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Old 2006-10-22, 18:32  
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: event horizon
Post Making an Avatar : A to Z

Spoiler for Original Replyies:

Structure Explanation..

I added explanations, solution to problems or simply simple alternatives while I was writing it. These are indented and marked as optional etc. Info are optional pieces of information; in case you don't understand what you're doing, and want to know. The Full-Screen-View is a link to a really big Screen Shot in case you don't know where the elements in the little images are.

Info 101
Example Used..

Lets say I would want to make an Avatar with the folowing specifications: Kanon; Ep3 (by a.f.k.); 8.36-6.37 : when Yuiichi makes the cat-like smile..

Step 1

I open VirtualDub.. (so I may grab the frames)
First I have to open the file. I go File > Open Video File > * search for "Kanon 3" > Open..
Solution For Posible Error
Upss, it would appear I have a error. Missing whatever xvid something. Oke, I just install XviD, problem fixed ^_^
I go back and try again to open Kanon 3..
Extra Info
To create an animation, you display several images one after the other at a certain time interval. The images used to create the animation are called "frames".

Frames are usually ordered from left to right. In a .gif (wich stands for Graphics Interchange Format; and is pronounced "Jiff") once the animation reaches the last frame it will go back to the first and the animation will start over, by default, you can make it so the animation stops at the last frame or that it stops after a certain amount of loops.
Step 2
More Vb..

Now that I have opened my file ("Kanon 3 form a.f.k.") I'll start the process of grabing my frames.
Extra Explanation
As in extracting the images I'll need to make the animation.
I'll first go to point where the animation supposedly starts.

Full-Window -View
Tip - Use the Arrow-Keys for baby steps.
Then I just press this little button..
Then I search for the last time and move the little bar there.. (the animation is very small so I it barely moves..) (note the little difference in time)
Then I press "That-Little-Button".. (note that after you press it the number of frames you have selected will be displayed)

Ok.. now we have all our frames selected,
lets start saving then and loading them in ImageReady.

Step 3

Go to your Desktop (Don't close VirtualDub; minimize it) Now create a new folder on your desktop called "New Folder". Go back to VirtualDub (maximize it back) go to Files > Export > Image sequence... (in older versions of Vb (pre 1.7.0): Files > Save image sequence...), Okey.. now use These-Settings. Then click OK
* a little window appears as the frames are saved in the folder called "New Folder"

After it finishes you can close VirtualDub.

Open ImageReady (it comes with PhotoShop BTW)
First go to [u]Window[u] > Workspace > Interactivity Pallet Location.. now you should have all the windows you need to make a gif..

Let's open all the frames you saved earlier in VirtualDub.
Go to: File > Import > Folder as Frames... > *select "New Folder" from your desktop.. > OK
Now you should have something to work with (Ex:Screen-Shot).
Time for the fun stuff..

Step 4
IR fun..

First we need to separate the useful bits. We also need to make the image a nice square. To do this we select the Crop Tool.. (just press C to select it) Now holding shift drag a nice square covering what you want in the animation.. For example >>>>>

The problem here is that if I select frame 15 (that also has some subtitles in it) I notice that some ugly text is in the animation (Screen-Shot.. so.... I don't crop it that way. Instead I select a frame with some subs in it (if no frame has subs in it, like in the case of RAWs, you are lucky ) now I make sure that my selection box is above the subs. (Ex: ScreenShot)

After you've made a nice selection, press Enter (on your keyboard) and you should have only the part of the image you selected.

Step 5
Nuking the Dups..

But there are a lot of useless frames.
For example, in my animation Frames 1 to 5 are exactly the same. There's no point in keeping them all, so I delete 4 of them. Same goes for every other duplicate.
Extra Info
If you want to keep as much of the original animation as posible and aren't very good with timing, count the frames. So if you have 5 identical frames (one after the other) you delete 4 and set the time on the fifth to 0.05 (I'll talk about how to set the time in a few moments). If it's a single frame you set it to 0.01.. etc..
You deleted all the duplicate frames but there's still the matter of timing.. You'll notice that in the Animation Pallete (Pallete = Window) bellow the image of each frame there's a little number, you should see something like "0 sec." this means that the frame will display for 0 seconds, then the animation will move to the next frame, it's best to set this to "0.01 sec." To do this: * left click 0 sec. > Other > *type in : .01 or 0.01 ; it's the same thing > *Press Enter The same applies to change to any other value.
Extra Info
In some cases 0 sec. would result in a slower animation then 0.01 sec. So 0.01 is recommended..
Step 6 --- Optional

Ok so now we have a nice little animation, but it doesn't loop right. The way it is now Yuiichi would make the cat-smile and then his mouth would flash back to normal. NOT Good enough, we need to make it loop.
Ok, This is what I start with.

