Walkthrough: 2.5D Effect Using Motion and Affinity Photo

Walkthrough: 2.5D Effect Using Motion and Affinity Photo

Note from Izzy: The format of this article is an experiment. We’re curious to hear whether you like it. Of course, we’ll continue to make videos (which is our main thing), but some folks prefer text which is why we gave this format a try. Let us know if you want more. :)

Now here’s Blake…

Several years ago, my dad showed me this crazy cool effect he used in a video. He took a still photograph of my mom and him in the desert and made it appear three dimensional.

They seemed to be separated from the desert background, and the camera moved to the side, showing depth between the two layers. It blew me away.

I’ve since learned that this effect is usually called 2.5D (pronounced “two and a half D”) because it’s not quite three dimensional. It’s more like arranging flat layers in a 3D space.

Anyway, I’ve started seeing this effect in other places (mainly documentaries), and it’s still just as cool to me now as it was back then.

It’s an alternative to the Ken Burns Effect and a great way to create visual interest. It has a similar slideshow appearance but now with depth.

Here is an example workflow to create this effect. We’ll use a combination of Affinity Photo and Motion.

First of all, this is a short video clip of the completed project:

Ready to get started? Let’s go…

Step 1: Open the picture in Affinity Photo.

There are two ways to do this: you can drag the image from The Finder onto Affinity Photo on the dock. You can also open Affinity Photo first and click File > Open… to load a photo.

Step 2: Duplicate the layer.

To separate the foreground from the background, you’ll need two layers. With the layer selected, you can duplicate it by right-clicking (or control-clicking) the layer and clicking on Duplicate in the menu.

Step 3: Choose the Selection Brush Tool.

Step 4: Select your foreground.

Click and drag across your foreground. As you do, you’ll see a dotted zebra line begin to automatically appear as Affinity Photo tries to figure out what you’re trying to select. It won’t be perfect probably. It will occasionally be off and you’ll accidentally get parts of the background in the selection. We’ll fix that in a moment.

You can use the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard to make the brush size bigger or smaller as needed.

Step 5: Refine the selection.

After you’ve done as much as you can using the Selection Brush Tool, before clicking Apply, click Refine… in the context toolbar. This will open up a new window and everything that you haven’t selected should turn red. This workspace is where you get to clean up your selection.

In the new window that has appeared, there are options for Matte, Foreground, Background, and Feather. Matte tells Affinity Photo to look at an area again to detect a selection. Painting with Foreground selected marks things as part of the selection. Background is the opposite. Feather smooths out the selection and is meant for cleaning up a selection.

Step 6: Click “Apply”.

Click “Apply” once you’re done creating your selection. This will leave the dotted zebra line.

Step 7: Invert the selection.

Go to Select > Invert Pixel Selection. This will select everything but the foreground.

Step 8: Delete the selection.

Press delete on the keyboard. If you turn off any layers underneath the foreground (by unchecking their boxes in the Layers window), you can see that your foreground is now completely separated from the background.

Step 9: Deselect.

Go to Select > Deselect to remove the dotted lines from the workspace.

Step 10: Turn off the foreground layer by unchecking its box.

Step 11: Click on the background in the Layers window.

Now that the foreground is ready, it’s time to work on the background.

Step 12: Select the Inpainting Brush Tool.

Step 13: Paint over the foreground once again.

The Inpainting Brush Tool is fantastic. Whatever you paint will be automatically removed by Affinity Photo. The goal is to create a background that will exist without the foreground you separated earlier. Since the image is going to be 3D, it would be weird if there were two foregrounds as the camera panned.

To paint with the Inpainting Brush Tool, simply click and drag. To change the brush size, use the left and right brackets as you paint. It’s important to hold down the mouse button as you paint or else the program will try to replace what you’ve painted over too early. If you’ve only painted part of the foreground, it might replace what you painted over with more foreground.

Step 14: Clean up the background.

Inpainting isn’t perfect. Sometimes weird details will show up because the software is using whatever details it can to fill in the background. This might create lines that look like creases on the image or just look like floating objects. Paint over these again and it will probably fix the issue.

Step 15: Turn off the background layer and turn on the foreground layer.

Step 16: Export the foreground as a .png.

Go to File > Export… and choose PNG as the file type. Click “export” and choose a filename like “Trinity Foreground.”

Step 17: Turn off the foreground layer and turn on the background layer.

Step 18: Export the background as a .png.

Go Go to File > Export… and choose PNG as the file type. Click “export” and choose a filename like “Trinity Background.”

Step 19: Open Motion.

Step 20: Create a new Motion Project.

