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Like magic, Plotagraph Pro software creates animation from a single photo

Cinemagraphs are highly engaging – and highly time-intensive. But a new program developed by a professional photographer and an artist could just change that, turning a single image into an animated GIF in anywhere from five to 30 minutes.

Traditional cinemagraphs are created from videos, but Plotagraph Pro can achieve a similar effect with only a single image, eliminating the cost (or time investment, for DIYers) of a video shoot, as well as allowing existing images – and even historical shots – to become animated.

The web-based desktop program allows users to mask out a stationary object, then add animation points. By moving those points, the user tells the program how those areas should move in the final file. That gives the software the ability to customize the motion, unlike a traditional cinemagraph that simply copies the movement within a video. Plotagraph Pro could be used to animate things that are stationary (like a bowl of soup), create movement in the opposite direction, or simply create cinemagraphs from objects that are difficult to capture in a few second video because they’re moving too fast (or too slow).

Troy Plota, co-founder and CEO, said the program has already been put to use for several large companies, including Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Airbnb. “Dynamic content is very relevant right now,” he said.

In a demonstration for Digital Trends, Plota created a surfing cinemagraph in just a few minutes. The platform’s masking tool is fairly intelligent – for example, drawing a line on the surfer’s arm selected almost the entire limb. A paintbrush allows the user to fine-tune the mask selection (like selecting the surfer’s fingers or deselecting any background areas that were picked up). Feather settings also help make the masking process simpler.

Users can select multiple animation points at once for a uniform movement or adjust them individually. A layers view depicts the animation in triangles while a track preview shows the animation while still in the editing mode.

While the terms and a few tools will be familiar to Photoshop users, the software appears to be fairly simple and intuitive enough to learn quickly. Once the animation work is finished, users can choose the frame rate, duration and blend mode. Plotagraphs can be exported in GIF, MP4, or MOV formats, with the ability to adjust the file size and final dimensions.

Plota said he was adding animation to his images for years before he figured out a few algorithms that would make the process simpler. Plota’s portfolio includes shots for several big names, including shooting the Donald Trump clothing line and an underwater shoot with Heidi Klum for Germany’s Next Top Model. While Plotagraph Pro is his first software, he also has several patents for 3D photogrammetry.

Credit: Troy Plota

The co-founder, Sascha Scheider, is a painter with a background in fine arts. Coming from a family with an acting background (her grandfather is the actor Roy Scheider, who played police chief Martin Brody in Jaws), she will be heading up tutorial videos for Plotagraph Pro.

The developers are close to introducing a pre-release beta download to a limited number of subscribers, with a full version to follow after the testing. The company is also discussing a stock option for users within an existing rights-managed platform.

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