three ladies sitting on a car with the door open

How I Shoot | Creating Cinemagraphs

Virgo Haan

Sometimes a new camera and technology can help to feed your imagination and creativity. I have been creating cinemagraphs - a still image with a simple moving, looping element - for around ten years. Whilst I wasn't bored of making these types of images, I wanted to explore something new, and the Sony Alpha 7S III gave me the power to do this.

Click to play | © Virgo Haan

I am always looking for new ways to help my clients tell their stories. It is always a struggle to stand out in the crowd, so anything that is visually different helps get attention on oversaturated social media feeds. So if technology enables me to try a new technique, my clients are always happy to try it out.

The new images I have been creating are just short, infinite loops; there is no beginning, middle or end. They share elements of my cinemagraph work - there is still a seemingly frozen subject, but now there are calmer moments and movement of light rather than just a moving element in the image.

Click to play | © Virgo Haan

In a recent project, I worked with South African rapper, Moozlie. I mounted my Alpha 7S III on a tripod, so it was perfectly still, and I set it to shoot video in 4K resolution at 120fps. I asked Moozlie to stay perfectly still for a few seconds whilst my assistant moved lights around the car. As the lights moved, they revealed her face from the shadows and, as they passed by, hid it again. I used just over one second of the footage, which, when put on a 24fps timeline, created a slow motion clip around 5 seconds long. When looped, Moozlie is frozen, with just her earring swinging slowly back and forth, and the light pans round. I then created a loop that reveals her face from the shadows and then loops back to being hidden.

One of the critical elements when shooting loops such as these is the exposure. To create a loop, the exposure must be the same at the start and end of a loop. I will always measure the exposure on the most important element in the scene, which will usually be a subject's face. For a lightgraph, I switch my Alpha 7S III to manual exposure mode and ask my assistant to put the light on the subject's face. I then use this to lock in my exposure. I can then be sure that even at the point of maximum brightness, the lighting won't blow out the exposure, and the face will be perfectly exposed. When all of this is done, I ask the assistant to point the light away from the subject to make it all in shadow. Then I start recording and moving the lights around before returning them so that they, once again, point away from the subject.

Click to play | © Virgo Haan

The loop is created by starting and finishing with the face in complete shadow, knowing that even at the brightest moment of the lights moving, the face will not be overexposed.

In another video, I asked Moozlie to sit inside the car, but this time I mounted my Alpha 7S III and FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens on a gimbal to create a smooth movement. Once again, I set the camera to shoot at 120fps in 4k. This time I moved the camera on the gimbal to create a swooping motion inside the car. Using a wide-angle lens such as the 16-35mm, it feels like you are moving through the environment.

Once shot, I took around half a second of that footage and again put it on a timeline to create a slow-motion clip that was around 2 seconds long, then I reversed it. The final result is a short loop where the camera infinitely moves in and out of the car, and Moozlie doesn't move at all. In this situation, I used a gimbal, but I have also shot similar loops using the Alpha 7S III's Active Stabilisation to produce an equally smooth video.

Trying it yourself
The advice I would give to anyone who wants to start shooting cinemagraphs, lightgraphs or creating these looping clips is to remember that people like simple things. Don't be afraid of experimenting, but you don't have to try too hard to create something fantastic.

Click to play | © Virgo Haan

The technology we have available to us as creators is constantly evolving and changing, so get on board with these new things and let it fuel your creativity.


Ballzy X PopSpot X MOOZLIE
Client: @ballzy_est
Talent: @moozlie

Virgo Haan

Art Director
Andreas Aru

Sander Rootslane

Stylist / MUA
Liisa-Chrislin Saleh

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Virgo Haan

Virgo Haan | Estonia

"I give my best to create works bigger than everyday life"

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