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Photoshop CS2 for Rotoscoping

Part 1: Importing and exporting 8-bit movies By Dave Nagel
With the release of Photoshop CS2, Adobe brought long-anticipated animation capabilities to the world's most popular professional image editing tool. And with these new capabilities, the company has also introduced a problem. Now that people know Photoshop can do animation, they want to take it further and use the program for rotoscoping--in other words, import movies into Photoshop, then take them back out into their editing or motion graphics tools for finishing.

This, in itself, wouldn't be a problem except for one simple fact: Photoshop isn't made for that.

Nevertheless, the tools in Photoshop are fantastic complements to those found in motion graphics applications like Adobe After Effects, particularly the paint tools and various cloning and healing features. Up until now, if you wanted to bring your video files into Photoshop, you either had to work with the filmstrip format (sigh) or laboriously import an image sequence frame by frame and work on the frames one at a time.

Now, however, you can work with motion files via Photoshop's new Animation palette. The only trouble left is how to get it in there.

There's no direct way to do this, and, so, over the course of this tutorial and the next, I'll show you how to work around Photoshop's video import limitations. In this first installment, we'll look at a method that works smoothly for importing 8-bit-per-channel motion graphics files. Next time around, we'll look at another, more complicated method for importing 16-bit-per-channel video, one that, as far as I can see, has never been demonstrated before.


Photoshop's little buddy: ImageReady
The simplest method for bringing an image sequence into Photoshop CS2 is by way of Photoshop's companion, ImageReady. Although ImageReady is a capable application in its own right, it lacks some of Photoshop's more advanced features--such as lack of support for 16-bit images, lack of a full-featured paint engine, etc.--and so it's likely that many of you haven't considered it for much more than saving Web graphics or creating simple rollovers. But it can be used as an intermediary for the task at hand, namely getting our video into Photoshop for frame by frame manipulation.

There are two ways to do this.

Option 1: Import an image sequence. You can import a numbered image sequence into ImageReady in the same way as many other programs out there. In order to do this, you fist export your animation from your motion graphics program or NLE as an image sequence. (The process for this, of course, varies by application.) You can always also fall back on Apple's QuickTime Pro to export an image sequence using File > Export > Movie to Image Sequence.

When you have your image sequence ready, you can import it in ImageReady by choosing File > Import > Folder as Frames. You then use the Open dialog that pops up to locate the folder containing your sequence.



Your sequence will be automatically arranged as an animated file.



Option 2: Import QuickTime. But, if you wish, there's another option. It gives you a few more import options, but it also takes longer initially to set up. This option is to import a QuickTime file directly. To do this, within ImageReady, choose File > Open. Then locate your QuickTime file. You can open it just like any other type of file format that ImageReady supports.



Once you do this, a new dialog will open up, giving you further options. You can choose to import the entire movie or just a selected range of the movie. You can also opt to skip every N number of frames in the import process (from every other frame to every 50th frame).



Getting from here to there
Now that you have your movie imported, it's a simple matter to bring it into Photoshop. (Once again, remember that this can only be done in Photoshop CS2.) To do it, just go to the Tools palette in ImageReady and click the "Edit in Photoshop" button down at the bottom.



Your file will then open up in Photoshop, complete with animation frames all set up for you. (The process of jumping from ImageReady to Photoshop with an animated file will take about three seconds per frame for SD footage.) Below you see the file in Photoshop with the animation set up.



Exporting the finished project
Once you have the video in Photoshop, you can manipulate it however you want. (We'll get into some techniques in the future. Be sure to drop me a line if you have any particular questions about what you can or can't do to animations in Photoshop.) When you're done, you'll need to get it back into a format that your motion graphics application can understand. There are two ways to do this.

The first method is simply to export the layers--which correspond to frames in the animation--out to individual files in sequence that you can then reassemble in your motion graphics application or NLE. To do this, simply choose File > Scripts > Export Layers to Files. In the dialog that pops up, select the file format you want to use, and make sure you do not check the "Visible Layers Only" option.



The second option is to take your animation back to ImageReady and then export it directly as a QuickTime movie. To do this, in Photoshop, click the "Edit in ImageReady" button at the bottom of the Tools palette. Once in ImageReady, choose File > Export > Original Document. When the dialog pops up, the default option will be to save it as a Macromedia Flash SWF file. But you can change this to QuickTime.



Once you hit the Save button, a compression dialog will pop up, allowing you to select from the standard QuickTime codecs and quality settings.



And that's it. Next time around, we'll take a look at bringing 16-bit images into Photoshop. If you have any questions in the meantime, be sure to visit me in our Adobe Photoshop forum by clicking here.


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Related Keywords:adobe photoshop, rotoscoping, importing video, animation, imageready, video, motion graphics, movie, quicktime, image sequences

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