The Strawberry Snow Monster LIVES! GIFs!

December 31, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments347, AnimatedGIFAssignments, AnimatedGIFAssignments883 by Alan Levine

The Abominable Pine Man was spotted in the vicinity on December 15, 2012. Unlike the Lock news Monster, Sasquatch, the photos of this super natural creature ares sharp, clean, and obvious no fabrication or some buffoon in a fur suit.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

In time the monster morphed into a floppier version

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

But it was not invincible, in fact, it had pretty much transformed into a sad shell of its former glory:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Until today! It’s back, reformed, and now something more of a Squirrel Bear Hybrid:


Just for the sake of the ds106 GIFfest, I call this a sporting event GIF … who’s gonna stop me? When will the GIFfing stop?


Not Quite Norma GIF

December 30, 2012 in DS106, VisualAssignments, AnimatedGIFAssignments, AnimatedGIFAssignments859, ds106 GIFfest 2012, VisualAssignments886 by Alan Levine

How could anyone resist doing Tom Woodward’s Not Quite Norma Jean assignment?

The past is strange. Remake this classic Marilyn Monroe “expressions sheet” with self-portraits or with the aid of a friend. Bonus points for the involvement of a stranger.

And I thought, if Tom Woodward can pose coyly like Marilyn, than surely my stuffed animal Feldspar can pull it off? And as I worked with the image I made from it it started saying to me, please make me into a GIF, yeah, a Riff a GIF type of GIF.



For the makings, I created Photoshop file with the background a capture of the screen at Retronaut (I liked the frame on it), and in the top layer, a copy of this made with the images of her cut out, so it was a copy of the frames around the images that sits above the 9 separate image layers.

For the photos I worked for hours to pose Feldspar appropriately (sigh, these pompous film stars are so hard to work with, where was I to find green milkbones?). I did the black and white / sepia effects in Aperture using Silver Efex Pro plugin, and exported as 500px JPEGs, which I then imported into Photoshop, sized and cropped to fit in the frames.

I then used the Convert Layers to Frames command in the animation palette, and set about turning on layers in each frame as needed; I set the first and last frames for a longer duration so they would linger.

If you would like to give this a go, you can download my photoshop file as a template, and see if you can get your own images into the layers.

This is done solely as a tribute to Tom Woodward, who from the very get go in December 2010 has contributed some of the best ideas and assignments for ds106

The Faultless Feed (GIF) Train

December 16, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments347, AnimatedGIFAssignments, AnimatedGIFAssignments857 by Alan Levine

I spotted many a grain elevator in my cross country travels, but this one in Lawndale Illinois caught my attention the most, for the faint “Faultless Feed” on the side of the grain elevator, plus as a bonus it was right on Old Route 66.

While snapping my photos, I saw the lights down the track. I had to book it and run under the dropping barriers to get a series of photos of a passing Amtrak train.

What could be more suited for doing animated GIFs than trains?

We need something like this for the upcoming ds016 GIFfest (what is that) (it’s a secret) (shh). So we have the new All Aboard The GIF Train assignment hoisted in a new corner of ds106

“Train kept a rollin’ all night long…” “Down around the corner half a mile from here, see them long trains run and you watch them disappear…” Trains. They are in songs, movies, and a metaphor for steady movement. And they are ripe for GIFing- given their regular repeated motion.

Capture the essence of train movement in a GIF, and do what you can to keep it under 1 Mb (much of the train passing is repeated and you can delete frames and not lose the motion). Step it up a notch and match your train gif to a song using

I had originally 20 photos of the train in motion, from it entering on the right, and passing out on the left in the last one. I would add as a continuity suggestion to get one more of the scene without the train.

I imported these into PhotoShop like most of the other ones I have done – see the steps outlined for my GIFing the Streets of Liberal. After trimming/cropping, and resizing to 500px, it was still too fat, 3.5 Mb. I realized that most of the middle frames were repetitive, so I carefully examined and was able to delete 10 frames that were more or less the same motion.

