DS106 on the couch

Month: July 2016

It all started with a Tweet

Viv said ‘Spike will start miaowing next’ to illustrate the idea we were in a parallel world where the impossible was now possible. I said I would make it digitally true as soon as I got a Spike Gif. 

I knew I had John Johnston’s plug in installed in my sandbox domain. I knew Viv had made some Vines of Spike eating a bone. 

How hard could it be? The rest of the post outlines the process; not because it is elegant but because sometimes you go around the houses to do something and it takes you right back to doing it the hard way!

I got an email that gifs.com now allows you to do frame by frame editing and tweening with their editor. I have tried their editor before but the result is not the quality I have come to expect from my gifs. Still, I thought I would give it a go because it said it take a Vine Video and turns it into a downloadable gif. Easy.


I thought I would add a dancing sticker as above with the new features download it and boom upload my my sandbox domain add cat sound and done. 

It kind of worked. The new features are….shall we say glitchy? I started 1 day ago and could not get the gif with the frame by frame editing to save ( yes, I have written to them to let them know). In the end I thought, how about just the gif from the Vine movie and then I can add the sound without the sticker. Yes, that worked. Download gif. 

Forgive me, but who on earth finds joy in watching a 250×250 shaky gif? With a logo that takes up some of what little space is there, it was a waste of time for me. I would no post **that** even on my sandbox domain. 

So, I went to my usual workflow with the crappy gif. I cut the logo out as I really did not think they deserved it. Photoshop aligned the frame, I selected 20 frames out of the 48 frames in the original, I cropped, I changed the resolution and the image size, I dithered on 128 colours using the soon to de dead ‘save for web’ in Photoshop. Bingo. I had a decent gif. I am still not happy with it as the edges are too close to Spike and…but it was good enough for the wee gif(t) I wanted to make for Viv and David. 

How hard could it then be to find a cat making the right noises? Harder than you think. If it is not the right sound at the right pace it does not synch well with the movement. I tried 3 different cat sounds from Freesound.org. Of course, the one that worked was a .wav not an MP3 so pop into Audacity and export as MP3. 

Once I had the image and sound right, it was a breeze to use John’s plug in and publish a post with Spike miaowing! Head over to my sandbox to see the first dog miaowing ever!

The moral of the story: Don’t try to shortcut art, it will not be rushed. 

Useful websites

John’s plug in for WordPress rocks!

Freesoung.org great for finding strange sounds.

Gifs.com (they may get the new features working and it is great that you can just add ‘gif’ to a YT URL and it takes you straight to their editor to make the gif. I have never been able to use output as quality is not good enough for me)

I also wanted to try gifgrabber and I thought I had it on the Apple store to install as I had used it before. No. It turns out it is now giphy capture (they must have bought it) and let us say that the reviews did not inspire me to download. It does not allow you to grab high def quality gifs as the previous app did. I did get miffed by the fact that Giphy decided to alter my potential old version download to the new ’version’ which is really not a new version at all, but a new app. Bad Giphy.

I usually grab with Screenflow but it is not free and I think it is only Mac. It is awesome as you can edit, add captions, it have actions that means you can do typography; you can scale and crop….I don’t even know half of all it can do. 

The garden of death Hugo Simberg (1896) 

Just playing with old images today. I loved this one and tried to ‘see it better’. Death is gardening, I love that. Thanks @jimgroom for pointing me to the post. 

The new daily create site is making me lazy. It is so easy to just post on Twitter and forget to write posts narrating process and reflecting on learning. I keep telling myself it is ephemera and it does not matter, picking up on Michael Branson Smith’s  distinction between ephemeral art and more long term projects. 

All this is true. What is also true is that each little creation teaches me something and helps me keep up to date with what the web offers to help us make digital art. 

The rest of this post is my attempt to put this right in terms of a few dailies Creates I made the last few weeks. I want to explore the tools I used and write some reflections on what I have learnt.

A while back we made a logo with a logo generator. My immediate reaction to it was negative. I often find that with prompts that send me in directions I would not choose to go! What is the point of just using a programmer’s knowledge of design in order to create an output that I have nothing to do with? Where is the creativity in that? I have learnt to ignore the critic when it comes to this type of thing. So I started to play with Emblematic

My immediate reaction was: meh. But here is the kicker; as I played I saw that it was possible to adapt parameters in the designs I liked. Some of these parameters were not familiar to me and changing them taught me new elements of design. In making a choice about what I like, I am choosing what I like for a purpose. This taught me something about aesthetics for fulfilling a brief. It is not the same to design a logo for this blog and for, say, a fake hipster new ‘hood as in my ‘WickGre’  logo above. Again, quoting Michael and @ryanseslow: In making a choice about ‘like’ I am learning something about art even if I am not creating it myself; I am learning about refining my taste for a purpose. A design skill. 

