Struggle with GIF leads to deeper understanding of pictures



For the topic digital storytelling in ETMOOC one of the assignments was to make a GIF. Below this text you see the result of what I made. For the people thinking but isn’t a GIF something that is moving, you are absolutely right. Click on the pic and it will start moving. I have no idea why it is not moving in this post but for sure that’s a setting of wordpress.


The process of making

As I knew before, making this would frustrate me. I always end up getting angry at the programs you use for making animations, presentations and videos. The designers of those programs seem to have different ideas about what logical then I do.

A GIF consists out of different layers, that is all the pictures you in the end turn into the moving GIF. So its nice if its easy to distinguish between the different layers and to be able to change the order of the pictures. It took me at least 15 minutes in GIMP to find out how to distinguish between the different layers. After that it took me another 15 minutes to figure out how to change the order of the pictures.

Luckily trying out what the animation would look like was easy as the playback function was right there where the manual said it would be. It turned out that the animation was running on full speed but I wanted the pictures to changes more slowly. The instructions said:

“Too fast? Too slow? No worries, in GIMP you can easily adjust this by going into the layer and typing how many milliseconds (ms) you want the frame to last.”

I had no idea how to “go into the layer” so I tried all the buttons of the program that I thought would be about going into the layer. No luck for me there so I searched on the internet. It turned out that in GIMP you “specify the delay as a layer comment”. I searched where to set a layer comment. No luck there for me also. After a few more searches it became clear to me that I had to double click on the name of the layer (had found that before), that made the name editable so that I could insert (300 ms) after the name of the layer. Running it again in Playback gave a result that I liked much better. I did not want to get more frustrated so I decided to save the layers as a GIF. After saving it the delay between the different layers was lost in the resulting GIF. It turned out that in the saving process you could set the delay time between the different layers and if you did not do it there it was returned to the default of 100 ms. Ok, I changed it to the desired 300 ms and saved it again and luckily I got what I wanted to get.

Is it just me or is everybody struggling with tools like GIMP?

The story

The topic in ETMOOC is about digital storytelling so what story is the GIF telling? Its a story about communication. My family had a visitor from the Philippines who did not speak dutch and my  children don’t speak English yet. It was difficult for our guest and the children to communicate and have some fun with each other. The guest and my daughter ended up behind the camera of the iPad and made pictures together. Asian people tend to have more restrained facial expressions then Europeans. It was funny to see that in these pictures this is reversed.

My learning

In making a GIF you look much more closely at the pictures that form the basis for it. That can lead to a deeper understanding of what can be seen in the pictures. When I discovered the pictures on my iPad it were just funny pictures to me. In making the GIF I discovered that my guest and my daughter had used making the pictures as a form of communication that was otherwise difficult for them. Also the observation of the reversed cultural traits was a result of my work with the pics. In the end it was a worthwhile experience even given my struggles with the technology to make the GIF.   


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4 Responses to Struggle with GIF leads to deeper understanding of pictures

  1. Jim Groom says:

    I feel your frustration, GIMP can be a bear, but i recommend it because it is free, and it becomes powerful to realize you can do some (not all) of the things you can in Photoshop for no cost—a good thing—though the usability is rough.

    As for your GIF, I love it. Though I had to click on the actual image for it to animate in a new tab, wonder why that is happening. Either way, fine work.

  2. Allard Naber says:

    Nice result!
    The reason the image is not animated when embedded on this page is probably caused by WordPress resizing the image. Clicking the image opens up the full original image, which indeed is animated. Wonder why it does animate on your iPad, Louwarnoud.

  3. louwarnoud says:

    Thanks for the comments Jim and Allard. I have no idea why it does work on the iPad indeed, maybe you should take a look at that also.
    Its indeed good to have free tools to do the things you want, but given the average quality of a lot of the free tools I use GIMP could really use a usability boost.

  4. Karen Young says:

    I feel your pain and frustration right now as I am trying to animate an idea I had and am finding it tough going. Still working through it but hopefully I will learn the program in the next few days. A very insightful comment about using photos for communication and also our own interpretation of photos if we are not aware of the context.

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