Number 2 as anvil

In the episode of The Prisoner called “Hammer into Anvil,” Number 2 pretty much loses it by the end. One part that really intrigued me was when he was shown towards the end stroking the penny farthing. I’ve seen some suggestions online about what the penny farthing is all about in the series, and in an interview McGoohan talks about the problems with progress…it seems to maybe have something to do with an ironic statement about the progress we have achieved (not much, really, despite our advances in technology). Maybe we haven’t progressed very far morally, for example.

So with that in mind, I find it very interesting that when Number 2 loses it he ends up stroking this ironic symbol of progress, as if he thinks it’s going to be his saviour. It’s what he believes in; it comforts him.

It’s also just a creepy sequence, as I tried to capture in this gif.


the process

I made this in GIMP.

1. I used screencast-o-matic to do a screen capture of this part of the episode while it was playing on my computer.

2. I opened it in MPEG streamclip to capture just the frames I wanted, and then used “export other formats” and “as image sequence.” I exported to jpg with 8 frames per sec I think.

3. In GIMP, I had 32 layers, and I had to repeat some of them to get him to close his eyes again after he opens them. I just reversed those layers. So by the time I was done I had many, many layers, and I wanted to reduce the file size.

4. I cut out some of the layers, every other one, for part of the sequence. When I did it for all of it then parts were too choppy.

5. I resized the image to be 400px wide.

6. I tried changing the colour mode to “indexed” before saving, but that made the finished gif even bigger than it was before. Even when I set the max colours on indexed to 100!


So it’s 1.5 MB as is, which isn’t too bad.


And just for fun…

I created two more out of this sequence.

Eyes closed:




Now, just the eyes opening and closing:




4 Replies to “Number 2 as anvil”

  1. Hey, Christina!

    I wouldn’t let a certain Friend hear you using that word too much, but I do agree, there is a rather bizarre moment for Number Two and his bicycle.

    As soon as I read this earlier today, I leapt to my computer in response to your unintended challenge. Your closing comment, “So it’s 1.5 MB as is, which isn’t too bad,” was a call to action!

    You have tried several strategies to reduce the size of your GIF:
    1. reducing the dimensions of the image (you selected 400×280);
    2. reducing the number of frames;
    3. you have started to explore the mystery (to me) of colour indexing.

    I have a good strategy for you to add to your arsenal, and have also tried to extend my understanding of the question of colour indexing at the same time.

    I”ll tease you with a term: “masking,” and will then ask you to follow-up with this post, “A Pretty Penny (Furthering Christina’s GIF)”


    1. Thank you so much…I went to your post and wow, that is really helpful. Now that I’m no longer exclusively doing ds106 stuff on Tumblr I have stopped worrying too much about gif file size, but I still have this thing in the back of my head that I’d like to get them smaller than 1 MB.

      I played around with indexing and the various options for “dithering” under indexing, but honestly, I have no idea what those things mean or do and why indexing would increase the file size. So I’m looking forward to your post where you discuss what you’re learning about indexing.

  2. So cool! For me part of the charm is the file size vs aesthetics tension. I guess we were both trained well by Tumblr! I now do both, a ‘any size I want one’ and then play with all the parameters like colour, dither, size. masking to reduce file size. Many an hour can go by with me playing around with these.

    I love the detail and how you picked the moments just so! Much in The prisoner keeps us asking why and this sequence is not exception. Great work and I do hope you use it in your video for N2 I will vote for you. Looking forward to reading Andrew’s post too to learn what else I can play with to reduce size.


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