Lenticular printing is a specialized image process that uses bevelled lenses to create the illusion of depth or motion. Although the original process dates back to 1896, this process has come a long way.
I’ve been fascinated with lenticulars ever since I pulled one out of a Frosted Flakes cereal box in the 80’s. I could not understand how an image could move simply by the way that I moved it in my hand. Years later, I would be given the opportunity to design several of my own. One for Miller Genuine Draft. Looking back, that was almost 15 years ago:
Recently, a project came my way that required an animated solution not generated by a computer. So, to showcase the technique, I decided to design and produce a 3D Motion Portrait (in just one week). Impossible you say? Not if you have help and a whole lot of patience.
First, I sketched out some concepts that I wanted to explore. Understanding that I would need to think of this portrait as a video and not a photo. In fact, it’s more like traditional animation, relying on a series of sequential frames to tell the full story. And as you can see from this diagram below, the image changes depending on the angle that you view it.
Very spontaneously, I assembled an area in the garage to shoot in. And although upon first glance it doesn’t look like much, once we set up all of the lighting and props, we were able to get some great photos.
That’s how things work sometimes. You use what you have around you to get the best possible results.
Yes. My garage is orange. Yes. I painted it that colour on purpose.
This experiment required a face (one of my favourite ones in fact). My wife reluctantly volunteered to serve as the subject of this lenticular test project. The direction I gave her was to look into the camera as if she was making eye contact with someone in a positive way. Not a stretch for her, because that is how she has always been. This design needed to capture emotion as well as image.
The most time-consuming part of this stage was designing the lighting. Now I understand why movies take so long to make and require so many people. Timing the vector animation reflections with the motion of the camera also provided a unique set of challenges.
100 degree, semi-circle video was recoded in several passes. Vector Animated User Interface graphics were projected onto curved plexiglass that was placed between the camera and the model. This resulted in some interesting moving details.
The video was imported into Photoshop and edited into 72 individual frames. Each was carefully finessed to create the desired effect. This was the most challenging part of this stage. It tested my understanding of Photoshop and animation.
SOFTMOTION® produced a sample lenticular and was kind enough to courier it within days of receiving the file. In total, this entire project was conceived and created in less than a week. A real testament to teamwork.
* The final piece was rush delivered to me on Christmas Eve. Talk about Customer Service.
What was learned
This was my first test for this technique. My next attempt will be less motion and fewer frames. I’m going to concentrate on capturing the depth of the subject and spend more time on the lighting design. I want to get this right because I have a larger project in mind. This one was a trial. One that I learned a great deal from.
Look out for my follow up post in the new year.
*Special thanks to Guy at Softmotion for answering my questions and reacting to my requests so quickly.
Learn more about this process
photographer Dan Vojtěch