Living Picture

Exploration and testing

We are in a wonderful technological era, where images play a fundamental role. Printed pictures are still incredibly powerful and meaningful, the physical medium itself still has a strong connection with human, we hold it, we feel it, we see it in different angle, we turn it etc… it’s real material.

Now we have images, videos and sounds "printed" on digital devices. A new medium that is changing the way we consume imagery, this sort of “super paper” has proven to change the world immensely in the last decade.

Yes, lot’s had talked about this already, trying to create this “Harry Potter newspaper” feeling. The live photos on iOS is the first mainstream attend toward “living photography”. Google Motion Still is still an amazing product which I use very often, also all the various cinemagraphs apps can create amazing result, but to me they feel too unauthentic and artificial.

I think that from a design and storytelling point of view, what is missing is the union of static information (text) and multimedia contents in a cohesive and organic way, that is able to maintaining a visual quality of reading, communication and storytelling. A live photo has the potential to communicate and be much more powerful when used mixed with other graphic elements such as typography, iconography, illustration or interactive patterns.

I believe this is basically a new way of making photography, and now with Live Photos and similar tech, it is at disposal of everyone, but what is missing is hi-quality imagery, curated and tied perfectly with the content, making this whole new artifact much more compelling and delightful.

Imagine a layout with imagery in motion, illustrations and photographs that come to life. Practically it's about creating a small simple video loops and be able to embed them everywhere.
The key point must be the simplicity of the images: we must start from the assumption that they are photographs, with few moving elements/areas. It must infuse a clean and non-chaotic aesthetic: they must be images with little movement, static but with a small visual movement.

I have been trying to use this sort of new technic to do imagery in my stories (with mere GIF), but execution wise, I was never a fan. What I’m trying to explore here, are few guidelines and usage of this new way to do photography, through a series of high quality imagery , which have a little motion in it and still resonate feeling of a classic photo.

 

Duration and Details

I captured the bird flying on top of the light pole, and try to keep a balanced composition. I was lucky enough that the bird enter and left the frame within 30 sec. However, I think living pictures are much more successful when there is as little movement as possible: the bird flying is too distracting and unnecessary. Of course it all depend of the meaning of the photo itself, which in this case doesn’t have a contest. But for the sake of the exploration, I wanted to show the amount of detail and movement that I would like to have in my photos.

I shoot with my beloved Fuji xT2 (not super ideal for video, I know!), 90mm f2 and a tripod. in slow motion, 60fps 1080p, at the time I didn’t have the newest firmware which allows 120fps at 1080p.

Fuji xT2, 90mm f2
60fps, H264, 15mb, 30 sec

Fuji xT2, 90mm f2
60fps, H264, 3mb, 6 sec

Add slow motion technique here.

Add cross fade technique.

 

Some explorations…

Obviously landscape and large scenery works really well, especially if there are interesting moving details, like traffic, wind, water etc… I always try to frame the composition like it’s a typical photo, same goes for editing (ether b&w or color).

Tokyo view - Fuji xT2, 35mm f2
Timelapse, H264, 19mb, 11 sec

Iceland - Fuji xT2, 16mm f1.4
60fps, H264, 18mb, 11 sec

 

I’m typically not a portrait photographer, but I think living pictures is not restricted to landscape, urban or nature subject. People or any living thing can create a great picture, full of depth and emotion that can really resonate the feeling of the subject.

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Hi quality living pictures work best when the camera movement is minimal if not completely absent. I would like to avoid any wobbling, and focus only on the movement of the subject. There were so many situation that I wish I had my tripod and make the loop much better! Also, wind is very hard to capture and create perfectly polished loop.

Nagano, Japan - Fuji xT2, 35mm f2
60fps, H264, 7mb, 4 sec

Russian River, California - Canon 6D, 135mm f2
60fps, H264, 10mb, 7 sec

 

Like any other photo, living picture can be treated in any format and cropped accordingly. This type of flexibility is quite interesting, and open up a series of interesting subject and composition.

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I have been exploring this kind of new form of imagery in my stories already, but I would like to take it a step further and treat it as a proper picture, improve the quality, and embrace the storytelling aspect of it.