I first used Emblematic to make the new logo for this blog. When it came to creating acronames I remembered that tool and decided to use it. The brief: a hipster fake name for an area in my locality. I do not want to put too much location information online, because I am paranoid. So, I chose a local area that has gone through huge development recently but is not too close to me. The development has been controversial. I remembered the idea of Honest Slogans (another daily create from a long time ago, I think). What would it be like if my fake name for the new development had an honest slogan? 

So I looked for an image that would be an accurate reflection of what people are buying when they buy houses there. The place basically overlooks a huge roundabout with a huge superstore. I have nothing against this, but it does feel rather dishonest when commercials advertise the new homes as ‘luxury countryside living’. It is dangerous to cross the roads to get out of the development and I fail to see how living by a roundabout (large road intersection, for those not in the UK) can be said to be ‘countryside’. So, I made my poster for WickGre – creating places where people aspire to live, with a background of the large roundabout that defines it. It really is not that different from “DoWiSeTrePla”  – Downwind of the Sewage Treatment Plant mentioned on the podcast that explores ‘the SoHo effect’. Perhaps I should have called it: CleViBiRo – Clear View of Big Roundabout. 

On other news, we had a another create that made us use a nifty tool that allows us to print out video. Again, I could not see the point initially. I knew that @johnjohnston had made these storyboards many times and his were awesome. What was the point of something that gave you no control? You just gave it a URL and then it gave you a series of frames on a pdf. Meh. But, not meh! Read on.

John’s scrolls are wonderful but beyond those of us who do not command the Command line on a Mac. This tool made this accessible to the rest of us, but I genuinely did not see this when I first tried the tool. So I made a comic.


I could see how awesome the programming was, I could not see practical applications. I chose to do my background with and abstract video. I got a beautiful wallpaper, and assumed that this would be the only use. Then others started to use it. I realised how wrong I was. Jim Groom explored the potential use for scene analysis and understanding of a film. Doh! Of course, I never thought of that. I left a comment to that effect. He further suggested in his response,

Yeah, John Johnston has been doing amazing experiments along these lines for a few years now, we need to make some of that available. I like the idea of a daily tool..

Yes! Imagine watching a film and being able to create a storyboard of different scenes to analyse later not being dependent on You Tube. I started to learn how this could be useful practically as well as aesthetically. 

We then had a daily create that asked us to give clues for people to guess a movie. I immediately thought about the print a video tool. Get a scene and use as background to give clues on top of that background. The film was easy to guess, but I thought the poster looked lovely with the watercolour version of Blade Runner as background. 


And we are up to yesterday’s daily create. A 3 word map story. For this to work with the image of a map, I had to post location information. How to do it without that? I searched for my 3 words for the same location of my previous honest poster: Bricks, Flames and Active. This made me laugh. I immediately thought of the slogan: Actively flaming the countryside one brick at a time. I did a little bit of research. Turns out that 1500 houses have been built, without any changes to the local infrastructure. Who knows what the people buying the houses will have to go through as the houses sell – no more school places, no more parking, no more access roads…

I decided to do a protest poster. I wanted to do flames around the logo. I have tried and failed to learn how to do this in Photoshop before; mainly because I did not get the how to select a path before rendering the flames. I used a tutorial and managed to create what I had in mind. 


I replaced the background with a wallpaper of some public domain footage of a black and white house build, using the print video tool. And Bob is your uncle. 

So, yes it is true that the creations are ephemeral and are not something I will add to my best work folder. Yet, as a daily practice it cannot get much better than this: my expectations challenged so I can learn something new, finding practical uses for tools I was unfamiliar with, learning one more trick in a tool that will take many lifetimes to learn well and finding out about my local area’s development plans. 

And the biggest gift? I realise that I now have a tool to select frames for gifs easily. I can print it out, take time to view as stills and select my moments when making video gifs. Anything that help us gif better is a god send, says @gifadog 

Thank you, daily create.

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