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News & Insight

Moving Portraits (Not Cinemagraphs) | A New Take On Combining Stills With Video

By Holly Roa on January 23rd 2017

You’ve heard of cinemagraphs, the video/photograph hybrid which is technically a video though it looks more like a photograph with moving parts. Commercial and editorial photographer Derek Heisler has a new take on the combination which he’s calling “moving portraits”. Whereas cinemagraphs are stationary but have an element of motion – picture a cat’s twitching tail while the rest is still or beer being poured into a glass where all is still except the liquid stream – Heisler’s moving portraits are made using a virtual camera motion toward the subject with other objects in the scene changing perspective as they would similar to a dolly zoom in videography.


The technique is inspired by an old school animation method, Disney’s multi plane camera. It broke down a scene into layers on glass by the distance each element would be to the camera if it were real life so that a more ‘three dimensional’ motion effect could be created in cartoons. The video below is a fascinating look at early Disney animation and innovation, but if you’d rather cut straight to the point skip to 2:39.

To achieve this with a photograph, Heisler deconstructed the image into 3 parts: The subject, the counter behind him, the wall in the back, and used them to create a more authentic sense of depth than a simple zoom would have been. He added some scene and subject appropriate music and uploaded the short video to YouTube. I recommend viewing on a larger screen for the best effect – not a smartphone.

What do you think? Is there potential in this as a new medium?

Source: Retouchist

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Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. B Pete

    Hmm, new you say? I remember using this technique in a video production about 10 years ago. Nice effect, but far from a new discovery or use. In my case I had stills of students doing an overseas residency posing in front of this or that landmark. I did on camera interviews and for color and cutaways I scanned and then separated them from their backgrounds in Photoshop, enlarged the background or replaced it with a similar shot and moved the two or sometimes 3 on their separate timelines in Premiere. Don’t know the approved name for the technique. … just saying :) Cheers

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  2. Andreas Hohl

    Last time I checked this was called 2-1/2D (two and a half dee) as opposed to 3D

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