GIFing A, B and C

For week 3 of #prisoner106, we were asked to do the “Animating The Prisoner” assignment.

I struggled with this one a lot for some unknown reason. I love making animated GIFs from video because technically, it’s pretty easy once you get the tools.

What I struggled with was finding sequences to animate from the episodes I’ve seen. I have a couple of ideas, but as this assignment is due in 1.5 hours, I figured I just do one so far and post it here.

In “A, B, and C,” Number 6 is drugged for two nights in a row and taken to a room where his dreams show up as videos on a screen, and they are manipulated from the outside to see if he was going to “sell out” (they wondered if maybe that’s why he retired). I was struck by the fact that there are two very similar sequences where the camera zooms in quickly on his wrist, where there are marks from the injections. In the first sequence, there is just one mark b/c it’s after the first night. After the second night, there are two.

I decided to animate these sequences to make it seem like it was just one mark, then he looks again and now it’s two, then he looks again and now it’s one, etc., etc.



The Process

I’m not sure I could explain it any better than is done in this great tutorial given here. I used MPEG Streamclip and GIMP as suggested in that tutorial, and used the settings given there.

I took a sequence of him sitting on his bed and then suddenly looking at his wrist and just duplicated it so it looks like he is doing the same motion but having different numbers of marks on his wrist every time he lifts it to see.

I keep getting a little frustrated at the pixelated colours on my gifs, but then discovered that the .gif format will only take about 256 colours, so there’s really not a lot you can do about this from what I can tell, when your source files have lots of colours and the gif will only have that many.

5 Replies to “GIFing A, B and C”

  1. Hi Christina,

    This is a great GIF — and a nice way to emphasize the two different instances for Number Six and his continually confused state. Poor guy, they’re always messing with his mind.

    Colours and GIFs and banding and dithering — I won’t say that it’s all a mystery to me, but it’s still pretty close to that. Photoshop gives you a bunch of different options to mess with in terms of the colour sets and patterns for dithering, and I usually have to experiment to find out which combination works the best for a given GIF. I’m sure there is some colour theory somewhere that could help explain it all, but I’ve not yet delved into it deeply enough. Certainly an image can bring a certain set of colours with it, and if those colours are forced to strongly into a different range, then the look of the image changes.

    Getting a smaller file size for a GIF can often lead one to decreasing the number of colours in the GIF. For some (especially black and white images), you can really get away with 16 or even 8 colours, because they turn out to be shades of grey. But staying within a colour GIF you really start to notice a loss of image quality when you get below 32 colours. 256 will normally give you the best image with the least banding or problematic colour substitutions if you can get away with it. You might like to experiment with the numbers of colours in your GIF and see how small you can make your file without sacrificing the image quality too much.

    1. I wonder if GIMP has various options for colour too; I’m not sure. I only know about RGB vs indexed as the colour modes (or b/w of course). I think this one was 256 colours, and still had the banding effect on the image with the two marks. I think maybe it’s b/c that one was darker than the frames with the one mark. I started to try to brighten up the frames with the two marks, but quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to make sure I was brightening them the same amount (there’s probably a way to do that; I don’t know what it is), so I gave up and just left it as is.

      I am going to try playing with the number of colours in the indexed mode and see what happens, with a future gif.

  2. I love making gifs too sometimes especially the easy ones, nice an relaxing.

    I do like this one, tells a story, fits with the confusion and repition of the prisoner. Not quick an easy one as you had to get two clips, but more spot the possibilities.

    I’ve not used GIMP much but it might be worth trying some option in Image->Mode->Indexed… before exporting?

    1. Thanks, John. I hadn’t really thought about how it fits with the repetition aspects of the show…that’s cool.

      I did try using index mode and doing 256 colours before exporting, but the banding then occurred before exporting; it looked just like it does now. So I think it was the reduction to 256 colours. Oh well; it’s part of the restrictions of the file format I guess, and something one has to work with. Andrew Forgrave says Photoshop allows for some more options with colours and dithering; I recently got access to photoshop so maybe I’ll give it a go at some point.

  3. Hi Christina!

    I spent a bit of time this evening talking a little bit about GIFs and file sizes when I posted I’ve No Aversion to GIFfing. I also did a bit of preliminary reading into the 256 colours thing, and it caused me to remember something that I heard a few years back — and created more questions for me to explore.

    Basically, I think the 256 colours in a GIF are defined by the colour palette of the image — you don’t always get the same 256 colours. As I am starting to understand from the little that I read this evening that different layers within a GIF can possibly have different palettes — especially if the images come from different sources (think about putting two different images together). There must be some mechanism to sort out what happens if you add a new image with a different palette of 256 colours. There may be some overlap of colours, but if there are differences how do they get resolved? Does one (the first one?) force the second one to compromise? That could explain why some colours “change,” resulting in the banding.

    The whole process of dithering is another variable that tries to approximate the original image when you have a much smaller subset of colours to use.

    This all points to an area for further exploration. I’m sure it might get more complicated before it gets easier, but there are bound to be solutions to some of this stuff hiding in the answers to these questions.

    Let us advance in our learning!


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