop a YouTube or Vimeo based motion file without doing a little bit of simple coding when you go to embed. Mp4’s will giving you a better quality(more colours & sharpness) in trade off for file size(sometimes) while gifs are self loading, looping can be embedded in just about anywhere; emails, web, etc etc.


Example of a looping mp4 cinemagraph
—– Example of the same scenario in gif format Example of the same scenario in gif format

Uploading to the Web
Obviously when exporting cinemagraphs for the web, you need to be thinking about file size; not everyone has broadband but hopefully the market you are trying to reach has something close, otherwise you’re going to be uploading some very small gifs and mp4s. Even though this blog post is hosted in the UK and the USA, you might see lagging and slow to play files. If you want to use them on Facebook they need to be in gif or mp4 formats; Facebook now supports gifs and any video file shorter than 30 seconds will automatically loop. Gifs need to be “linked” from a hosted site when posting on Facebook; sites like Tumblr, Giphy, imgur or your own site. With your video files when posting them on Facebook, remember to go into after you post it and change in the settings for the video, the default playing resolution to HD, otherwise they will play in SD unless the viewer changes it.

If you want to upload to Instagram then the best format is mp4, that’s the way it is. Mp4’s will give you a better quality(colour & dithering) in trade off for file size and self loading while gifs can be embedded in just about anywhere; emails, web, etc etc. You can only upload video files from their mobile app, not the desktop version. So somehow you need to get the video file onto your mobile; email, AirDrop, iCloud, DropBox and of these will allow you to move that file onto your mobile device.

Optimizing GIFs
While there are some tricks that are only whispered about in back rooms about how to make crazy minimalised sized HD resolution gifs, you’re probably going to be stuck outputting through Photoshop’s web legacy “save for web” option or maybe experimenting with one of the many newly written apps for creating gifs like Gif Factory, GifRocket and one of the latest ones, from the makers of VSCO is DSCO. If not using one of these apps, you’ll need to use Photoshop’s “save for web” legacy option under export in the file menu. Saving a gif for web is sort of hit and miss; trying to get the file size down while preserving the colour and smoothness of the image. Too much dithering, colour reduction or compression can ruin the look of your image.

Optimizing Video
Video for the web can be a tricky one; you want it a small file size but you also want also the resolution, smoothness and saturation that the video gives you over a gif. Personally I use the mp4 file format, it gives me a small file size without compromising too much on all the other aspects. After I finish all my fiddling in Photoshop with the cinemagraph, I go File>Export>Render Video, then I use the default settings for a 2k cinemagraph (image below).

Render video settings

Render video settings

 

 

While cinemagraphs are still trending out there in interweb land, marketing and advertising agencies will keep ramping up their use. As long as the platform can support their files sizes, either in mp4 or gif formats, a dynamic image will almost always draw in a larger more involved audience than a static image.
There are several so called rules though to producing and distributing cinemagraphs to the public.

1. Does the image stand on its own? There are still random issues with gifs and mp4s on different platforms; gifs don’t render in MS Outlook, still the major email program for most businesses. All the end user will end up seeing is the first frame of the gif as a static image.

2. Keep them small and tight. The file size needs to be small for the platform to load it quickly and play. The motion in the image should be smooth and simple, nothing too busy or complex.

3. Following number 2, is it “Dynamic”? Does the image have a good use of colour and motion; does it draw the viewer into repeatedly watching it?

4. Be creative with it; make sure the content is intriguing and stimulating

5. Does it loop seamlessly? The motion needs to repeat itself without the viewer becoming aware of it.

 

To see more of my dynamic motion content(cinemagraphs) click here

Rental car review (hire car) Ford Tourneo

Its been almost five years since my last rental car review, not that I haven’t rented any over the past years. Anytime I have a big shoot or need to travel longer distances, I prefer to put the miles on someone else’s vehicle. Since most of my rentals are for longer distances, I like to rent diesels when available. They are usually hard to come by and I only happen upon them by chance. The difference in fuel economy can be almost double depending on the car.
For a recent project I was back on the phone to my local hire spot. I didn’t want to spend much as the budget was barely covering the mileage. Due to some unforeseen circumstances I also had an extra body coming along for the ride (a model), so I really couldn’t just opt for an economy tiny car. I called up my rental guy and booked a “small” car. Not thinking much more about it, I started running through the project in my mind about what gear was going to be needed on location and it quickly escalated into much more than a small hatchback might handle.
It was right about then, when the phone rang. The car hire place couldn’t supply a small hatchback but they could offer me a diesel Ford Tourneo van instead. . . hmmmm, let me think for a minute, “uh ya”.