Without an empty frame, it seemed awkward on the loop, so I did a little Photoshop hijinks (quite easy). The first frame as the train just nosing in on the right, so I made a copy of that frame (using the little menu top right of Animation palette) and pasting it after the last frame. That has most of the “trainless” scene, I got the rest by copy pasting from the last frame, where the train is passing out of the left side of the scene.

I set the frame rate of all the “train” frames to 0.1 second, but I made this last one 2 seconds so it lingers. The end effect is it looks like the train keeps going by on by. It’s a bit fast. Kind of a crazy train.


Here is a little play of rolling the GIF with some Hendrix via gifsounds

And woah, completely by curious clicking, I got myself to ImgOps- a fantastic tool that lets you take an image bu URL and have at your hands a whole suite of tools you can use to edit, change, or do more with the image. This is amazing. Really.

Can you see any use for THAT? Are you crazy?

Keep Clicking Those Ruby GIF Slippers

December 13, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments2 by Alan Levine

What could be more key and symbolic of the magic of Oz than the red slippers that Dorothy snagged from the Wicked Witch who got mushed by her flying house? The fact that Dorothy always had the magic but did not know it until sparkly Good Witch clued her in.

This GIF is done for the classic ds106 Say it Like Peanut Putter assignment

Make an animated gif from your favorite/least favorite movie capturing the essence of a key scene. Make sure the movement is minimal but essential.

I knew an animated GIF of the shoes would be part of my new story. So I used PwnYouTube to download the video for the “No Place Like Home” clip as an mp4

I opened this in MPEG StreamClip to snag just the 2 second segment of the shoes flopping. I opened it in QuickTime player to then save it as a .mov file (since Photoshop 5.5 cannot import mp4 files). I brought this in using File -> Import -> Video Frames to Layers. Since it was short I snagged 3 frames a second, and from there deleted frames that were not showing much difference from previous frames. Lastly it is exported as a GIF, we get not only shoe movement but some twinkling of highlights:

Poor Dorothy might have to click those heels forever.

Which Side of the Rainbow, Dorothy?

December 13, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments726 by Alan Levine

Dorothy seems timeless even looking back at the Wizard of Oz from maybe 80 years past its time. But her statue I saw on the streets of Liberal Kansas seemed kind of old, maybe it was just the texture of the metal, but I speculated she might get nostalgic for her own youth (or at least mobility):

I made this for my story project as a response to the Then-Now-Together ds106 assignment:

Edit a childhood photo of yourself to include a more recent photo of you in a pose that makes it look like you were part of the original scene. Pay attention to matching pose, detail, and color values to match the original. You can go back to your past, at least in your own edited photo!

Okay, it was not “me” but my character. And Dorothy is young and innocent enough in Oz to qualify for childhood.

I cropped the photo of her status I took:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

and overlaid it in Photoshop in a sepia toned screen capture of the Kansas set of the movie. I had to stretch the status to make it close to the proportion of the screen capture of young Dorothy. I had to flip that one horizontally and do some clone brush of the fence to leave enough room for the pasted statue photo.

I dropped the saturation on the statue and used the Image – > Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation tool to try and make the statue less glossy and match the tones in the mage. Its far from perfect, but the idea is to mae them look like they are singing a duet across time.

GIFing the Streets of Liberal

December 13, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments347 by Alan Levine

On my trek home earlier this month, I picked off of the map a route in Kansas that would take me through the near Texas border town of “Liberal” – which I read on a plaque has nothing to do with politics– it was in reference to the sharing of water liberally by the first settler.

It’s created draw of interest is being where Dorothy’s house (a replica thereof) sits so there is a lot of Oz-ification

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

There are a number of Dorothy statues on the streets. I was intrigued of some over the shoulder photos as maybe she gazed wistfully at a fun shriner convention across the street:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

This lead me to do a series of rapid shots in succession to get the blur of traffic going by Dorothy, which I molded into animated gifs.

