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Retro multilayered photo effect

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Chris Chalklen
Retro multilayered photo effect
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:27:27 am

I'm trying to replicate a 60's style multilayered photo effect for a photo montage in a documentary. I'm aiming for the imperfections and roughness, similar to this scene in Citizen Kane -

This seems like it should be simple, just blend photos over one another, but it all looks too clean. Any suggestions?

Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

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Jonan Grobler
Re: Retro multilayered photo effect
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:20:39 pm

That's a classic sequence! Before giving any tips I would have to note the sequence is very carefully planned out - the lightbulbs flashing, the specific portions the chose to fade through etc - which is really what sells it.

To get a more retro effect:

- I'd add some wiggle on all the layers (I assume you know what wiggle is?);

- use masks that expand with a very soft feather, as the shots are fading across, as is seen in the example above;

- scaling up the shots as you're fading them across would also help (if you aren't zooming already in the shot, that is);

- adding a brightness & contrast and applying subtle wiggle to the amounts;

- and, if you really want to go retro, do a google search for a free grain texture and overlay that with an "add" blend mode, maybe dropping its opacity so it's a subtle effect.

Honestly, I think just some wiggle on position of the frames would sell the effect. Try that and see how you like it. ;)

Jonan Grobler
Editor/Motion Graphics

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Jeff Kay
Re: Retro multilayered photo effect
on Jun 13, 2014 at 3:15:31 am
Last Edited By Jeff Kay on Jun 13, 2014 at 3:18:34 am

Please don't use film grain, its incredibly overused. If you do use it, make it as subtle as possible. If you do use it, don't use a free one, those are immediately recognizable, create one yourself (or at least modify an existing one such that it isn't recognizable). But don't use a film grain, as the end result typically doesn't look retro, it looks like you are trying to look retro.

Wiggle should go a long way. I'd have to try it to know for sure the particulars. Try making the wiggle so subtle that you only notice it when you are specifically looking for it. Also try it with the effect posterized so that rather than it moving smoothly it jumps, not sure if you'd want to set it to check every frame, ~24 times a second (simulate film frame rate), or some other rate (posterizing might not work at all, just an idea).

Though I think the biggest thing is going to be your color. Everything from back then was done on film which is going to have differences compared to digital. I'm not specialized in coloring, so I have no specific advice, but I do feel that getting your footage to look more like film than digital will go farther than the wiggle.

I'd consider putting in a cigarette burn at the end of the sequence. That might be too tacky.

I think the difference between something looking retro and something trying to look retro are in subconscious effects, as in things that affect the viewer, but the viewer is not consciously aware of. Most all viewers won't notice the wiggle, or the difference in film and digital, but will view it as "not quite right" when absent or apparent.

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