In the world of still photography that I live in, sometimes it’s fun to see how new software can enhance my imagery. Plotagraph Pro is a great tool to do just that, allowing me to animate certain parts of my image and add movement.
I recently went over to a neighbor’s condo and checked out a new record player he purchased. I’ve always had a love for vintage-turned-new, and this was taking the old scratch records that my parents used to listen to, and allowing us to listen to them on a modernized device.
As I took the photograph, I couldn’t help but have a desire to have the record move back and forth, almost like a nightclub DJ would do as he’s mixing up a song. And that’s where my idea for Plotagraph Pro came along.
I start a Plotagraph by making sure my file is edited exactly like I want it to be. I change the exposure, contrast, highlights, tone, depth, etc. just like I would a normal image. Then I head over to my Plotagraph Pro account and start a new project, importing the file I just finalized in Lightroom or Photoshop.
I started off by selecting an area to mask. The masked area won’t be animated, and is signified by a red outline. The only part I wanted animated was the green record, so I masked out everything else and then selected the area to animate.
With my mouse, my drawing skills aren’t exactly anything to write home about. To clean up the lines, I used the brush tool to add and subtract from the mask. You can see that my lines are far from being uniform or perfect; if you have a tablet, that would certainly come in handy here.
Adding Animation Points
This is the fun part, where you get to start to see your image in motion. I added multiple animation points outside of the center of the record. Don’t be stingy on these; I found that the more points I added, the more realistic the animation was.
After I added all my points, I dragged them, making sure that the blue and yellow points were all facing the same way. Otherwise, the animation will go every which way.
As you create your animation points and extend them, be sure to preview every once in a while by hitting the Play button at the bottom of the screen.
Plotagraph Pro offers three animation modes — Blend, End to End and Circular. For the record player, I wanted to create the illusion of it moving back and forth, like a DJ was spinning it, so I chose end to end.
Choosing an animation mode really depends on the effect you’re going for. Going with Circular means that when the animation is finished, it starts over again from the beginning. It’s not a fluid affect. Blend, on the other hand, kind of blends all the animation points together for a smooth motion. It doesn’t really work for a circular elements, but can be great on animating trees and other landscape objects.
Some Helpful Tips
You’ll see that when I masked out the elements I didn’t want animated, I actually cut into the record. I found that if you’re dealing with objects that have a sharp edge, like a record, it can get very jagged and rigid during animation. Cutting into the record solved this for me.
When exporting your Plotagraph, you have options to change the frame rate. For this, I went with 25 fps. The higher you go, the more smooth your animation will be. This isn’t always preferred — with my record, I wanted to really see the animation. When I exported at 60 fps, the animation wasn’t as prevalent.
The Final Outcome
In playing with this, Plotagraph Pro is pretty cool! I was able to animate the record, which made for a really cool image that’s unlike anything else I have. If you’re interested, check it out at plotagraphpro.com.