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Creating a Moving Filmstrip Look "on the Cheap"

Using Photoshop and Premiere Pro for Mac to achieve the filmstrip look By Bonnie Blake

Some of you might remember, or have used, the Adobe Filmstrip format, especially if you`re a veteran Adobe Premiere or After Effects user. Both older and current versions of Adobe Premiere Pro (version 2.0 and over) and After Effects offer the option to export your project as a Filmstrip format (.flm) and then open it in Adobe Photoshop to manipulate the individual frames of a movie. If you never had a reason to use the Filmstrip format before, or you didn`t know it existed, or if you couldn`t generate the format because you didn`t have the proper software, this article might give you a reason to look at it with different eyes.

The Filmstrip format can be opened in Adobe Photoshop as shown here. It opens on a single layer with the frames of the video sequentially arranged so it resembles a real strip of film. Since the Filmstrip is editable in Photoshop, anything (filters, transformations, painting "a la rotoscoping," etc.) you can do in Photoshop, can be done to this Filmstrip. This, as you can imagine, opens up a whole exciting realm of creative possibilities for you.

If you`re lucky enough own Photoshop CS3 Extended with all of its spectacular new video editing/manipulation capabilities, along with Adobe Premiere and After Effects CS3, aside from being very lucky, you might be wondering why you would still want to import this old format into Photoshop in the first place. One reason is that some people have different software/hardware configurations and/or older versions of software that don`t do all the cool stuff CS3 does. Most importantly, if you want to create the look of a filmstrip in motion, manipulating a Filmstrip format in Photoshop offers an easy and intuitive way to get the job done. And, on a side note, if you haven`t upgraded to the CS3 Production Premium yet, scrape your spare change together and get it as soon as you can because it will blow you away with all it`s new features.

In this article/tutorial, I show you how to create a cool, moving Filmstrip effect. The process is fairly easy and involves converting/exporting a video clip to a Filmstrip, opening it in Photoshop and editing it, saving the .flm file (extension for "Filmstrip format") as a Photoshop file, and then onto the application of your choice to apply motion and additional effects if desired.

In order to create this moving Filmstrip look, you`ll need four things: a QuickTime video clip, an application that that exports video to Filmstrip format (Premiere or After Effects both do this), Photoshop, and an editing/animation application like After Effects, Flash, Motion, iMovie, or Final Cut to apply motion and additional effects.

If you don`t own an application that exports to Filmstrip format and you`re a Mac user (many applications like Final Cut don`t export to Filmstrip), you can still follow this exercise. There is a simple freeware application (http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/13905) called "Cheap-o-scope that converts QuickTime movies to a Filmstrip format. Jeff LaMarche of Naked Software created this application because he wanted a cheap way to rotoscope a project he was working on for his kids. Jeff created this application and he notes that it`s questionable as to whether is works in Leopard.

Here is an example of the finished effect.

As you can see from this example, the vertical Filmstrip, which has been manipulated in Photoshop rolls upwards, revealing all the frames in-between, plus I added 3D and lights in After Effects to make it appear more dynamic and animated.

Note that once exported, the Filmstrip format has a leading area in between each frame and at the head of the beginning (first) frame and the tail of the end (last) frame. This is a little space between the frames so they`re not butted up against each other. This leading in between each frame makes the Filmstrip appear more like a real Filmstrip. 

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Related Keywords:filmstrip effect, video editing, video effects, NLE

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