Cinemagraphs: Flixel vs MotionVFX

Posted by in Video & internet

I love obscure, creative visual techniques. They grab the attention. Like lens whacking, tilt/shift timelapse, custom apertures, home made  flare/dust/smoke effects and cinemagraphs. Cinemawhat?

Cinemagraphs are photo’s with a small moving part. They can be used like any other photo but the unexpected motion is a real attention grabber. A bit of magic. Technically they are video’s or motion GIFs. They can be single loops or used in video productions, like in this tv-trailer below.

These older cinemagraphs were made in Photoshop and Aftereffects. A lot of manual work: layering, masking, feathering, re-timing etcetera. Then Flixel released Cinemagraph Pro and that made the proces a lot easier. I bought it some time ago but never got to actually use it.

However, today, MotionVFX released mCinegraph. It does the same thing as Cinemagraph Pro but then as a plug-in for FCP X. For me as a video editor that is very interesting so I installed the demo, made a videoshot of myself, edited in FCP X and in 20 minutes I had a cinemagraph for my friends to laugh at! Here it is:

That was easy. But how does it compare to Cinemagraph Pro? So I worked on the same shot in Cinemagraph Pro and .. it’s easy too! Image quality is about the same. Both are capable tools to get the job done. Cinemagraph Pro’s large, logical and clean interface is very nice to work with. It allows you to focus on the picture without any distraction. Unlike mCinegraph’s interface which is surrounded by the FCP X interface.  I don’t like mCinegraph’s on-screen-control, I keep moving, hiding and revealing it to do the masking. But the on-screen-control is needed to set the range and select the still image.

On the other hand; with mCinegraph I can also use all my other video tools straight away. Animate, denoise, color correct, retime, cut to the music .. video editing! Though the technique seems to be a one-trick-pony, I’m sure I will find different ways to use it as a storytelling tool. The magic is there.

Cinemagraph Pro has some nice build-in effects, great for quick single-shot results. For multi-shot productions or productions with audio, Cinemagraph Pro has a slower workflow: work in Cinemagraph Pro, export a ProRes file, import in your video editor, edit. If you need to change the cinemagraph, you need to export/import again. With mCinegraph you never have to leave FCP X.

That is quicker though rendering will be an issue if you add a lot of effects. Especially in 4K. In that case you might want to export inbetween cinemagraphs first and then work with those files in the final edit. Then the workflow advantage of mCinegraph over Cinemagraph Pro is not that great.

There are two things that are unique to Cinemagraph Pro: a subscription based cloud service and an IOS app. The cloud service has a player without buttons that plays perfect loops. Very clean and it preserves the magic. Is it a photo or is it a video? The cloud service might be interesting for online marketing campaigns. It supports social sharing too. For me, Vine and Instagram are better options. Looping, clean interface, free, well known and a large community.

I have not tried the IOS app but I find it expensive and the Mac application gives more control over the image. Might be of value to iPad photographers.

Conclusion
Cinemagraph Pro is more a photographers tool and mCinegraph a video-editors tool. In the end you can get the same results, just a different workflow. This is why I stick with the one I already have: Cinemagraph Pro. If I had to choose again .. I might choose mCinegraph because it is in FCP X and it’s a lot cheaper too. $199 vs $59 ..  that’s a big gap. I hope that the lower price will result in more people using it, increasing the popularity of this magical technique.