Night clouds come alive with Plotagraph Pro, which adds motion to a single image. I used the desktop version of Plotagraph Pro to animate parts of my night photos. For my first photo, I used star trails. I attempted a more complex circular movement that took it all the way to the edges. Although challenging, it was fun — although some of the movements around static areas proved difficult.
For this second photo, taken in the Himalayas in 2013, I decided I wanted to try to have the clouds drift slowly and peacefully across the night sky more or less in one direction. Here’s how the process went.
After beginning a new project, I began masking the parts that I wished to remain still. Many of the keyboard shortcuts are the same as Photoshop and are consequently familiar.
As you can see from the photo, I was reasonably precise, but allowed some of the mask to overlap if I knew I did not want some of the sky near the stupa or the mountains to be animated.
As seen above, I applied some feathering to smooth the edges. For this image, I didn’t feel like I had to apply very much, so I simply adjusted the background a little.
Here is where I got to choose what moves and what does not. I also chose the speed and direction by placing red animation points around the image and dragging the blue arrow to indicate speed and direction. This can require a lot of detail work, so relax and have fun!
I like to press the “play” icon every once in a while to see what the animation is doing. I did find that when I pressed “play” and then stopped it, I would have to initiate the animation tool again. Placing lots of animation points seems to give you more precise control, especially if doing something that is circular in motion.
There are several animation modes. My guess is that for most people, they will want to stick with “Infinity,” which is the default. Other modes, such as “Circular,” have the action going back and forth. I liked “Infinity.” I wanted the clouds to drift past and not whoosh. I wanted the animation to be subtle and peaceful.
I selected my animation points. With this photo, the motion was more or less in the same direction, not circular. Consequently, this required considerably less animation points and was far less complex.
I experimented with the length from the animation point to the arrow, allowing some clouds to drift slightly faster than others that were farther back in the horizon. I used anchor points for all the visible stars so they would not be unrealistically carried along with the clouds.
If you wish, tools on the right side offer options for altering the final animated image further, including adding layers, adding text, color and brightness adjustments, as well as crop adjustments. The crop adjustments allow you to choose from a variety of presets as well as freely cropping.
When your animation brings a smile to your face, it’s time to upload somewhere up in the Plotaverse. You can choose the frame rate, which will affect the perceived motion. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the function. Then you can upload this as prompted.
You may also download the file onto your hard drive, which downloads as a short MP4 file. There is also a site for you to share your animated creations with other Plotaverse enthusiasts.
I had a lot of fun animating the drifting clouds. It’s certainly a lot of fun to share with people and is rather engaging. There is a lot of potential creativity with this program, probably much of it untapped as of this writing.