This is the ds106 Photo It Like Peanut Butter Assignment (created by yours truly):

Rather than making animated GIFs from movie scenes, for this assignment, generate one a real world object/place by using your own series of photographs as the source material. Bonus points for minmal amounts of movement, the subtle stuff. See a bunch of examples at

And this became the seed of an idea I wanted to do as an extended story that spans multiple assignments, the task I am asking my students to do for their final project.

These were all done the same way. The photos were taken in the camera mode on my Canon 7D that does sequential shots as long as I hold the shutter. The idea is to get a lot and not move the camera much (a tripod would be a smart way to go).

I bring them into PhotoShop via File -> Scripts -> Load Files into Stack. I select all of the images in the sequence, and let PhotoShop do its work. For most of these I check the box to “Automatically Attempt to Align Source Images” which minimizes the differences between photos from slight camera shifts. I import images that are 640 pixels wide since I plan to downsize them to 500 wide.

When done, I go to the animation window. In the past I would go to the timeline layout and nudge the tracks around, but I found a simpler way- From the menu in the top right of the Animation palette, I select make Frames from Layers so ti converts each layer to a different animation frame:

This now sets up my frames, and I can do things like adjust the timing of all frames (selecting all and then use the time menu) or make different frames have different durations:

I can delete un-necessary frames, ones that do not show enough change, since this reduced my file size. I also go frame by frame and crop them because the image alignment can leave blank spots on the periphery.

then its a matter of exporting for the web as an animated GIF. I usually go for 128 colors dithered to try and save file size.

One more truck goes by:

I have a bunch more of these assignment posts to make as I get my story together. It has something to do with Dorothy getting bored…

Who’s That Cute Kid on The Beach?

October 27, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments726 by Alan Levine

I was on the beach recently and found a cute kid to take a photo of:

I got the push to make it seeing Before and After Pictures with a Twist on Buzzfeed where some dude inserted modern photos of himself into photos of him as a kid- but its more than cut and paste, he carefully considered the pose and details like shadow.

My first reflex- “This would be a cool ds106 assignment

I am thinking of creating a twitter auto responder then when anyone tweets a message like that it responds with something like:

So this is now an assignment Then-Now-Together:

Edit a childhood photo of yourself to include a more recent photo of you in a pose that makes it look like you were part of the original scene. Pay attention to matching pose, detail, and color values to match the original. You can go back to your past, at least in your own edited photo!

Based an example of Before and After Pictures with a Twist spotted in Buzzfeed

And now my example- the source image is of me at a beach in Ocean City maryland, digging one of my improbable and unsafe holes:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Combined with a photo taken of me last week by @windsordi on your trip to Point Pelee, Ontario:

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by windsordi

It was a matter of cropping out the background. To make it match the color tone, I mucked with the levels and come color correct, and added a Fim Grain Effect to try and match the original. The trickier part was creating a shadow – I found some clues in a tutorial from PhotoShop Essentials. MOre or less you make a selection of the original figure, create new layer below the original, fill with black, use distorts and rotates to move the shadow, add some Gaussian blur, and lighten the opacity.

And there it is- me on a beach taking a photo of me on a beach, then, now, together.

How about you?

GIFs from the Road

October 23, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, animated gif, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments347 by Alan Levine

Gotta feed the animated GIF bacteria that lives in my gut. I had a few sets of photos I have taken over the travel span that I took series of things in motion for the express purpose of making them animated. I did these in PhotoShop via the method blogged earlier – essentially importing files as a stack, setting frame sequences in he animation palette, and sometimes masking out to reduce the elements being animated. These will be tagged to end up in the Photo it Like Peanut Butter ds106 assignment.

First up, from the great state of New York, at the small town where I crossed the Hudspn River, I had just hopped out of the truck to take a photo of the bridge when the sound of a train grabbed my attention (I literally ran across the tracks to get the angle) – this one is 549k.

