Rotoscoping

 

Rotoscoping refers to an animation process in which frames from traditionally-photographed film are printed individually, each individual print is hand-painted, colored or drawn upon, and then rephotographed as traditional animation. The effect has been around for a long time, though I first remember seeing it in Yellow Submarine (the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds dancers sequence was rotoscoped).

There are a number of paint programs around that can take a single image and apply an "artistic," "painted" or "drawn" effect. These include PhotoEdit, which comes free with Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and my personal favorite, Paint Shop Pro which also has a nice plug-in called Virtual Painter (Virtual Painter will work in Photoshop as well)..

To add a rotoscope effect to your videos, you'll need a program that will break an AVI file into individual frames so that you can apply the "artistic" effect in your paint program. I'm told that VirtualDub can do this, as well as Irfanview, both of which are freeware programs. Animation Shop, that comes free with Paint Shop Pro, does this as well.

Rotoscoping using Adobe Premiere is very easy.  The program will let you export AVIs to Photoshop as filmstrips, which can then be manipulated en masse. However, not everyone has these two very expensive programs, and the memory consumed by the process is enormous -- on my 512M machine, I can only manipulate 5-10 second AVIs without running out of memory. I also found some odd anomolies in Photoshop when using the Virtual Painter plug-in (frame lines would appear to drift, the effect wasn't applied consistently, etc.). I wanted to find an alternative way to rotoscope without using these programs and without having to manipulate each frame one-by-one.

Here's the trick: an inexpensive shareware program called EZMacro, available from American Software. EZMacro is a keystroke/mouse move/mouse click recorder that lets you automate repetitive processes. You can download a demo of the program here:

 http://www.americansys.com/ezmacros.htm

The demo will run for 30 days. Registration is only $29.95.

Here's how to rotoscope using Animation shop and Paint Shop Pro:

Load the AVI into Animation Shop.
Turn on the macro recorder.
Right click on the first frame of the AVI and select, "Export to Paint Shop Pro." The computer will switch to Paint Shop Pro and the first frame will appear.

 

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  In Paint Shop Pro, click on effect, select the effect you like and click "okay." Paint Shop Pro will apply your chosen effect to the AVI frame.
Click on "window" and select close all. Paint Shop Pro will ask, "Do you want to update Animation Shop frame [avi filename] before closing"? Click yes. Paint Shop Pro will close, returning to Animation Shop, and the first frame will now appear with the Paint Shop Pro effect.
Click the right arrow button to move the second frame to the far left position, highlight the frame by clicking on it, and then end the macro by pressing the Pause key.
Now, using EZMacro, select "edit macro" and change the number of repetitions from 1 to the number of frames remaining in the AVI file.
Click "run." Go to the kitchen, have something to eat. While you're away, EZMacro will dutifully churn through each and every frame in your AVI until each one has had the chosen effect applied.
When the macro ends and all frames have been modified with the effect, highlight all frames and right click on one of them. Select "Frame Properties" and set the duration to 3/100ths of a second. This needs to be done for the modified AVI to run at approximately normal speed. When Paint Shop Pro updates the AVI in Animation Shop, it sets the duration to 10/100ths of a second, which results in a slow-motion effect.
Save the AVI and you're done. You've created a rotoscoped video without having to tediously modify each frame by hand. The process takes longer than the Premiere/Photoshop filmstrip technique, but has the advantage of being able to manipulate AVIs of virtually unlimited length.

Below are some examples.  Click on a picture below to see a 5-second clip in Windows Media Video format.  Each file is approximately 1 megabyte.

 
 
   
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