The ProShow Blog

Tips, tutorials & inspiration for making slideshows

Create a Moving Clouds Effect in ProShow Producer

Today’s guest post comes from multimedia producer, Paul Sparrow. His recent video ‘The Rockies‘ spurred a ton of questions from readers about how the ‘moving clouds’ trick was created. Paul shares the step-by-step instructions on how to re-create this effect in your own slideshows below.

When producing an AV show I always consider how the first minute of the production will effect the audience. No matter what kind of show you’re doing it should have a strong opening…something that will “grab” the audience.

In my recent production “The Rockies” which highlights the awesome power of the Canadian mountain range, I wanted to start the show with some striking black & white imagery of the mountain peaks with low lying cloud banks to draw the viewer into the show.

The shots themselves were dramatic on their own but I decided to add some movement in the clouds that were drifting over the hills in the distance, to add that sense of dynamics to the otherwise static imagery. This necessitated using a number of techniques in ProShow Producer as well as Photoshop to accomplish the believable but subtle movement. Here’s how it was done.

Start with a Base Layer

Figure 1

In ProShow Producer, I started out with my “base layer” which was an image that had trees in the foreground behind which had low lying clouds rolling over the mountains in the distance. For my “animated” layer I added a second image on top that had similar clouds that would act as the “moving” bank of clouds.

The trick was to make the cloud layer appear as if it were moving in the distance “behind” the foreground trees to make the effect convincing.

Create a Mask in Photoshop

Figure 2

First I had to create a mask in Photoshop of the base layer tree line image.

I used a variety of “feathering” and “painting” techniques to create a blending of the masked area so it would transition nicely to the unmasked area, which in turn would reveal the moving cloud bank.

Add a Masking Layer in Producer

This file was saved as a jpeg and now in Producer was added on top of the cloud layer as a “Mask Layer”. The resulting effect was to “hold back” the foreground and trees so the moving clouds would not show over this area.

Pan the Layer to Create Movement

Figure 4
Using Producer’s motion keyframing feature, I added a left to right pan on the cloud layer to give the appearance of moving clouds drifting behind the foreground trees.

But even though this layer was “masked”, to prevent it showing overtop of the trees on the layer below, the effect was still not as convincing as I’d like. Because this layer was opaque by default the moving clouds completely covered those that were in the layer below.

One way to alter this would be to change the “opacity” of the moving cloud layer so that the layer below would partially show through. But that would have created the effect of “transparent” clouds that were not at all realistic.

What I was after was a blending of some of the clouds in this moving layer with the static clouds in the layer below so you would see some moving clouds and some static clouds that would create the appearance of clouds at various distances moving at different rates.

Use Chroma Key to Finish Off the Effect

Figure 5
To accomplish this I altered how the densities of the moving cloud layer blended with the static layer below. This was done through the use of the “Chroma Key” option in Producer which allowed me to alter which tones would register and which would not. I could keep the moving cloud layer at 100% opacity but “knock out” the darker tones, allowing only the lighter tones of the moving layer to reveal themselves.

This ultimately gave the appearance of one bank of clouds moving over the mountains in front of the another bank of clouds to create the subtle effect of various clouds moving past each other as you might see when they roll over the mountains.

Watch The Rockies video in its entirety here.

Copyright Paul Sparrow 2014


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Amanda works in Photodex's marketing department and heads up the company's pr and events efforts. She loves photography, living in Austin and making slideshows.