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Creating a Moving Filmstrip Look "on the Cheap"

Using Photoshop and Premiere Pro for Mac to achieve the filmstrip look

Here are the steps to make the Filmstrip effect:

Create a Filmstrip (.flm) File)
Pick a short sequence for a video clip and export it as a QuickTime movie. The size and length of your QuickTime movie should be determined by what you intend to do with it once the project is completed. For example, if you intend to put a non-streaming movie up on the web, you`ll want to restrict the duration of the movie to several seconds and lower the frame rate and size of the movie. In the "snowboard_filmstrip.mov" sample (which was initially DV NTSC 720x480, 29.9 fps), the size and duration of the movie were cut in half because it was made small for this tutorial. Also, keep in mind that Filmstrip files are not compressed so they can end up being pretty big if you don`t plan accordingly upfront.

If you`re using Adobe Premiere or After Effects, export the sequence in a Filmstrip format and then skip to the section ahead entitled "Import Filmstrip.psd into an Editing Program (Mac and Windows)." If not, read on.

If you can`t generate a Filmstrip format, use the Cheap-O-Scope application to do this tutorial. Again, the program can be downloaded at: Cheap-O-Scope

Cheap-O-Scope Filmstrip Conversion For Mac Users
Open the Cheap-O-Scope application and select File>Open. Navigate to your QuickTime movie file and select it in the dialog box. It will save in the folder where your QuickTime movie resides. The movie will convert to a Filmstrip file.  Note the Filmstrip file`s extension, which is ".flm."

Note that the Filmstrip format does not include audio.  Sound must be stripped from the file and added later in postproduction.

Open the Filmstrip file in Photoshop. Since the file acts as a regular layer in Photoshop, you can manipulate the filmstrip layer in any way you like by adding layer adjustments, filters, transformations, selections, or rotoscope it. Your creative options are limitless in Photoshop. The following figure is an example of the posterize and exposure filters applied as layer adjustments in Photoshop CS3.

NOTE: Don`t forget to check your aspect ratio in Photoshop (Image>Pixel Aspect Ratio) so the footage doesn`t appear distorted.

Once you`re done editing the filmstrip layer, flatten the image and save in a Photoshop format (.psd). In the Save As dialog box, check Copy (so as not to destroy original file) and uncheck Alpha Channels to remove any alpha channel information that may exist in the file.

Saving the Filmstrip as a Photoshop file will retain the "filmstrip" look as you see it in Photoshop.

NOTE: You can also convert Filmstrip files to QuickTime movie files in Cheap-O-Scope.

Import Filmstrip,psd into an Editing Program (Mac and Windows). You can use any editing/animation application you want to animate the filmstrip. In this exercise, I`ll use after Effects to show you how you might go about animating and adding additional effects that aren`t available in Photoshop such as 3D motion. So if you don`t have After Effects (and you should because it`s essential for anyone working with animation, visual effects, and film editing), you can follow along and apply the same basic steps in your application.

Import the Filmstrip into After Effects or your other editing application, add it to a track or layer, and customize the file accordingly. Note the Photoshop filmstrip file will be longer in height than the height of the frame (or  in After Effects, the Composition window) in your editing application. Keep in mind you`re going to change the vertical position of the  filmstrip over time so you want the window in your editing application to mask out the head and tail of the filmstrip. You want to position the Filmstrip in the editing application window so the first frame will continue to roll upwards until you get to the last frame.

The following is how to create the sample Snowboard movie from the Photoshop filmstrip file in After Effects:

After importing the Photoshop filmstrip into After Effects, create a composition. In the movie sample I created, the composition is 320x240 square pixels, 15 fps, and 5 seconds duration.


Drag the filmstrip.psd file into the timeline, scale it accordingly, and make the first frame visible in the comp window as per the figure above.

If you want to add 3D to this composition later on (optional), add a solid layer now (Layer>New Solid), choose a background color for the solid, and scale it slightly larger than the current size so the solid will still fill the screen when the 3D rotation or position is transformed. The solid will also give the filmstrip a background if you want to cast a shadow on it. In the figure, the solid is scaled up approximately 200 pixels with the Aspect Ratio locked. Move this layer to the bottom of the Timeline.

Change the vertical position of the Filmstrip over time. In the following figure, the Filmstrip moves vertically from the first frame of the Filmstrip to the last.

If you play the sample again you`ll note that the vertical movement of the filmstrip starts out slow, speeds up, then slows down again. The Position keyframes for the filmstrip layer has Easy Ease In and Easy Ease Out keyframe assistance applied to help achieve this effect. To Slow down the vertical movement on the first and last frame, Option+Click/Right Click the first keyframe and select Keyframe Assistant>Easy Ease Out from the menu. Repeat this for the last keyframe.

Now add another keyframe somewhere in between these two, and then display the Graph Editor (icon at the top of the timeline that resembles a graph). Select the Position property on the Filmstrip layer and a visual depiction of the movement over time appears in the editor. Note the icons at the bottom of the Timeline. You can also apply Easy Ease In and Easy Ease Out visually, from the Graph Editor, if you prefer.

The Graph Editor shows you that the first and last keyframes are toward the bottom half of the Graphic Editor because they move slowly. You want to make the vertical position of the Filmstrip move fast on the new frame. To do this, select the new keyframe you created (in the Graph Editor) and drag the point upwards. The higher you drag it, the fasted the movement on the Filmstrip will be. If you know how to use Bezier curve handles, you can also drag those to create a more subtle movement between keyframes.

Lastly, if you want to add 3D and a light effect to your Filmstrip as I did in the sample Snowboard movie, here are some simple directions:

Turn on 3D in both layers and press home to return to the first frame. On the solid layer, move the Z Position back a little so that the Filmstrip will sit in front of the Solid with a little space in between them. Then change the X Rotation (On the sample Snowboard movie, this is set to -30) so that the background tilts backwards. To see exactly where you`re moving the Solid in 3D, change the Composition window to 2 Views, make one the Active Camera and the other, a Custom View.

For a little more drama, you can add a light to cast shadows off the solid layer you created earlier. To do so, select Layer>New>Light. In the Light Settings dialog box, make sure Casts Shadows is selected as well as Spot for Light Type then press OK. You can experiment with the rest of the settings later. They can be easily edited by double clicking on the Light icon in the Timeline.

To cast a shadow from the Filmstrip on the Solid layer, twirl down the Material Options for the Filmstrip layer and for Casts Shadows, select On.  Once you see what the cast shadow looks like you may want to go back to the Light Settings and change options like Shadow Diffusion for a more subtle or sharp shadow, depending on what kind of effect you`re looking for.

In the sample movie, the X Rotation of the light changes subtly over time. This can be done easily by selecting the Light layer, pressing X to display the X Rotation property. In the movie sample, keyframes are placed at the beginning and at the end of the Timeline and the X rotation is adjusted on the last keyframe so the light gradually tilts upwards from beginning to end, following the Filmstrip as it disappears.

Your finished piece should resemble the snowboard_filmstrip.mov sample. There are many other ways to play with the filmstrip effect depending on your style of working and your desired outcome.  Whatever you do, I`m sure you`ll have fun working with it and if you come up with an idea that you`d like to share with the community, make sure you post them on the user forums at www.DigitalMediaNet.com

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Related Keywords:filmstrip effect, video editing, video effects, NLE


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