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Photo Animator

Photo Animator





As many of us often do, we get into the situation that we need to implement photos into a video (documentary, image film, reportage,... you name it) The easy way of doing this is to simply zoom into the photo or pan over it. If you want to give your photos more “life” you begin to draw masks and animate single parts of the photo to give the illusion of some camera movement. This can be very time consuming. So I started to build a tool wich helps me do this and cuts the time doing so tremendously. I have been using and improving it for over a year now and it has already saved me so much time.

This is what you can do:

  • define a mask (often a simple & quick rough mask will work perfectly)
  • 8 layers will be generated from this mask
  • define the layer size
  • you can pull the layers in two different ways at the same time: 1) The weighting is more defined at the outside layers 2) The weighting is more defined on the inside layers
  • push camera or object in & out
  • Pull focus (between innermost and outermost layer)
  • define edge blur of layers (feathering)
  • Activate “Visual Help Mode” to make adjustments easily visible
  • Activate “Magic Layer Connection” to connect layers so there is a minimum of artifacts (only with extreme movements artifacts will become visible)
  • two resolutions: 1920×1080, 3840×2160

Place objects within scenery:
  • Mask an Object in the picture and get control over it
  • Add plates at any layer and get control over it as well
  • Move Object/plate
  • Move with weighting on inner parts of objects/plates to give impression of turning the object/plate
  • Scaling Object
  • Bluring Object
  • Layer Edge Blur
  • Turn all Objects simultaneously with one global turn picker

Add wind and waves to your composition:
  • draw two masks for wind area and wave area
  • set horizon, wave base and camera angle to blend wave area with photo
  • define number of waves
  • define speed of waves
  • define height of waves
  • define size of wind turbulence
  • define amount of wind turbulence
  • define speed of wind turbulence
  • Warning: longer render times on wind and waves. (On an i7 4×2,4Ghz with AE CS4 (32bit, so only 4GB RAM) a 4 second clip took me about 10 minutes to render)

Dust Particle Sys., Text-Placeholder, Advanced functions:
  • Create dust particles and change: Size, Amount, Shape, Color, Speed, Depth in photo
  • Place your Text or Logo in the Animation and decide for depth in picture (will be effected by blurring and movement)
  • Advanced masking: You can now add masks to every layer individually. This means you can draw masks and decide what parts of the photo belong to wich layers.
  • Advanced Layer Rig: The Photo Animator contains a very advanced Layer Rig. As you can read above you can shift focus, move layers with different weighting, move into the photo and so on. Even though you don’t need plates at all, you sometimes want or have to use them. So now you can use this advanced layer rig for your own plates. This makes animating your plates super simple

Start Script to easily apply Animation Presets:
  • Choose one of 8 Animation presets
  • Reverse the Movement
  • Decide for a length of animation
  • Decide for Easy-in or Ease-out
  • click “create Animation” and you’re ready to render


Please keep in mind that this is no “super magic tool”, and there will still be some kinds of photos which will work better then others. Especially photos with many objects (like people) in the foreground and background are more difficult. Also “flat” photos with no depth, like somthing infront of a wall don’t give much of a 3D effect. But for most of the photos I have tried it on, it worked great.

If you have any wishes or ideas that you want me to implement, don’t hesitate to write me! I’m always happy to get some input and feedback. This will help me improve the tool!

What you get:

  • Photo Animator V5 After Effects CS4 project file (Will work with Adobe After Effects CS4 and higher, no plug-ins needed)
  • Photo Animator V5 Script-file
  • over 80 minutes of video Tutorial (some with project files)
  • PDF document with the controls explained

No music included (great music tracks from Twisterium is available here:Epic Trailer)

No photos included (photos I used are all from unsplash.com / thanks to all photographers and people who made that website, you rock!)

Version 4.0 released on January 13, 2016:

+Dust Particle System (see above)
+Advanced Layer Masking (see above)
+Advanced Layer Rig for your Plates (see above)
+Text Placeholder (see above)
+added 30+ min video tutorial

Version 3.0 released on December 1, 2015:

+Wind and Wave feature added (see above)
+added 16+ min video tutorial for wind & waves
-Bug fix: unusual long render time on certain machines has been fixed
-Bug fix: Object parenting is now working with yellow crossair (move everything)

Version 2.0 released on October 31, 2015:

+Second mask with own set of layers and controls added (see above)
+Expansion/Contraction can now be done both with weighting on inner Layers and outer Layers at the same time
+Own mask(s) can be drawn. No manipulation of existing mask anymore :)
+New, more detailed 45 min video tutorial

Version 1.0 released on September 29, 2015:

+Basic controls of Photo Animator (see above)

Miss a feature? Write me, I’m happy for any suggestions and always looking for ways to improve the animator! :)

If you are looking for a way to animate a portait in particular, please have a look at the new project “3D Portait” that I have created with a friend:
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