While in Nashville, I noticed these interesting series of reflections from the Cumberland River in an office building, literally twinkling in the windows. I wondered if I could take a series of these to create an animated GIF. I used the camera in multiple shot mode, but still felt like the camera moved slightly (it did).

In Photoshop (CS5), I used the option Files -> Scripts -> Load Files into Stack.. This places each image in its own layer. I chose the option to “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images”

From here I crop to take care of the off alignment of edges, and resize to 500 pixels wide (the size of my main blog column). I can then use the Animation window to set up the timing, and preview the effect.

(click for full size)

I then Save for Web & Devices using the GIF option, and here we go:

I like the subtle effect. My next foal is to get better at doing the masking options to animate only small parts of a scene (curse you, I may have to learn about those snooty Beziers).

Am animated GIF a day keeps the pellet pressing boredom at bay.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com 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) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Now there’s a tutorial I believe I can wrap my head around! I get it…I need to rapid fire shoot the twinkling scene to get multiple photos near identical.

    That is, it has to be an animated giffiness in real life, right? Then my multiple photos can be Photoshopped to replicate that “natural” effect.

    I think the effect you got is much more elegant than the movie scenes others have giffified, which I must admit have not inspired me to realize my Total Goofy Giffy Potential.

    And if I ever catch up on my grading, I’m right behind you!

  2. You know what, I’ve actually been pondering why this GIF works as well as it does and I think the key here (apart from the visual subtlety) is that the image “loops” back on itself pretty well too, certainly much better than a lot of the animated GIFs out there.

    It kinda lets your eye travel around the entirety of the image without the jarring effect of the scene resetting itself. I should keep that in mind..

    1. @mome – good point, I find myself sometimes getting lazy about doing a clean loop, which is why they end up being more spastic.

      Even looking at http://iwdrm.tumblr.com/ I am draw into the subtle ways beyond loops; the Godfather one that almost ahs two loops of motion, the Psycho one where the motion is so subtle, the small movements of grass in a field that suggest the place.

      I was inspired by the smoothness of the water in this one

      to try this photo. How cool is it that with 4 frames, I can make continuous, perpetual motion?

      1. Oh wow those GIF links are just hypnotic @.@ I’m especially drawn into the one with the man holding an axe and I think the (unlikely) reason is that it reminds me of character animations in fighting games if there is no input from players. Kinda like this (the first few seconds before the match starts): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH9-ca7VCgU

        On the “water” GIF though, I personally find myself more captivated by the woman’s breathing over the water effects. It certainly is amazing that 4 frames=perpetual motion, especially when considering the state of “hi-def” technology these days where things are expected to run at 30-60fps… Makes you wonder if it’s all just unnessecary :O

  3. I love this idea! It answers my question of what makes an animated gif an effective tool. And the building almost looks computer generated. Is it because it’s stationary while the reflection is moving?

    Also, thank you for this excellent tutorial. It was non-threatening and a great starting point for me to get started.

    I did make my first one, but now I want to try something subtle like this… 🙂

  4. Linda, the building had some good later afternoon light do it was high contrast, I did not tweak anything from the original photos.

    It was the reflection texture of the water that caught my eye, but the image did not seem special. It was while watching the changes in the reflections that I wondered if I could animate it.

    I am eager to see what you can do, your trains were a great first start! I think less movement can be more interesting, as it makes it somewhere between a photo and a video

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