Step 21: In Finder, select both images by dragging a box over them (or click one and shift-click the other).

Step 22: Drag the images to the workspace in Motion.

If the background ended up covering the foreground, click the foreground layer and drag it above the background. The foreground should be in front.

Step 23: Click New Object and click Camera.

Step 24: Choose “Switch to 3D”.

Step 25: Change the Camera View menu to Perspective.

Step 26: Click and drag the Orbit control to get a better grasp of the 3D space.

It might be hard to actually see the distance between the layers looking straight at them from the front. Moving to the side will help see how far apart they are.

Step 27: Select the group that contains both images.

Step 28: Click on the Inspector and go into properties.

Step 29: Increase scale.

We want to make the pictures really big. They should be bigger than what the camera can see. If not, edges might show up in the frame which is something we don’t want.

Step 30: Click on the foreground layer.

Step 31: Move the foreground towards the camera along the Z-axis.

There are a few ways to do this. You can set its specific position in the inspector or you can grab the blue arrow in the 3D window and move it forward. The former is much more precise but the latter is a bit faster.

Step 32: Click on the camera layer.

Step 33: Change the Camera menu to Active Camera.

Step 34: Choose a starting position for the camera.

Using the Inspector, change the X, Y, and Z position for the camera.

Step 35. Turn on keyframes for the position.

Step 36: Rotate the camera.

This should be very slight, a high rotation will be distracting and could also reveal edges of the images.

Step 37: Turn on keyframes for the rotation.

Step 38: Click the playhead and drag it to the end of the timeline.

Step 39: Move the camera.

Making any changes to the camera’s position will automatically create a keyframe on any of the parameters that change.

Step 40: Rotate the camera.

Like before, make sure the change isn’t too dramatic and that the edges don’t appear.

Step 41: Hit the space bar and watch the animation.

If you feel like the effect isn’t as obvious as you’d like, there are a few things you can do to make it more intense. Increasing the scale of the background and moving the foreground and camera further from it increases the sense of depth.

Step 42: Use Share in the menu bar to export the video using whichever settings you need.

There you have it: a completed 2.5D effect. This effect takes more time to create than the Ken Burns effect, but the results are so visually interesting, it just might be worth it.

17 thoughts on “Walkthrough: 2.5D Effect Using Motion and Affinity Photo

  1. I loved it, the step through works for me. I am no where near as young as I used to be ( memory issues), yet I still like to work with short videos. With this type of instruction I dont have to keep repeating the video. Kudo’s to your son, Thanks!

      1. Yes, me too! I’ve much enjoyed the videos over the years but for me this is even better. It’s a bit more work for you though….

  2. Photographers call that “bokeh.” You can achieve it by opening up your camera’s aperture as far as possible, which seems far easier than trying to achieve the same effect through software.

  3. Thanks for this tutorial. I’m becoming more comfortable with Affinity Photo. I’m afraid my old Photoshop won’t work after updating to High Sierra.

    I’m find with this written tutorial rather than a video tutorial.

    Just curious why you didn’t save as a layered Photoshop file and do the moves in Final Cut.

  4. Love your tutorial, Blake, I myself only use Affinity photo. Hoping apple lets you import directly into Motion and FCP X.

  5. Hi Izzy,
    This was very informative, especially the Affinity photo part, and Blake did a great job, but I prefer the video tutorials. That being said, a guide like this in addition to the video tutorial would be ideal, but that’s a lotta work.

  6. Hi Izzy

    Great work from Blake and although this is easy to follow, I do really prefer the video instruction format.

  7. Hello Izzy,

    I prefer the step-by-step-video-instruction. They give me a much better idea of what I am expected to do. So please don’t forget this form of instruction.

  8. I like the ability to step through the actions at my own pace without having to pause or rewind the video. And at the same time, the real time demonstration is very informative. In an ideal world, I would have both so I can watch the whole process and then easily step through them. My mind is already scheming up a workflow of taking a video tutorial and capturing stills and creating a transcription (or repurposing the script) and making a combo pack tutorial.

    1. Oh, and I just bought Acorn photo editor. It was on sale at 50% about $15 recently. Similar feature set although I don’t know if it can inpaint.

  9. I just finished going through the instruction and found I very much like this form. I too would like both but understand that time constraints could make it much more difficult.
    I did something similar in FCPX using the “Draw Mask” effect. I simply took a still and used Draw Mask to cut it out. Then placed the cutout and animated it over another background. Not quite as cool but a good first step.

    You are giving me ways to game up in several disciplines. Really great job Blake!
    I appreciate everything you and your family do Izzy.
    Thanks again

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