Archives For Production

Cropping in Photoshop

February 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

This tutorial details how to crop a figure out and features a sports image.

So you have one part of a picture that you want to crop out from the rest, and you’ve heard Photoshop is the way to go, huh? 

Well, it is.  Here is quick how-to:

There are a lot of reasons to crop (or cut / rotoscope / remove) things, and it’s a fairly straightforward process. As a matter of fact, once you understand how to use a few basic tools, getting a great end-result is more about having patience than anything else.

Here’s the thing: A lot of the tutorials on this topic feature pictures with simple, solid backgrounds which allows for the use methods that aren’t very applicable in common situations. If you try and follow these you’ll end up with a lack of results and an abundance of frustration.

**cough, Magic Wand Tool, cough**

Anyway, let’s get started.

Step 1: Pick your pic.

In honor of the South Carolina Baseball Team pitching its first no-hitter since 1978 and LB Dantzler starting the year something like 23 for 21 with 26 homeruns (don’t worry about logic), I went over to and grabbed one of my good friend Juan Blas’s pictures.

Photo by Juan Blas

Photo by Juan Blas

There are a lot of uses for this technique, but sports are one of the best.  This specific picture is good because it presents a case where some of the figure’s edges are crisp:

Screen shot 2013-02-24 at 2.30.48 PM

While others are not:

Screen shot 2013-02-24 at 2.31.06 PM

It also (as I said before) gives us the challenge of cropping a figure who is not on a solid color background – if it was, you could check out the Magic Wand Tool or the ‘Content-Aware’ feature on Photoshop CS5 and later.

Step 2) Figure out what size you want your picture to be.

Sure, you can open your picture in Photoshop first, but then you typically have to deal with resizing the image to fit whatever project you’re working on after you’ve completed everything – and that’s just a pain.  For this project, I created a canvas that is 851 x 315 Pixels.

Why 851 x 315? That’s the size of a Facebook Timeline picture.

If you have a large picture (ideal), Photoshop will automatically size that photo to fit your canvas – don’t let it do that yet.  Expand the file by pressing the ‘v’ key to select the ‘move tool’ (most of the world knows this as a pointer), clicking on the edge of the picture, holding down the ‘shift’ key to keep your proportions intact, and dragging. Once you have the size you are looking for, click anywhere else and allow it to apply the transformation.

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there.

Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The next step is to duplicate your layer by right-clicking on it and hitting ‘Duplicate Layer’ – then click the eye symbol next to that new layer to hide it. It’s a good idea to always have an unedited layer hidden, just in case you want to start over.

Step 3) Resist the urge to grab the ‘Eraser Tool’

Step 4) The third tool from the top is called the ‘Lasso Tool’, click that and hold…then select the ‘Polygonal Lasso Tool’.

Step 5) Cropping the ‘crisp’ areas of an image.

Zoom in on your figure, and I mean WAY in (use Command and then the ‘+’ button on a Mac), and begin selecting the edge of your figure.  Carefully draw around the edges for a few seconds, then zoom out.

Selected area of your composition

Selected area of your composition

Select away from your figure, then go back to where you started.  Once you connect that Polygonal Lasso Tool (look for the little circle that appears when you’re close to clicking on the exact spot you started) it will select that area (show on left).

Hit ‘delete’ (note: if it says the area is ‘not directly editable’, right click on that layer and hit ‘rasterize layer’, then hit delete.)

This creates a crisp, sharp edge

If you run out of image, hit ‘v’ on your keyboard to select the Move Tool, then drag the image around until you see the next area you want to crop.

Think of your canvas as a window – it offers you just a little bit of visibility, but you know there is more out there.

Step 6) Cropping the ‘very blurry’ areas of a figure (bat).

This is a challenge because using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, with its edges currently set at such a sharp level, looks odd.

Just cropping around a blur leaves a harsh, unnatural edge.  No bueno.

Just cropping around a blur leaves a harsh, unnatural edge.

Using 'Refine Edges' to feather the harsh edge

Using ‘Refine Edges’ to feather the harsh edge


Better. Take the 'Blur Tool' to the edges of your object for further improvement.

Better. Take the ‘Blur Tool’ to the edges of your object for further improvement.

What you want to do is select the area you want to crop out, and then hit the ‘Refine Edges’ button.  Play around a little with the settings in there and you will immediately see what this can do (or I can just tell you it, basically, gives you a lot of control over edge feathering).

I’m not covering it in this tutorial, but the Refine Edges component of Photoshop also works great for figures with a lot of hair (or blades of grass, trees branches, etc…), particularly the ‘Radius’ trigger.

Step 7) Cropping the ‘slightly blurry’ areas of a figure (arms).

For these areas, cut them out using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, then grab the ‘Blur’ tool – it’s the one that looks like a rain drop.  Set the strength to about 20% and trace along the edge of the figure; this will reduce those harsh edges.


–       If you need help understanding the tools, click here.

