Stupid mailbox

Almost as much as grey page backgrounds, under construction barricades, and nested HTML tables, few things define the web of the 1990s as the animated GIF.

It’s been rewarding and nostalgic to see the wave of resurgence in the lead up to the ds106 open course that should lift off this week.

It’s been fun to watch all the variations people are trying ***before the course even starts*** name one course anywhere, online or down your lecture hall, that has people doing assignments before they are assigned, before the course even starts.

People are using different methods, tool, and sharing their recipes. The best kinds of assignments to me are ones where there is more than one way to complete them.

That is certainly turned up to 11.

I’ve played mine out too.

It’s not really a place to criticize, but I’d think the point is not just to animate anything. Sure it’s neat, and subtly, it is a media that will play on almost any device, even iOS (curiously, saving an animated GIF from a web page on my iPad results in a static image in the photos app).

And it’s not really an assignment yet, but were it up to me, I’d make careful study of the Examples on the treasures of If We Don’t Remember Me site.

These are not just to render the action in a scene. In a minimalist way, they capture the moment, an expression, in just a few frames. It’s not to capture the car blowing up crashing into a truck scene, it’s perhaps the flickering and widening of the drivers eyes before the crash.

On a web page these are subtler, as they look at first glance like static images, the movement is subdued, almost minimal.

Were it me making the assignments, I’d make them limited by frame numbers or file size. I’d make it to capture the message of the moment, or action, in the characters.


“We’re a generation of men raised by woman. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”

And that one has a lot of motion for one among this collection.

Anyone can animate a mailbox– let’s make art, dammit!

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for CogDog The Blog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. Alan,

    I agree about the subtle art of examples of the “If We Don’t, Remember Me” site. They are magic, i love the recent Barton Fink animated GIF featuring the long hallway. And what I realized when finally playing around with the animated GIF idea was the hardest part is really in the choice, the editing. A point made all too clear by D’Arcy recent post about the 20,000 images he took, and how 70 of them he considered good. There i an amazing lesson in that post, and part of it is to get out there try and know you will produce a lot of crap. At the same time knowing that you must have an idea of what is good, what you consider art and worthy of aspiring to. I think this is where the “If We Don’t, Remember Me” site is important, it give me an idea of what I would like to create—-while at the same time knowing that is a small part technical skill and a much larger part a close reading like the kind you pointed to in your Ebert post.

    In fact, that Ebert post has me thinking about a whole different set of assignments about seeing, and the minimalistic idea of subtlety in art-inspired frame that marry the storytelling to a high order of art. A great film should be able to inspire meaning through just about any frame, but at the same time all that meaning depends on context of the whole. It is suggesting the whole through the part that would make the animated GIF assignment a powerful focus, and that is what Tom Woodward’s original assignment kinda pushed us towards. At the same time, I love that it goes in all sorts of directions, and that subtlety, as much as it for me makes the art of the last rash of animated GIFs, is not always what turns me on about them. Sometimes they are just so over the top and crazy that they are awesome and gfunny—a kinda pop art—take this Hulkamaniac GIF Brian Lamb pointed me to years ago:

    I mean that’s awesome. I wanna make art, and I want it to resound on all kinds of levels—and I think the way to point to it is doing just what you did here—suggest that maybe there are some examples to aspire to—but like with no one way to make the animated GIF, there is really no one way to judge which one is art. I’d put that Hulk Hogan guitar playing GIF up against the Fight Club GIF, and in the right context, that’s my art, dammit!

    1. Everything created is art in my book. There are 1000 ways one could skin the cat of the assigment. What I was aiming for is some awareness of “make an animated GIF” and, say, make an animation that suggests paranoia.

      The beauty of the art to me is what is done within constraints. Dr. Woodward is our Jedi master.

  2. Yeah, you’re right, and you said it in one or two sentences. What I might tweka is that everything isn’t necessarily art, but rather everything can become art based within the right context….enter the urinal 😉

  3. Alan,

    I think you make a great point about the Gifs having a bit more depth and subtly, but sometimes people, maybe I am just speaking for myself need to know if they can just do something first, before they try to get creative with it. A sort of trial run or warm up.

    I loved the crispness of the Big Lebowski Gif that Jim posted, so I wanted to see if I could even get close. I was more worried about the actually steps of doing it.

    Like you said the course hasn’t even started yet, we are all just warming up. The art is coming my friend be patient.

  4. Alan, you wrote that if you were doing it, you might limit the number of frames. Interestingly, I found that the limit imposed by (14) and Picasion (10) did force me to rethink what I was doing and make it better.

    1. The limit does make it hard; I might even impose a shorter one 5 or 7. The ones on “If We Don’t, Remember Me” seem to very few frames.

      It’s all about what the brain does with the tweens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *