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Draw On Photo Animation

By: Joseph Johnson

For one of our course production projects,  the instructor asked us to have an image of an overpopulated slum

Dhaka, Bangladesh

turned into this animated drawing to illustrate (no pun intended) his lecture about the correlation between water sanitation and disease outbreaks.

We used a couple of applications to conquer this task:  Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro.  Not having been asked to do an animation this complex before, we found a handy tutorial from Rob Mize at MaxiMizeMedia that I used as a basis for our approach.

First a new composition layer was created with the slum photo of Dhaka, Bangladesh that we downloaded from the newly implemented Duke Image Library from 123RF.  The instructor requested that we have the photo “draw on” then pull out and dissolve to the color image.

Scaling an image is often problematic as a high resolution image is necessary for clarity.  A lot of poorly researched television shows and films often give the false impression that as you zoom into an image, things can magically be shown in more detail.  Unfortunately, the reality is the exact opposite.  As you zoom into a low resolution image, quality degrades as you’re only stretching (and in some case falsely replicating) preexisting pixels.

Fortunately, the Duke Image Library image has images at high enough resolutions that scaling wasn’t a problem.  Ironically the problem I encountered WAS the huge size.  As I stated before, we start zoomed in and pull back.  The whole high resolution image had to be traced.

To prep the slum image for the animated trace, I first created a layer in After Effects then applied the “Cartoon” effect.  This created a pop art image.  In the Effect Controls I turned off the “Fill” leaving only the outlines which I tweaked to make thicker for rendering purposes.  I then Auto Traced the layer…and my computer crashed (5k Retina Display iMac, 32 Gig 1600MHz DRR3 RAM, 4 GHz Intel Core i7 processor)

Because of the huge amount of data information in the image, my computer couldn’t handle the thousands of paths that were to be created.  I fortunately found a workaround.  I imported the picture into Photoshop and separated it into four quadrants that I then exported.  I brought THESE back into After Effects and isolated them in four separate compositions, repeated the aforementioned steps and viola, I had four images with traced path layers.

I then applied the “Stroke” effect to these layers and key framed the paths to animate on sequentially.  I wrapped up the After Effects work by combining all the layers in one nested composition that I output into a QuickTime file, staggering the appearance of the drawn layers to appear from the bottom quadrants first (as that is where the zoom begins.)

I then brought the animation into Final Cut Pro where I placed and zoomed out on the original photo and placed the imported animation on top to match the underlying motion.  To finish the sequence, I dissolved away the animation at the end of the move.  I then placed the exported graphs on top of the image after the move to finish the requested transition!


Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 2.43.45 PM

Over all it was challenging but fun. Feel free to contact me about this if you have any questions about the process (or comments about your own approach) post them and I’ll respond!”

Categories: Video Production

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