View Full Version : Adv. Photoshop Help - 90k layers - Smart objects - stack modes

Jan 17, 2012, 02:17 PM

So I have a real challenge and need help figuring out the logistics of how to get it to work sensibly.

I'm trying to visually show the movement through a space (which will later be generated into a 3d form etc..)

To do this I think the best way would be to use photoshops smart objects - Stack modes - "Range"


Range basically shows everything that has moved between the layers.
If you import a video frames into layers in photoshop, make them a smart object and apply the range stack mode it shows peoples movement and where they walk.

So thats what I'm going to do unless there is a better way to do this in something like after effects or premiere pro that I don't know about?
- I've done the photoshop way before and it worked very well - but on a very small scale.

I have a 30 minute video recording (considering longer but not sure if its viable), it was shot on a tripod and seems ok but can always do it again differently if needed!

The video was shot at 1920 x 1080 50fps which with 30 minutes (1800 seconds) makes 90,000 frames total for the video.

The problem
I need the info from ALL the frames - any less and the movement is too 'choppy' and isn't very useful.

So how can I make use of 90,000 frames/layers in a smart object for the range stack mode?!

I heard photoshop has a layer limit of 8k.
I have access to 6 high spec brand new mac pros (not 100% sure of the spec).

I'm thinking the solution would be use scripts and break it down into manageable chunks then flatten then merge them together.

Possible Solutions
1. Merging frames from each second or few seconds and then blending - not sure what blend mode I would use and also not sure if it would affect results

2. chop the image down into sections, process each section, flatten and merge together. for example split it into 4 quarters. - Don't think this will help, its more the limits in layers than anything else

3. Find an alternative method to deliver the image such as after effects.

on a side note I know I could have done a long exposure, done many before, but they don't really show movement, they simply blend the frames. The downside of long exposures for this exercise is that things could cancel each other out, for example; a man with a white top on walks past then a man with a black top walks past, these would cancel each other out to some degree.

The Range smart stack mode is brilliant because it directly shows movement and people don't cancel others out.

Correct me if I'm wrong with any of this and please let me know if you can help at all :)

Jan 17, 2012, 03:42 PM
Heres an example of 500 layers from frames at 50 fps.
I think I moved the camera a little though, hence the white outline on everything.

(I'll add the attachment in a minute)

Jan 17, 2012, 04:02 PM
I think After Effects will be better for this than Photoshop. I am not sure what your trying to accomplish (sounds like something to do with z-depth) but with such a large number from frames and since it is motion, this is the way I would go.

If you can explain a bit better what you are trying to do I may be able to help you further.

Jan 17, 2012, 04:50 PM
Thanks, I've uploaded an example for what the Smart Object - Stack mode - "range" does.

It basically only shows the things that have moved, i.e. the movement of people through a place.

I want the final image to show this, i.e. white = walked on regularly, black = walked on rarely or none.

In the example I think I moved the camera slightly hence the white outline on everything that should be black.

Also lighting changing affects this but not so bad.

Jan 17, 2012, 05:30 PM
I suppose it depends on whether or not you need to actually show the motion of people walking in the areas, or just a representation of where people walked.

If you need to actually show the people walking, then maybe you just play the footage and track a few people and leave a colored overlay where they walk. If not, then just show the footage with a colored matte and some masks for the telephone poles, etc. Either way, I would use After Effects.

I have never messed with "range" in PS, but if it is something that you can set up an action for and just do batches, that may be the way to go for you.

Good luck either way! :D

Jan 17, 2012, 05:47 PM
Since the range feature only shows the information I want to show, i.e. not the space, just the areas of intense footfall and the areas of no footfall.

For context the final thing has to be something that doesn't change in time, i.e. not a video but an image or model. This image will then be skewed a bit so its a plan view. It will then be used for another script in a 3d package like rhino which will create a number of points in space, the x and y axis being the location in plan view and the Z axis being the value of the pixel. I will then generate a solid form from the points and then smooth it out a lot so I should end up with a 3d wave model directly generated from the movement of people through the site. I will then architecturally design the form into spaces etc... This will form the surface of my final project :)

I think photoshop's range mode will be best but the big concern I would like to know if whether it has to be done in one big step or whether I can break it down into more manageable chunks and then build it up from there to create the same final image that range blending 90,000 layers at once would create.

Can anyone help with this and suggest any ways of breaking it down that wouldn't affect the final result?



and thanks again YESimBLUNTED :)

Mac Kiwi
Jan 17, 2012, 07:05 PM
Have you tried the Adobe forums? THey often have the software engineers cruising around in the background.....sometimes they pop into a thread and help sort things out / tell you if something is possible.

Jan 17, 2012, 08:33 PM
I'm totally lost OP to what you are trying to do.

Forget about the technical details with smart objects/frames/etc what is the effect you are trying to achieve?

Jan 18, 2012, 03:44 AM
I'm totally lost OP to what you are trying to do.

Forget about the technical details with smart objects/frames/etc what is the effect you are trying to achieve?

I want the final image to show this, i.e. white = walked on regularly, black = walked on rarely or none.

A final image to show movement through the area.
Lighter where people walk more often and darker where people walk less often

Jan 18, 2012, 09:10 AM
You should definitely be able to do it in chunks. Make however many files using however many frames and then put all those files in one .psd document and change the opacity on each. You would just be having multiple layers (probably smart objects) and just layer each one on top of each other, changing the opacity of each to suit what your trying to achieve. 90,000 frames or 9 frames it wouldn't matter.

Do what you did in the pic above and just layer those on top of each other and you should get the same result with your info showing where the people are walking.