Watch: Edinburgh animator brings vintage photographs to life in incredible new videos
The Living Pictures Project brings the city's past to life in a series of glorious short animated films.
A hugely talented local filmmaker and animator has brought old Edinburgh photographs to life, using modern technology to showcase what Auld Reekie would have been like over a century ago.
Steven Jefferies shot to fame with his incredible Game of Thrones Edinburgh animation in 2014, and afterwards approached several Edinburgh-focused social media groups to try and build excitement and share it with fans of George RR Martin's hit fantasy franchise.
David McLean, co-founder of the hugely popular nostalgia site Lost Edinburgh, was so impressed with Steven's GoT animation, he asked him if he'd be interested in working with them using his 3D skills.
“When David asked if I'd be interested in doing something with him, 3D-visualising old Edinburgh, I thought it was an incredibly interesting idea,” says 34-year-old Steven.
“Around that time, there was an incredible video doing the rounds online where some old photos of New York City had been brought to life and made into a short film set to a classic American music soundtrack.
“I persuaded my boss at the time to let me do an animated shot of a 1956 Lost Edinburgh featured photo as a side project.
“Initially, my intention was to produce a proof of concept and a demo of the expertise the studio had to offer.
“David at Lost Edinburgh told me he was really impressed with the results – but the one criticism he had was that the image wasn’t old enough.
“So then I did a second one, really winding back the clock – all the way back to 1878.”
Steven, from Newcraighall, then changed jobs and moved house and his ‘The Living Pictures Project’ was put on the back-burner.
“I returned to it about a year later and created two more shots. Then life got in the way and I became busy with other work again.”
Lockdown gave Steven the time he needed to return to the project and finally finish it.
Asked how the end result was achieved in his incredible animation, he says: “I’ve developed several digital techniques to create these clips. Part of it is a form of rotoscoping, used in conjunction with a lot of photoshopping and asset replacement.
“The details in the shots derive from the original image, but anything that needed motion had to be removed and replaced with a 3D asset that could be animated.
“That meant creating and placing 3D assets and FX such as people, horses, vehicles, rivers and so on.”
Steven says he had great fun making the old Edinburgh animation, and he'd love to do more of this sort of thing in future.
“It really was a lot of fun to do,” he says. “I always have a project on the go, and I'm always open to trying new things.”
David, who runs the Lost Edinburgh Facebook page, says what Steven has done in bringing the city's past to life is marvellous.
“We've shared many of the transitions on the Lost Edinburgh page and they've gone down a treat with followers – they can't get enough of this kind of thing,” he says.
“The vignettes, while relatively short, are the result of weeks of careful and meticulous blending and transitioning and it's just wonderful to see the finished products.
“As a concept, the Living Pictures Project shows a lot of promise and we hope to see Steven build on this idea in the future.”
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