The New Media Standard: A Q&A with Gallereplay’s Marco Woldt

How a Berlin-based cinemagraph agency and marketplace is helping brands and creatives stand out.

The digital age is changing the way we view and react to visual imagery. Brands have to go beyond the stock photo to capture the attention of an audience accustomed to filter-heavy Instagram photos and 360-degree YouTube videos. Photographers, too, are now facing increased competition from…well, everyone.

The founding duo behind Gallereplay — filmmaker Marco Woldt and photographer and graphic designer Lydia Dietsch — believe cinemagraphs are a way to bring smart brands and talented creators into the light again. A type of photograph that contains a single repeatedly moving element, the cinemagraph is gaining momentum as an emotionally charged visual and powerful marketing tool.

Woldt is now utilizing his background in filmmaking to tell stories through cinemagraphs and, alongside Dietsch, curate a marketplace that contains work from some of the medium’s top creators around the world. We spoke with him about the importance of being visually outstanding, why Berlin is an ideal place for creative storytelling, and why having limited resources when starting a company can be a good thing.

What was it about cinemagraphs that made you want to found Gallereplay?

The medium was so captivating visually. Cinemagraphs, for one, are a technical innovation. It’s something we hadn’t seen before in this form. This combination of static, frozen elements that you have in photography, with really subtle motion. It’s elegant, it’s playful. A small amount of motion, as subtle as it may be, can evoke a lot of emotion when compared to static images. As creatives who were fascinated by the possibilities of what could be done by this medium – and I guess because it was still such a young medium and art form – we thought it could still be shaped. We could have an impact on the development of this medium.

When you first started, who were you working with in terms of clients?

We started building the site while we were still freelancing. We applied to Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator around June of last year. They loved our presentation and wanted us to be a part of the program. For us, that was the final little push we needed that made us say okay, we’re going to go for it. At that point, we decided to focus full-time on it. We registered the company that August and launched the same month.

Within a few weeks we had interest from the local scene. The first few productions we did were for FoodPanda and Factory. We’ve since worked with Mon Chéri— it was actually an agency that hired us to produce it. Those are the biggest brands we’ve worked with so far. We’ve also been approached by a couple bigger companies that we’re negotiating with now.

What are the benefits of using a cinemagraph?

Compared to static images, cinemagraphs have the advantage of being more engaging for obvious reasons. The human eye is drawn to motion. Cinemagraphs also do a good job of captivating people. They’re kind of hypnotic in a way, aren’t they?

Studies have shown that cinemagraphs are up to 60% more likely to be clicked than static images. What we’ve seen with Factory is that it can also dramatically increase session times. It does pull people in.

Why is it so important right now for growing companies to be outstanding with design and visuals?

As smartphones get better and better, as internet speeds increase, as data plans get more affordable, we are seeing an influx of visuals online. That has had a real impact on both marketing and brands, and also on creatives.

I’ll start with brands. I think Generation Y, millennials, whatever you call it — we’re confronted with visuals so regularly that we’ve become immune to classic stock imagery. That staged look of businessmen shaking hands, or the model family sitting on the sofa watching TV, it just doesn’t captivate us or evoke any emotion. We’ve grown accustomed to an authentic, stylized look, because everyone takes snapshots of their own lives and uploads them to various platforms. It seems our generation has an eye for design. I think that’s why we’re seeing a lot of brands experimenting with these new media formats, like 360-degree video and photo/video hybrids like cinemagraphs.

This has had a big impact on the creative community, as well. Anyone can be a photographer. It’s made life for professional photographers a little bit harder, especially in regard to stock. If you look at a site like Shutterstock, which now has something like 50 million images, the chances of your image actually coming up in a search and being purchased is like a needle in a haystack. A lot of artists that we sign tell us in our onboarding conversations that part of the reason they’re focusing on cinemagraphs is because it presents them with an opportunity to stand out from the masses – to offer something that not many can actually do, because it does take a different expertise. Cinemagraphs are giving photographers the opportunity to stand out among the masses of smartphone photographers.

How do you create a cinemagraph?

