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Animated love

By Martin Hansen. Published: 10th Feb 2008, 22:06:41 | Permalink | Printable

Martin Hansen talks us through the creation of a digital Valentine's Day gift

With Valentine's Day approaching, a partner that I was keen to impress and a current obsession with computer animation, I recently went for a wander around the web. I was in search of inspiration. Animated GIFs have long been a part of the internet experience and so I began my search with fairly high hopes that I would be able to gather together some interesting ideas, add a personal touch of some sort and have something tasteful to present to my loved one.

I was surprised by the low quality of what I found. Most animated GIFs had the look of 1990s clunky computer animation about them and felt like the work of schoolchildren in that they were unsophisticated, unpolished and bland. It seemed to me that professional animation artists, rather than develop the GIF concept, had long since abandoned it. I wondered if they had moved across to the likes of YouTube. However there I found many home constructed cartoon animations, often of several minutes duration. For me, they quickly became tedious to watch and I began to suspect that the fun was probably more in the making than in the viewing.

Although disappointed with my search results, a felt a challenge taking hold. Could I, onto a blank GIF film strip, etch out a short, 15 second animation of that showed that the possibilities of the GIF medium where greater than my casual search had suggested?

I had no desire to buy a fancy animation package. Whatever I did, it was going to be built using RISC OS Paint, turned into an animated GIF by InterGif and viewed with IGViewer or inserted into a web page by Web Wonder.

At first I thought this would be a wholly RiscPC-based project. I thought this for two reasons. Firstly, the RISC OS 6 version of Paint is way ahead of that on Iyonix. More seriously, I doubted that InterGif and IGViewer would be 32 bit Iyonix compatible. However, Martin Wuerthner of ArtWorks 2 fame had made InterGif 32 bit neutral and John Baker of Bristol University had done likewise for IGViewer. So with the latest versions of these free programs installed on both my StrongARM RiscPC and my Iyonix, software concerns faded into the background and my thoughts turned to coming up with 'the idea'.

'The idea' had to be a blend of something realisable in a modest amount of time but also of quality and charm. "No point in adding to the dross on the 'net," I frequently reminded myself but knowing I had just one week to come up with something. I often doodle using Draw, and after doing such for a few moments, I had a promising section of spiral available to use as a building block.

Click for larger

Further experimentation, and a lot of duplicating, grouping, ungrouping and scaling, resulted in a wire-frame heart construction.

Click for larger

This I captured as a 200 by 200 pixel sprite using the snapshot feature in Paint. Enthusiastic colouring using the Paint flood fill option was easy but colouring out the wire frame, pixel by pixel, was tedious to the max. Nonetheless, I now had the image that I intended to animate.

Click for larger

By this stage, I'd got a fairly clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I intended to construct my animated film backwards. This image was to be the final frame. The blocks of colour, when the animation was run forwards, would appear randomly, slowly building up to reveal the multi-coloured heart. I now began blacking out four coloured blocks at a time, saving the resulting film frame, blacking out another four blocks, saving the resulting frame and so on, until I saved my final all black frame, which would be the start of the animation.

Click for larger

To turn the sprites into the form required by InterGif, I renumbered the sprites in the order to be shown. The first frame I named "0" and they then ran consecutively up to "97", all within their own directory.

A wonderful feature of InterGif is that only the first frame, frame "0", needs to be drag and dropped to the input area. By ticking "Join input files" all of the other consecutively numbered sprites found within the same directory are stitched together to form the output GIF.

Click for larger

The animation was done. With pride, I've placed it on my website for all to admire but, most of all, one.


32bit safe InterGif (The IGViewer from this link is not 32 bit compatible, although this one is)

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Nice article and thanks for writing it but...

What's it saying? That your love is made of many components that gradually developed over time, but that they have begun to disappear now? Or will eventually?

I'd a appreciate a mathematically inspired animated GIF that took you ages to make. But I'm not female.

I'd have some money or a conventional present at the ready, just in case. "...this animated GIF [waits for reaction] and this other, more traditional present too."

 is a RISC OS Userkillermike on 10/2/08 10:57PM
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Ahh... OK, Mike.... Women : tricky creatures to understand - much more complicated than computers... Your advice is much appreciated... Regards, Martin.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 11/2/08 8:57AM
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Nice, but very manually intensive to produce. I'd have been tempted to generate the squares and the fade in all programmatically. But then such skills tend to leave you not requiring such things for the 14th.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 11/2/08 9:03AM
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Quite true. I could probably come up something brilliant programmatically, but I try very hard not to be a geek in "real life" and especially when it comes to women. TBH, a flashy graphic, or a flashy program would be a complete turn off to most women I've ever known.

I've arranged flowers, chocolates and champagne to be delivered to the woman (I'd like to be...) in my life at the moment (though I stand no chance at all with this one!). Not original, but she'll appreciate that far more.

However, that said, the article is a nice, simple tutorial for creating animated gifs on RISC OS, which I suppose is its real purpose.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 11/2/08 10:33AM
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Wha..? Taking advice on women from me would be as much use as taking ethical business practice advice from Bill Gates. Do the opposite of what I say, that would be my advice :-)

Thanks again for writing the article.

 is a RISC OS Userkillermike on 11/2/08 10:59AM
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That's nice work Martin - although I'm surprised you opted to remove the frame manually rather than write a Basic hack to process the image. I recently helped my wife with an animation for Chinese New Year. It's Flash 8, so not viewable on RISC OS, unfortunately, but here is a link : [link]

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 12/2/08 12:23AM
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Pretty! and had the added benefit of alerting me to the fact that I have been running NetSurf with animations disabled for months and had not noticed

the technique would be good for making an animated firework display

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 18/2/08 10:21PM
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