Photo Geek History Lesson: Pictures that Jiggle [Stereoview to Cinemagraph]

Animated gifs have become an internet favorite. And for good reason; a little bit of movement can go a long way in making an image come alive. But let’s take a geek peek at the history and evolution of these suckers. Me thinks you’ll likey.

In the early days, photogs made use of the stereoview. A stereoview is two photographs of the same scene taken from two slightly different perspectives, mounted side by side on a card; the photos combine and appear three-dimensional when seen through a viewing device called a stereoscope. Back in the day you’d get the 3D effect from a stereoscope.

Some examples from the Civil War via NPR’s Picture Show and from from the Smithsonian’s Photographic History Collection to show the images in 3-D by flickering the right and left sides of the views. Your eyes and brain will collaborate (ie freak out) to give the sense of depth. The captions are transcribed directly from the back of the stereoview card.

Here’s an animation of some women using a Stereoscope in Japan.

Then as we move along to the advent of the web, where we can see some more modern, delightful imagery from over at Dangerous Minds–Bar Mitzvah goodness–made with this same technique, minus the stereoscope contraption used by the lovely Japanese women above, and done with, um, software.

Fast forward to a newer kid on the block – the photographic animation leapfrog…using a still camera that can motordrive 6-10 frames per second and some fancier software. Here Blake Sinclair snags a shot of his adorable Olive, using motor-drive and then animating in Photoshop.

And on now to the newest prize, also by Sinclair, but this one is shot with video, and then masked certain elements to keep the stillness. This sort of animation is the current benchmark, and is more technically be deemed a Cinemagraph, which melds video and still into a seamless moment.

Most recently you may have seen traipsing around the internet, the work of duo Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg who have developed the technique beautifully. Here’s how they do it, as  described to The Atlantic in a recent profile:

We began seriously creating them during fashion week this past February. Our first few animated images were sequenced still shots looped in rapid succession which is a fairly common way of making an animated image. From there we began utilizing more fluid motion isolated in certain parts of an image to capture a moment of time, but also to un-freeze a still photograph by showing that moment’s temporal movement. The process involves still and video photography but editing is very manual and varies greatly from one to another so we’re routinely solving new problems when creating them.

We feel there are many exciting applications for this type of moving image. There’s movement in everything and by capturing that plus the great things about a still photograph you get to experience what a video has to offer without the time commitment a video requires. There’s something magical about a still photograph — a captured moment in time — that can simultaneously exist outside the fraction of a second the shutter captures.

These have become a bit of an internet sensation, and you can see why– these little vignettes are pretty appealing:

And lastly, check out their commercial application, here for Dogfish Ale. This truly feels like it’ll be pretty damn popular in the future. Or at least like Minority Report.

So there’s the brief history for you photo geeks. I probably missed something, in which case I’m hoping you’ll enlighten us all in the comments below… thoughts, links or images.

And BTW, when is the Stereograph/Cinemagraph iPhone app coming out?

41 Responses to Photo Geek History Lesson: Pictures that Jiggle [Stereoview to Cinemagraph]

  1. Sasha Grubor August 24, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    I really enjoyed this history lesson! I fell in love with Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg’s work a few months ago via some fashion blogs. They really took it to another level. Beautiful stuff.

  2. Katie August 24, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I love this so much! Thanks for posting!

  3. vlatko August 24, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Ummmmm. Bullet time?

  4. Leon Godwin August 24, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Man I love these things, especially Beck and Burg’s version. Also, it’d be quite easy to spend an hour looking through this website, where they have been making these Cinemagraphs for a while now, and masterfully at that:

    Also, Chase, the app IS already out, it’s called 3D camera, by Juicy Bits. Does the moving stereoscope thing very well.

  5. Wunde August 24, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    IWDRM made hipster cinemagraphs months before Beck/Burg. Check your facts.

    • rachelhulin August 25, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      IWDRM is Burg’s creation, I believe.

      • Wunde September 9, 2011 at 7:27 am #

        not true. original concept by a guy called gus mantel.

        • felipe October 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

          you are right, as fair as I know IWDRM is the kickstarter of this craze, I did my first moving portraits back in november 2010… had them published online in dec/January here:

          but then… I am no friends with Coco Rocha!! :-(

  6. Mervin McDougall August 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    I find the old stereoscope images were pretty good. I wonder how they were able to get the exposure spot-on so that it appears that you are looking at two shots of the same object made within seconds or probably minutes of each other. I would have thought in moving around the subject there would be changes in the casting of light and consequently changes in the exposure. Either way, they were done pretty well.

    The cinemagraph is a bit different in nature because it is not necessarily creating a 3D effect into the shot; It is introducing motion to what is expected to be a motion-less picture. It is kind of haunting really because it is showing you something your mind knows should not be happening in a still photograph – movement. Cool effect though. I particularly fancy the blonde with the hair blowing in the breeze.

    • Dave Peno September 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      The steroscopic cameras of old had two lenses and took the picture at the same time.

  7. Todd Davidson August 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    I can stare at these forever. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Arti K August 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Anyone think this is exactly the kind of photograph that’s taken in a Harry Potter world? And, we didn’t even need to go to Hogwarts for it.

  9. Joel B August 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Chase, I think that it’s worth mentioning Lenticular printing and how it made photos appear to move. It’s been around since the 40’s and can really made something look like it’s moving.

  10. Graydon August 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Chase! These are so awesome, can you give some more information on how we can make some of our own?

  11. Will August 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    The next step in stereoscope imagery…

  12. Bram August 25, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    Wow that jug and the beer pump seem to have infinite capacity :)

  13. James Dyas Davidson August 25, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    Great post Chase, really enjoyed that. Thanks.

  14. Cody Min August 25, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    stereo/cinemagraph iphone app = next update for the best camera?

  15. David G. August 25, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Cool stuff. I really liked the one that sort of appears to be a fashion show with people clapping. Thanks for sharing Chase!

  16. Dov August 25, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Cool! My personal favorite: Ignacio Torres. 4 camera synced to a flash.. Have a peek:

  17. FollowDon August 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Thanks for posting the links to the cinemagraphs, Chase. I gave one a try right after reading this article yesterday.

    I’ve posted it here:

    I used the technique that Russell Brown describes on his website:

    I can imagine that the results can look pretty great if you plan a shoot for the cinemagraph. I used existing video I had hanging around in my Aperture library.

    I look forward to making more of these!

  18. Rohit46 August 27, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    this is awesome, i learnt something new today..!!! :) :)
    will surely try for animated clicks…!! turning them into gif format

  19. black gucci dress shoes September 8, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    very nice information, i would surely come again, thanks

  20. Dimi September 26, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    I was very impressed by this gif and i want to learn how to do them. i have seen many tutorials on yt but the result its not like this can anyone help me ?????

    sorry fo the bad english

  21. Kit Johnson November 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. It’s amazing how easy it is to catch myself staring ad infinitum at a simple looping image. I’ve been playing around with the technique myself and have some of my own attempts posted on my website:

    In fact now I often find myself walking around actively looking for potential cinemagraph material. Thanks for the lesson!

  22. Kacey Zaya April 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

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  23. JD July 18, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    I’ve been making “Cinemagraphs” with my Nokia Lumia Windows Phone with an app called….uh…Nokia Cinemagraph. :)

  24. Nic Kocher's March 6, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    As far as I know the first cinemagraph in the world that meets the current definition (loops, parts masked, etc) was produced and published by myself. Pike Place Market, March 2000.

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