2015 Ford Tourneo

2015 Ford Tourneo

2015 Ford Tourneo

2015 Ford Tourneo

The Tourneo is an eight seat van based on the Ford Transit; basically a Transit converted to a people carrier, with insulation, proper seating, controls, ventilation and windows. This particular van was a 2015 model and with relatively low miles on it. The big bonus for us, travelling in it with all the added cargo space besides what the seats we were going to occupy. I was able to pack away my cameras, back ups, laptop system, tripod and any extras without any trouble.

HUGE rear tailgate, can be used as a picnic shelter

HUGE rear tailgate, can be used as a picnic shelter

Lots of cargo space

Lots of cargo space

Getting up and into the driver’s seat is a bit of a jump if you are used to driving around in cars all the time but once you’re up there. . . . you’re really up there. The added height of the driver’s position is a great thing; allowing you to look further down the road and over smaller cars. The steering wheel feels more car like than the Transits I have driven; it gives it a much more automotive feel to the drive than the UPS/FedEx feel of a regular Transit. Once in the seat, you have the view of most modern Fords, with an easy to understand layout of gauges, vents, cubby holes and entertainment system.

Clear instruments & full info displays

Clear instruments & full info displays

Center pod cubby hole, holder for a phone

Center pod cubby hole, holder for a phone

Overhead cubby hole

Overhead cubby hole

Driver's side cup holder & cubby hole

Driver’s side cup holder & cubby hole

For the passengers we have two rows of three seats each behind the driver’s seat to choose from; both with independent ventilation controls. So many seats to pick from you could have five people in here and still be able to stretch out in one of the rows for a nap. I’m guessing this Tourneo had its seats covered in extra durable cloth for the rental market. Its still comfortable but I would probably take the next upgrade from this option.
With all this decent comfortable seating, the Tourneo is a great long distance people/production mover.

Pick a row of seats and get comfortable

Pick a row of seats and get comfortable

Now with the mileage we cover on projects, the stereo is probably the most important piece of kit outside of comfortable seats. The entertainment system is reasonably laid out and easy enough to understand as long as you follow along with the digital display above it. It took me a while to find the USB plug in, its located in a secret cubby holes above the steering wheel. Inside, there is also a 3.5mm jack and a 12v cigarette socket. I did have a few problems every now and then, getting back into the van and plugging in my iPhone to the USB only to have nothing coming out of the stereo. I know the cable is good(the phone showed the charging symbol) so it was then a matter of switching over to Bluetooth. The phone system works great in the Toureo and I was surprised at how seamless taking and dialing calls was.

3.5mm, 12v and USB sockets are hidden above the steering wheel

3.5mm, 12v and USB sockets are hidden above the steering wheel

Entertainment system uses the Ford SYNC system

Entertainment system uses the Ford SYNC system

The front seats were good and decently firm; I could easily drive for a few hours without numb bum however a little bit more of side bolstering would be nice, even if it was a bench seat, at least for the driver. The door pull is not very well designed in my mind since you have to twist your wrist to grab it and pull. That might just take a while to get used to but it seemed every time I hopped in the seat and went to pull the door behind me, it always felt awkward.

Telltale evidence of a roadtrip and a poorly designed door handle

Telltale evidence of a roadtrip and a poorly designed door handle

Room up front for 3 messy adults

Room up front for 3 messy adults

As well as the large accessible front doors and the MASSIVE rear tail gate, the van also comes with a sliding side door on each side of the vehicle. They open wide, wide enough to slide a large Plume 140 soft box in without dissembling it.

Doors wide enough to drive a blimp through, okay maybe a Jacobson Blimp

Doors wide enough to drive a blimp through, okay maybe a Jacobson Blimp

And lets talk about that rear tail gate, did I mention it was MASSIVE? Be prepared to hoist on it the first few times you open and close it; this is not your mother’s Mercedes’ trunk lid here. Once open you can easily stand under it for shelter in inclement weather, which we might have a little bit here in Northern Ireland.

HUGE rear tailgate, can be used as a picnic shelter

HUGE rear tailgate, this one is available on AirBnB

In conclusion, I’m a fan, there are some things I would change for sure but overall its a great production van.
Pros –
Diesel mileage
Large cabin/storage/seating
Great visibility
Entertainment system

Cons –
Large overall size
Door handles
Inconsistent USB connection

Glenn Norwood – Commercial Photographer

This time we are over at Glenn Norwood’s studio, chatting to him about software, gear, music and kittens on Instagram. Glenn cut his teeth in the big city hustle and bustle of New York, photographing musicians for many of the big editorial magazines. These days you can find him in his cozy studio shooting very cool fashion, beauty and hair for clients around the world.

http://www.norwoodphotography.co.uk

 

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate