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Pan-and-Zoom Software

One of the most powerful video effects you can add to a project is a technique in which you zoom in or out, and pan across still photos. For instance, if you're producing a documentary-style movie for a client about the history of his business, there are probably old photographs that would add a lot of visual interest to the video. A smooth pan or a slow zoom creates a more interesting visual than using static shots of the photos.

This technique, popularized by the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, is even named the “Ken Burns Effect” in iMovie. While most of the popular, mainstream editing software programs let you create this effect, software that specializes in creating pans, zooms and rotation of stills may give you an extra measure of control and allow you to use larger images so you can zoom in closer without image quality deterioration.

MovingPicture (Macintosh and Windows)

StageTools MovingPicture (shown below) makes smooth pans and zooms of still images. It's available both as a plug-in called MovingPicture (about $200) for most of the popular NLEs (nonlinear editors) and as a stand-alone application called MovingPicture Producer (about $200). A “Rotation” option can be added to either version for an extra $69. MovingPicture allows you to use extreme-zooms on images up to 8,000 x 8,000 pixels without the pixelation that you usually see when you enlarge an image so much.

To create a pan-and-zoom effect:

Load an image into MovingPicture.

Drag the yellow box (the camera view) to a position where you want to start the movie. Make the box larger or smaller by dragging its bottom-right corner.

Click the “Keyframe” icon beneath the “Viewer” window to create the starting point.

Click on a point in the Timeline where you would like to create the next keyframe (the next significant move in the animation), then size and position the yellow box over the image to create the desired camera view at the current keyframe position.

To set the keyframe, click the “Keyframe” icon beneath the “Viewer” window. Add more keyframes if needed.

Use the player controls beneath the “Viewer” to preview the results of your settings.

Image Size Tip

While MovingPicture is capable of handling very large images, up to 8,000 by 8,000 pixels, working with an extra-large image requires a lot of processing power and can slow down the performance of your computer. In most cases, an image 1,000 to 2,000 pixels wide is as large as you need for high-quality zooms.

Another pan-and-zoom application is Photo to Movie, made by LQ Graphics, for Windows only. It costs $20.

The composite example below shows how the camera view changed in the Viewer when the bottom-right corner of the yellow box was dragged to resize it for three different keyframes.

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