3D Pan and Zoom Effect

The other day I was watching a documentary on The History Channel about a conspiracy theory surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Throughout the documentary they would show old photos and as they panned across or zoomed into them, it created the great 3D effect where the subject seemed move separately from the background of the photo. I thought it was really cool and since I fancy myself as an occasional creator of picture slideshows, I wanted to learn this method.

My initial thought was to do a Google search for “how do you do that thing to a photo where the background moves separately from the foreground,” but decided to go with “videography picture pan zoom 3D effect.” The actual terms I’ve been able to find for this particular effect are the 3D scan and pan effect, the 3D zoom effect and the 3D Ken Burns effect (if you know the official name of this effect, please leave a comment). A few scrolls and a couple clicks later I came across an amazing video tutorial for creating Virutal 3D Photos at VideoCopilot.net.

Here is a photo I took of the steeple at St. Raphael Catholic Church in my hometown of Springfield, Ohio that I used to experiment with:

Steeple of St. Raphael Catholic Church in Springfield, Ohio

As explained in the tutorial, I divided the elements of my photo into separate layers using Photoshop (in this case, I created separate layers for the steeple, archway and sky). I then imported my recently created Photoshop project (.psd file) into After Effects, applied depth to each layer, then set the panning direction. Afterwards, I ended up with this video which I made into a cinemagraph (the GIF’s below are kind of heavy so I apologize for the load time):

The result is this incredible illusion of depth within the photo as it pans. This one is a bit rough but I got the basic steps down so I’ll definitely be using this method more often. To give you an idea of how visual this methods makes a photo, here is the same picture panned in the same direction without the 3D effect:

I’m very impressed with this effect. The only downside is that creating this effect can be extremely time consuming but I think the results are definitely worth the work. And in case anyone from The History Channel is reading this, if you’re in need of someone that can utilize the 3D pan and zoom effect on historic photos, I’m your guy!

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