Next up, an animation from a single image. I had stopped to take a picture of Yet Another Crumbling Down Home. I really liked the look of this window and its composition, but it also looked good in black and white (same image, just converted). In this one, I masked just the inside of the frame to isolate a color change, and made the time it spent on the black and white frame about twice as long (and it is only 111k):

And for number three– this past weekend I stood on the place that is the southernmost point in Canada, a few hairs farther south than the California/Oregon border. As far south as Rome. While at Point Pelee, I was intrigued by the difference between the rough surf of the west side and the calmness of the East, but all of which is Lake Erie. I took a series of belly in the sandy photos of waves crashing over the rocks (the waves were about 12 inches high). This one has more frames than I usually like to use, but they work well, it comes in at 741k (I dropped the colors from 128 to 64 to help there).

Hmmm its a bit fast, might have to tweak the frame rate.

Those are Erie waves (not eerie ones).

Fun stuff them there GIFs.

Growth Growth

October 4, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments24 by Alan Levine

(click to see a wee bit larger)

It was time tonight to do some ds106 design assignment, this time a Triple Troll Quote. the classic ds106 assignment game of mixup and mis-attribution:

Find an image of a well known figure, add to it a famous quote by someone related in some way to the figure in the image and then attribute the quote to a third, related figure. From the official site: How It Works 1) Get a picture of someone people idolize. Obi Wan Kenobi, Barack Obama, Captain Kirk — any beloved public figure will do. 2) Slap on a famous quotation from a similar character from a different book or movie. Pick something close enough that a non-fan might legitimately confuse them. If you’re using Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, you’ll probably want to grab a quote from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica. 3) Attribute the quotation to a third character, from yet a third universe. This way, nothing about your image is correct, and you’re trolling fans of all three characters at once.

So what the bleep is my image? I snuck in a Quadruple! This all started with a tweet by Audrey Watters following some twitter banter about Mitt Romney’s debate remark about pawning of Sesame Street to China:

The mention of Edward Abbey got me thinking about one of my favorite quotes of the irascible desert rat urban curmudgeon (I miss the words he wrote so much):

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

or a later iteration

They cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness, that Phoenix and Albuquerque will not be better cities to live in when their populations are doubled again and again. They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human.

And this lead me to thinking about the hysteria of Massive Online Open Courses and it all came together.

So for anyone who actually might still be reading here, the mixups are:

Cause as we all know, massive has nothing to do with growth.

Crumblin’ Down

August 16, 2012 in DS106, Blog Pile, VisualAssignments, VisualAssignments347 by Alan Levine

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

On my last day in Fredericksburg, I went to the bank to close out an account, and came across the spectacle above. There was a crowd watching, one person filming with an iPad (that still makes me laugh like a 12 year-old), plus other gawkers like me snapping photos. There is nothing like a little destruction to attract attention, and of course I started hearing music in my head

No, no I never was a sinner-tell me what else can I do
Second best is what you get-till you learn to bend this rules
Time respects no person-what you lift up must fall
They’re waiting outside-to claim my crumblin’ walls

(lyrics from John Cougar Mellencamp)

I’m not saying any of my walls are crumblin down, but it was fun to watch that digger knock away the bricks.

So much I made it my Daily Create, which was supposed to be a 36 second video showing a 360 degree panorama.

But the pics I got really lent themselves to some Animated GIF action

This one shows the full effect, with dust blowing around

I only had two to work with here, but like the combination of the guy hosing off the pile and the machine in motion.

The shadow here reminds me of the poster for Jurassic Park

No big major stuff here. Just a chance to go back to doing it the import file stack into PhotoShop method. There’s always some tweaking, and I spent a little more time doing some copy/paste to clear distracting single frame clutter. I have a basic tutorial done for one of the first photo GIFs I did plus a collection of others, and a detailed walk through of one I did using just subtle eye motion — and all of this is a ds106 assignment Photo it Like Peanut Butter

I also did one with Cinemagram app on the iphone- it has a more fluid feel

It’s just too much fun giffin’

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