–       If you really want this to be perfect, put the figure over a solid black or white background, then fine tune.

Questions? Comments?  Tweet at me: @JustinKing224

– Justin

The University of South Carolina takes its baseball VERY seriously.

So when the call came in asking if I was interested in creating something meant to excite everyone just before each game at Carolina Stadium, I knew I had a challenge on my hands. Some e-mails and calls were exchanged and a few days later I knew exactly what I was up against:

  • Explain the Gamecocks history of success
  • Establish the presence of new head coach Chad Holbrook
  • Show the skills of the players on the current roster
  • Create the traditional 2001 sequence in a visually impressive manner that added to the scene without overpowering it
  • Do all of this in about 1:45

I find it critical to establish goals whenever I begin working on a new project. Goals help me know where the project needs to go and help me decide how I need to utilize the three primary tools (audio, copy, video) I have at my disposal to take it there.


Adobe Premiere Timeline

Sometimes…when I finish a project…I sit back and think to myself, “I’m not sure how I managed to make it through that..but it was awesome.”

Song hunting is often the most difficult part of the entire process. I usually start with about 10-15 songs I think could work, eventually being picky enough to work my way down to 3-5.  From there, I use the creative process that works for me personally: I put those 5 songs on my iPod and I blast them on repeat while I go for a run. During that time I picture how the video could work to each song over-and-over; each time refining it a little bit more until I see a clear picture of the direction each song would take me.

Once I have that ‘this is it’ moment, I have my song.

This specific video presented the unique challenge of requiring a song that would excite, but didn’t have that ‘I’m finished’ feeling. After all, it is an INTRO video…the game itself is the real entertainment.


“History doesn’t end, it just adds a new chapter.”

When I wrote that down (after about 10 other versions that didn’t work for one reason or another), I knew I had a winning line. Not only did it work in the context of the music, but it effectively established the pride of Gamecock Nation (you likely wouldn’t mention your history if you weren’t proud of it), and let the world know that Coach Holbrook had arrived.

I’m pretty sure this is the first video I have ever created that only required 9 words to establish everything I needed.


The first step was exactly what you might think – I literally scrubbed (editing term for scanned) through all of the games I had at my disposal and located any and all highlights that I could even possibly use. During this process my attention span was something like an annoying dog.

You know, the kind of dog that keeps running away and requiring you to go chase it down and drag it back home.

Immediately following the process of scrubbing highlights was another process that went something like this:  cut, paste, crop, trace, render, yell, draw, render, cut, rinse, repeat.

Before I knew it (lack of sleep will do that…) a video was born!


“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

– Randy Pausch


Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Are you ready?

South Carolina takes on Michigan in the Outback Bowl on January 1st.

Editing Lesson #1

December 23, 2012 — Leave a comment
 There are quite a few books/lessons out there that detail all the “rules” and “theories” of editing. Some of them you really can learn a few things from, but I have yet to find one that really details the more important parts.

Anyone can learn to push this button and enter this number, but learning how to make a complete composition is entirely different and takes a different type of lesson. I am striving to write some of those lessons now.

Step 1: Understanding Why

If you have any desire at all to learn to edit there is one major hurdle you need to climb first; understanding why.

I am talking about understanding why you edit. Why do you place this clip after the other, why does this audio work here and not somewhere else, and (most importantly) why you are even bothering to put this piece of work together in the first place.

Lets start with the 3rd part first, since it is the most important.

You are editing because you are a storyteller. You are out to use the tools in front of you to evoke emotion in other people. Monetary payment should always be less important than the satisfaction of knowing that what you created has given others some type of emotional reaction after they have watched/listened to it.

If you want to edit to make money, or to get your name out there for public recognition then you are wasting your time reading this because you will never have the drive necessary to become a great storyteller and as such you shouldn’t be an editor.

The 1st and 2nd part can really be answered in one word: flow.

It is all about how things flow in editing.

Keeping your story flowing is about starting on the right path. Think your story out before you actually start the process and even though it might change as you are working you will always have that “base path” to go back to and go full circle with.

Knowing how to make things flow is the hardest part about editing and storytelling in general. You can’t learn it from a book, you can just learn it from watching and imagining.

I always attribute my development in storytelling to how I would imagine making music videos to my favorite shows back in elementary and middle school. Over and over I would picture this piece in my head (always with a specific song) and each time I would refine it a little bit.

For some unknown reason that is how it worked for me.

For others it is watching and imitating (I did a lot of that too).

When you see a scene in a movie that you really like, break it down! Don’t just say that was really good, ask yourself WHY that was really good. Was it the music? The acting? A combination of things? Take the scene apart mentally and study how and why the story was shown.

That is essentially the first step. It is a lot easier to write than it is to do.

Script-notes version of this lesson:

– You have to want to tell a story to be a good editor
– You have to know how to make things flow
– In order to know how to make things flow, you have to understand WHY things flow