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Cinemagraphs - Storyboard to Screen

There's no doubt social media is a great platform for cinemagraphs but you simply can't beat seeing them on a TV in HD or better yet up high on a digital billboard! Read on to see how we delivered a series of cinemagraphs from a TV commercial campaign through to digital billboards.

I recently completed a series of cinemagraphs from footage shot for a TV commercial in Sri Lanka for Dilmah Tea. We hadn't intended to deliver these on digital billboards but an opportunity came up to trial this out and I was blown away by how captivating a cinemagraph can be on such a large scale!

Dilmah is one of the worlds biggest tea companies found in over 100 countries... and when I'm not creating cinemagraphs in my spare time I happen to work as Brand Communications Manager for Dilmah here in New Zealand. I've been bringing my cinemagraph skills into our content more and more over the last few years but mostly for our everyday local content on social media.

We launched an exciting new range of fruit & spice infusions and decided to produce a dedicated TV commercial to be used both locally and in Dilmah's other markets. Our local agency C&S Communications and the talented production team at Toybox developed a storyboard to be shot up in Sri Lanka, the home of Dilmah.

I went through the storyboard and selected various shots that I knew could work as cinemagraphs. I was looking for shots that could be shot static (on a tripod) to include an element of repeating motion within the frame... i.e. tea pouring from the pot, waves rolling in the background, hair blowing or tea swirling in a cup.

I had a meeting with the team before they left for Sri Lanka and it was going to be a very quick turnaround for them, shooting everything on an extremely tight schedule. I wanted a minimum of 3 cinemagraphs so I narrowed it down to about 5 shots that would be ideal... detailing some capture methods and what I was looking for in a shot list (see above). The crew were already familiar with the techniques and they were shooting on ARRI digital cinema cameras so I had total confidence they would get some great material!

A few weeks later I had the footage in my hot hands... eager to work with the ARRI files. They were a dream, I'm not used to grading footage with so much latitude to adjust colour, highlights and shadow. Grading is one of my favourite parts of the cinemagraph process. The following video is the final 30 second edit which went straight to the networks for primetime spots on national television so I was racing to finish the cinemagraphs for the supporting digital campaign.

The crew had specifically shot extra footage for me to create cinemagraphs from, the feel of the TV ads was very loose and handheld so I definitely wouldn't have been able to create cinemagraphs with the primary footage if we'd thought of it afterwards... this is why you MUST plan ahead for this kind of project. Pretty much all the shots they set out to capture worked out perfect... in fact some worked out better than I had planned. My favourite is this shot of the woman holding tea early in the morning overlooking the beach... I had planned to show the hair blowing gently in a breeze but in the end the tea swaying back and forth in the glass and the reflection of the waves in the window were fantastic!

One of the great things about a Cinemagraph is how easily you can tidy up a shot too. Her hair was naturally a bit blown by the wind, I didn't want it to look too perfect and overworked but for what is essentially a static shot certain things stand out more than if it's just a quick clip edited into a sequence. Below you can see the before and after just to get an idea... these are things which are much harder to do on full motion video where each frame needs to be fixed.

Before & After edit to tidy up the hair

The next Cinemagraph was one they didn't think they'd have time to shoot because it was quite a big beach setup on a very limited timeframe with extra talent etc... but they got it and it worked really well. I was able to loop the background waves as well as finding an unexpected element in the red flag which helps to catch the eye.

This was captured in two shots with the camera locked-off. The first shot was a clean background with no talent, table or umbrella in shot... just the beach and waves rolling in. I simply graded the footage in After Effects, joined the two clips together and exported them into Flixel Cinemagraph Pro where I masked out the areas around the foreground subjects and people on the beach to reveal the waves and flag moving behind, cross faded the loop and exported.

You can see a few more of the shots I produced on my Flixel Gallery.


The main intention was to use the cinemagraphs as a supporting digital campaign for our TV ads running over a 3 months period. We sat down with Mediacom who run many of our larger digital campaigns and agreed to a combination of Facebook, Instagram, Yahoo Native Display, Youtube Preroll as well as Preroll ads via the local network TV Ondemand channels.

The preroll segments would stick to using the actual TV ads but the Facebook & Instagram ad campaign would use carousel ads where the square version of 3 cinemagraphs would be the first image in the carousel, followed by 2 or three static shots including the pack and lifestyle shots where clicks would take people to our information page on the infusions range. These were not to drive direct sales because the products are sold through major supermarkets, the goal being awareness.


During our meeting with Mediacom I mentioned digital billboards and how much they suit cinemagraphs... proudly mentioning my own work showing on a digital billboard over New Yorks Time Square thanks to Flixel! Their eyes lit up... a new billboard company called Lumo had installed screens in key places around the city centre which can play video in MP4 format. They enquired and sure enough a position was available at a great rate so we took it! 3 weeks running 3 cinemagraphs on rotation in a prime rush hour traffic location in and out of the CBD. It had to be ready by the Monday so I spent most of my weekend designing the video files into the square format with graphics.

BILLBOARD RESTRICTIONS Something to bear in mind is that billboards over busy traffic locations will always have restrictions on how much motion they can use. Obviously this is for safety reasons so as not to distract drivers and cause accidents! Every country or city will have variations on this but in our case the council requirement was for only 1 change in graphic during each 16 second clip, which had to take place half way through at 8 seconds. However there is an allowance for subtle animation to be present throughout... roll on the cinemagraphs!

So here's what I designed (4 versions though we just ran 3)... ultimately it had to use large text to quickly give the key info which was 1.) That it's a healthy fruit and spice infusion 2.) the variant name along with a pack shot for product recognition.

It was hugely satisfying to stand on the street and see your work on the big screen... even though the photography was not my own in this case it was great to see the creative through from start to end with such great material. As a Cinemagraph artist I often get involved with brands on the Cinemagraph creation alone and although I make recommendations to clients and offer my expertise I'm not really involved in seeing the end results beyond social media. This is just one of many ways you can take cinemagraphs offline and create some real impact!

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