Live 3D photos with Vegas

The idea is to get a still picture and animate it, make it look alive & interesting, through a 3D montage. This is a trick that’s used on many documentaries on History and Discovery TV channels when they show old pictures during narration. You probably have seen it if you like documentaries like I do. So, I took a picture and used Paint Shop Pro and Vegas to do the same effect, and you can see the result below. Here’s a cooler YouTube example.

I also created a .vf Vegas project for you to follow the tutorial. So download it to follow the guidelines (1.3 MB). Read the included Readme.txt for more info on how to make this Vegas project file work on your PC too. To create such an effect it requires some intermediate graphics application knowledge, not just video editing.

1. Select the picture you want to animate. Not all pictures are good for the job, as the picture needs to have some a composition that has things in front of other things, in addition to a pretty uniformed background. Like the picture I used below, which has the butterfly, the flower on the left, the flower at the center, and the green background, almost layered onto each other.

Original picture
Picture by Sashertootie, licensed under the CC-BY.

2. Make a copy of the picture you want to work with, and load that copy in the graphics application of your choice, be it Photoshop, Gimp or Paint Shop Pro. I personally used the latter. You have to “cut out” each element using the freehand tool in the “smart mode” (if your gfx app has that mode) with some feather and/or anti-aliasing. You must precisely select (it will take a lot of attention to make sure your selection is good) each element you want to animate in the picture (e.g. the butterfly, or the flowers), and you paste that selection as a new picture, with a transparent background.

3. Once you have cut-out all the elements , you use the equivalent of the “Clone Brush” on your gfx app to remove these elements from the original background image. For example, in my tutorial, check bg.png, and you will see that I have clone-painted above the flowers and the butterfly some green leaves. This way, the main background picture only shows the background element and not the rest of the objects that I cut out earlier.

4. If an element (now showing only in its own picture) was cut-off by another element in the picture (e.g. the left flower doesn’t show up completely in the original picture because the center flower is in front of it), you have to paint it out to make a complete picture. Same thing if a dog is in front of a human, you will have to fake (by painting it out) the parts of the human’s legs that the dog was covering in the original picture. You usually use clone-brush for this too rather than painting it pixel by pixel.

5. Then, change the canvas size for all the elements pictures (not the background picture) to the same size as the original picture. Remember, “canvas size” is not the same resize/rescale: it adds whitespace around your element to make the dimensions of the picture bigger, but it does not rescale the actual element. Then, you “resize/rescale” all the pictures (including the background image) to the right Vegas project size. For example, if you are going for an HD output, you might want to resize at 1440×1080 with aspect ratio 1.000. For the purposes of this tutorial I actually made the files 1024×768. Make sure though that no matter what you do to the element pictures, their backgrounds must remain transparent.

6. Bring all the pictures in to Vegas and set the project properties to “match” the picture sizes (as long as you only have pictures in that project, that is, otherwise always match your videos instead). Place the picture that serves as a background on the bottom video track, and each of its elements on the video tracks above it.

7. Then, you use the pan/crop tool for each picture to place it into its own place of the main screen and you use the keyframe timeline at the bottom of the pan/crop window to create a new keyframe at the end of the keyframe timeline. The first keyframe shows where the elements will show up on the first frame of the animation, and the last keyframe where they will “fly” towards at the last frame of the animation. You can also zoom in the background this way, so it gives the illusion of motion.

That’s it! Enjoy!

4 Comments »

Dube wrote on March 30th, 2008 at 9:22 PM PST:

Hey! Thanks for the comment on my blog. I hope you’re right about seeing more about Libby in the episodes to come.

I enjoyed the video on this post. Is Vegas easy or tough to learn? I’ve been looking for a video-making software that’s better than Windows Movie Maker (shudder).


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on March 30th, 2008 at 9:36 PM PST:

I personally prefer Vegas for editing, yeah. It has a learning curve, but it’s the best editor for the money.


iTalal wrote on March 30th, 2008 at 10:12 PM PST:

Eugenia you’re Great!
I really appreciate all of your effort. Every time I come here I find something new and useful. Last time I had trouble on exporting HD video using Vegas, and I came here and found a tutorial about it. You helped me a lot! Thanks šŸ˜€

I’ll try this one and if it’s good I’ll show you the result šŸ™‚


Philip Goh wrote on March 31st, 2008 at 3:10 AM PST:

Hey Eugenia, I really like your posts on video editing techniques. Keep it up. Ever considered doing something like VENews (Video Editing) as a project to occupy yourself in the post-OSNews era? šŸ˜‰


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