Andy Rush and I did an animated GIF workshop for professor Sue Fernsebner‘s Chinese History through Film course last Wednesday, and I think we both agreed walking out of the session that it might have been the most fun we’ve had doing a class visit since starting at UMW, which is saying something. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was because we were particularly genius—though we were, believe you me!—but because it’s just so much fun to talk about animated GIFs, especially within an academic setting where it feels so illicit.
The session resources can be found here, thanks to Andy, and the general breakdown of the session was Andy framed the technical history of the GIF (and its pronunciation) and married that to some of the potential applications of this technology for analyzing frames, shots, and scenes within films. After that, I demonstrated two specific examples from Red Sorghum—a film they already watched this semester (a fringe benefit of auditing the class 🙂 ). I chose to focus the examples on the potential power of multi-shot GIFs (a trend that has exploded in the Tumblr space), but with the idea that it takes a bit more work and acumen. After that, I took them through creating a GIF from scratch using MPEG Streamclip and GIMP based on this ds106 GIF tutorial. One thing I threw in the workshop session that isn’t in the ds106 tutorial is how to add text to a GIF. That’s something I could see being useful, so I showed that off quickly, and you can see the example I created on the fly below:
I haven’t included an update to the ds106 tutorial for including text in a GIF, but I will shortly. In the meantime, Yahoo Answers has a pretty good textual description of the process in GIMP. What’s so cool about my job right now, and pretty much has been for seven years, is that the work I do with awesome faculty like Sue and her students always feeds back into my own interests and experimentation. So, after doing this workshop, getting deeper into tumblr culture, and discovering there were so many Mario Bava films on Netflix, I’ve decided to run a BavaTuesdays Film Festival that will pretty much analyze a selection of his films and encourage anyone interested to interact with that analysis through GIFs and the like. If nothing else, it will give me a focus for making some GIFs, experimenting with broadcasting the analysis/criticism via live streaming video, as well as pushing our fledgling media server to the limit. All work and no play makes bava a dull boy!
Finally, if there are any Chinese Cinema fans out there creating GIFs of any of these films let me know and I will be sure to share them out. The students will be making their own GIFs for over the next month, and particularly good examples and novel approaches are always welcome.