Auto Begone

For today’s CS3 new feature on the hit-parade (which I reckon will take me straight through June, at least, with the new stuff in the video suite Production Premium alone) we look at something we’ve done with the most widely used software tool in the world of video and film production, Adobe Photoshop.

The new Photoshop CS3 Extended lets you work with video (opening video files directly and painting on each frame i.e. rotoscoping, for example) and that includes extracting frames from video clips and achieving some pretty neat still imagery from ‘em.

Take this example, shown to me recently by my esteemed colleague Russell Brown. We’ve got some video of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from a tripod without any panning or zooming (i.e. “locked down”).

First thing is to go to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. Then navigate to your video file and open it. You’ll be presented with this dialog.


In this example I was able to achieve good results importing every 5 frames. For the effect you’re about to see unfold that’s all we’re gonna need.

Next, you’ll see a bunch of new layers in your newly created PSD, each containing a frame of video.


You’ll need to group them into a Smart Layer, so go to Select > All Layers and then Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. You’ll see everything collapse into a single Smart Object in your Layers Panel.

Then, go to Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median. The new Stack Mode feature in Photoshop CS3 Extended analyzes an image stack (such as the one that you just created) and gives a result depending on the mode you select. In this case, the Median does more-or-less a pixel averaging of the entire stack of images, and delivers an “average image”. Well, maybe that’s not the best way to put it. Here’s what I got:


I got rid of the cars. Imagine getting a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in daylight hours without any cars. No freaking way that’s ever gonna happen. So using this new Photoshop CS3 Extended feature, along with locked-down video, I was able to get a still image that would’ve taken me eons to create if I had to paint out all those cars by hand. Now, granted, there’s some stuff still at the top of the road there, but that’ll take minutes, or an hour at the most if you’re sleep deprived like me, to paint away using the Clone Tool, Healing Brush, etc…