So you always need video, this is really crucial. The requirements are a camera that can shoot both photo and video, a tripod, and a good eye. You find your vantage point, frame your image using the tripod, you take a photograph, and then you take a video of maybe 10–20 seconds from that exact same vantage point. In post-production, you layer them on top of each other. Using what’s called a mask, you select the area you want to have move. Of course you need to make the loop perfectly so it gives off this illusion of being endless – a moment in motion.

“Cinemagraphs are giving photographers the opportunity to stand out among the masses of smartphone photographers.”

Do you have a favorite cinemagraph that you’ve done? Maybe one that tells an interesting story?

Yeah, I was in Cuba for Christmas. I had my camera with me, Cuba being renowned for its pastel colors and vintage cars. Walking around town I got this shot of a really dilapidated home that had this kind of shabby chic look. So imagine the building with these beautiful pastel colors, but sort of falling apart. And there was a man in front of the building and he was sweeping. I kind of liked the symbolism of it: even though this place is falling apart, he still did his best to maintain it and keep it clean.

I got talking to him after shooting, because he saw me with the camera and approached me. Funnily enough he spoke really good German — he taught himself German using a dictionary. We got into Cuban politics a little bit, and he was telling me about how the government is not doing anything to maintain the houses. He smokes cigarettes not to get hungry because he earns $8 a month working as a janitor in the park.

Often the best cinemagraphs are those that tell a story. Cinemagraphs are eye-catching, but when you see them on a daily basis the technical innovation wears off — and the ones that stand the test of time tell a story.

Do you find that Berlin really lends itself to these kinds of stories through cinemagraphs, it being a rapidly changing city?

Absolutely. It’s similar to photography. There are some extremely talented street photographers in Berlin at the moment. You just have to look at Instagram! As you said, it’s constantly changing and evolving. It’s a place of contradictions and diversity. It has so much to offer. In Friedrichshain, you have a neighborhood that looks very Soviet. Potsdamer Platz feels like you’re walking through any American metropolis. You go further West to Charlottenburg and it kind of has a Parisian feel to it. I like that diversity and versatility of Berlin, and I think that lends itself to photography and cinemagraph-making.

Big companies like Shutterstock have already started incorporating cinemagraphs into their services. What is your long term vision on how you’ll manage this competition?

We know that we can’t compete with the likes of Shutterstock in terms of mass. Frankly, we’re not even going to try to match them in terms of size. Our focus is very much on quality. We feel that there is room for improvement there. If you look at Shutterstock’s collection, of course they have some beautiful imagery, but it’s not consistently high [quality]. We handpick every creator and curate collections to ensure that when people come on our site, they really get this impression of an artistic, premium quality collection.

I think we’ve done well to recruit some of the leading cinemagraphers really shaping this medium. That puts us at an advantage when it comes to bigger brands who are looking to use cinemagraphs. The really big corporations have very high expectations visually. They need something really captivating and outstanding.

You have the marketplace, but you also do custom work. You have two channels you’re working with. Do you intend to continue it that way?

We do have these two different models: the stock marketplace and the agency/production service. Currently they work well together and go hand-in-hand. Because our collection is still growing and in its infant stages, sometimes people come to our site, look for a particular image and they don’t find exactly what they’re looking for. Then they have the possibility of reaching out to us and asking if we or one of our creators can produce it for them. Right now it’s a great way to satisfy the demand and grow the collection.

“Often the best cinemagraphs are those that tell a story.”

What’s been the biggest challenge for you coming from a film background and now creating a marketplace?

We’re two co-founders with limited resources, having to do about eight different jobs between us. A lot of these tasks that we do on a daily basis are things that we had to teach ourselves. The accelerator program went a long way in teaching us certain things; you know, we had almost daily workshops which were a big help. But ultimately, no one is going to hand it to you on a silver platter. You gotta go out there, watch tutorials, read, learn, and try to apply that knowledge. It’s exciting and you feel like you’re growing on a daily basis. Of course there are moments of frustration, and every entrepreneur faces these. You question certain things you do, but I think that’s normal.

Follow Gallereplay on Instagram for daily cinemagraph inspiration.

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