Grenfell Campus Intro Digital Imaging 2011

Class website for VART 2600/2601: Introductory Digital Imaging at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2011-2012

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Artists and Animated GIFs

Michael Bell-Smith - Faceted Sphere on an Escalator

Geeks in the Gallery is a three-part interview (1, 2, 3) with Tom Moody and Michael Bell-Smith, two artists who have worked extensively with animated GIFs and other ‘low tech’ digital art. Tom Moody is an artist, musician and art critic who often makes use of older digital imaging software such as MS Paint. Michael Bell-Smith draws on the aesthetics of old video games and cartoons in works such as Up and Away, Return To Forever, and Action Hack Series. He is also the creator of Subterranean House (

Tom Moody: “Animated GIFs have evolved over the last several years into a kind of ubiquitous “mini-cinema,” entirely native to the personal computer and the World Wide Web. Almost anyone can make one and almost every browser will read them. In other words, no YouTube compression, no wait time, no subscriptions or proprietary formats to view, and they can be made in the most elementary and cheap imaging programs (free if you search for open source). GIFs are the purest expression of the democratic web and along with JPEGs and PNGs comprise its most authentic visual language.” – from his article Psychotronic GIFs.

Michael Bell-Smith: “I don’t think I’m entirely anti-narrative. I like to play with gestures of narrative (change, conflict, progression) without necessarily engaging in its structure and the pleasure that comes from it. I like to think I’m working in a tension between something pictoral, something narrative and something atmospheric, trying to create work that a viewer engages a bit differently from most time based media art.” – from the Geeks in the Gallery interview

Cinema­graph Tutorial

Tilen Sepic - vir wall

Photography website Photojojo has a great tutorial about how to make your own cinemagraphs, the “photos that move” that we looked at last week. Even if you aren’t working with photos for your animation project, you might find the tutorial useful – it includes details about how to import a video file into Photoshop, using a layer mask as part of your animation, and working with GIF’s limited colour palette.

The cinemagraph above is by Tilen Sepic – check out the blog youhavetostartsomewhere for more.

Class 3 Notes (Animation Examples)

Class 3 was a work class for our loop project. Here are a couple of looping animated GIFs I made as examples for class. The first is hand-drawn, while the second uses photographs:

Animated GIFs

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is an image format that is useful for compressing images to small sizes by limiting the number of colours. GIF is an older format, and is gradually being replaced by PNG. However, unlike PNGs, GIFs can be used to create animated images. Animated GIFs can be created in Photoshop or other software. They are popular as a way of presenting animation on the web in a way that does not require video or any specialized plugins.

Jamie Beck & Kevin Burg - "Shave and a haircut..." Cinemagraph

Note that when you open an animated GIF file in Mac OS X, the Preview software will display each frame as a separate image instead of playing the animation. To properly preview an animated GIF file on your computer, try dragging the file to a web browser such as Safari, Firefox or Chrome.

During our first class, we looked at some examples of innovative animated GIFs:

Kelli Marshall has written an interesting essay about animated GIFs and the history of cinema: Animated GIFs, Cinemagraphs, and Our Return to Early Cinema.

Class 1 Notes (Loops)

Zbigniew Rybczyński - Tango

Last semester, we learned a lot about how to use Photoshop and other digital imaging software to create and manipulate digital images. In Introductory Digital Imaging II, we’ll learn to apply these skills to time-based and interactive media such as animation, video, and web-based art.

We will also spend more time discussing what makes digital art different from other kinds of art, including forms and structures that are especially appropriate to digital artmaking. One of these structures is the loop, which is important not only in cinema and video, but also in computer programming. For Assignment 1, we’ll use Photoshop to create a looping animation.

During our first class, we looked at some examples of the loop as a structure in new media art:

In this class there was also an introduction to creating animation in Photoshop, using the Animation palette. Photoshop lets you create frame-by-frame animation by drawing the parts of your animation in different layers, and then adjusting the visibility of your layers to control what is shown in each frame of the animation. Each layer can also have a different position and opacity in each animation frame. We’ll look at this in more detail in our next class.