(the frames I'm left after I removed all the duplicates)
I select the first frame.
Now Holding Shift I select my last Frame.
Now with my Frames Selected I press this little button to clone the frames in my selection.
With my frames duplicated and still selected I press this little button.

(It looks different depending on the windows skin.. but it's always in the same position)
From the menu that pops up, I press Reverse Frames this will reverse the frames in your selection.
Ok now I need to delete 2 duplicates in my selection (the first and last frame in my selection are duplicates) (just think about it.. you'll figure out why..) So I select the first frame in my selection.
Now holding Ctrl I select the last frame.
Now, to delete them, I press the Recycle-Bin icon.

Ok now I have my animation nice and smooth, ..hmm.. but it's not quite how I want it. If I leave it like this it Yuchi's mouth will just change too fast. I want 2 little pauses for a little effect So I set the time for Frame 1 to 2 sec. and the time for Frame 7 (when the cat-like-smile is biggest) to 3 sec. Like this:

So now I have a nice little loop..

If you ever have a blinking avatar then you probably have something like 3 frames duplicate those 3 frames 2 times (don't reverse them) and select slightly different timing for them, for a more realistic effect.[/i] ]

Here's something to keep in mind:
(these are after removing duplicate frames)
If your animation is left with..
  • 13 or less frames - then your good, you might only need some little extra optimizing but you should have some really high quality gif
  • around 40 frames - cutting it really close, but it's within posibility..(usually).. expect serious optimizing ahead.
  • more then 40 frames - trouble, you'll need to cut frames out. A nice way is to cut certain scenes or if you don't want to mess it up too much cut the 2nd or 3rd. For example: if my animation is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10... (were the numbers are the frames)... if I cut the 2nd then the animation would look like this 1 3 5 7 9... or, if I cut the 3rd instead, then the animation would look like this 1 2 4 5 7 8 10... Choose depending on how many frames you think you have to cut to reach a reasonable number of frames.. (3rd for less, 2nd for more; you can also repeat the process over and over.. but you might cut too many..)

Step 7 ---optional
Brightning steps ahead..

Okey... We solved some of the problems but it's a little too dark (for my liking at least). It's time to go to PhotoShop.

Click this button.. (or press Ctrl+Shift+M)

You should have something like this : ScreenShot.
If you don't.. then go Window > Workspace > Default Workspace
Ok.. now we are missing the Animation Pallet (window)
Go to Window > Animation
Now you should have something like this : Screen Shot

Now select a frame of intrest, for example I selected frame 7 since it has a 3 sec. delay. So it's going to stay on the screen a lot. Now in the Layer Pallet, select the top most layer. Like so..
Extra Info
Layers are basically the images in an animation. The order layers are in isn't important. (since the frames don't care)

A frame is basically a little data bank. It remembers what layer is visible at what given time, and how visible, as in opacity.

Layers are used to.. for example if you wanted to make a Bleach wallpaper and you had a nice scan of Ichigo and a cool empty background, you would take your picture of Ichigo and place it on one layer and your background on another layer, then you would move (in the pallet) the layer with Ichigo so it's above the layer with the background.

Layers follow the same logic as in the real world. So what's above is visible.. what's bellow is blocked by what's above, so if the above layer "has holes in it" ~sora speak you can see thru them to the bottom layer.
Time to get back to photoshoping..
With your top layer selected.. Layer (the menu) > New Adjustment Layer > and.. (youl'll do this several times so I just made a list)
  1. Levels - The left White-Arrow to increases the darkness, the middle increases/decreases the brightness (right = brighter)
  2. Curves - Too much time to explain. Just think of this as your little toy. S curves are easy and nice. (the make your image glow)
  3. Color Correction - Another lil' toy.

    And there is also several other options. Try not to overdo it..

Before(left) --- After(right)

Step 8

Now that that's done and over..
Go to Image > Image Size
Now, in the drop-down-menu where you currently have "Bubilic" select Bubilic Smoother (for the most efficient (bit wise) image reduction method) or you could chouse Bubilic Sharper for better quality. Next, go to the Width field and write "100". Click OK..
Now your image should be avatar size (100 x 100 pixels)

Step 9
Border lovin'

Now for the border..
There are different types of borders..
  • Simple 1px black border - Create a new layer, via this button ...then press Ctrl+A go to Edit > Stroke > Use these Settings
  • 1px color border with color border (Cyz type) - Create a new layer (see above) Ctrl+A, now Edit > Stroke, use these settings.. now hold Ctrl and click on the image next to the layer name of the layer that contains the border.. go Edit > Stroke and use these settings.. Now Ctrl+A.. and go Edit > Stroke with these settings.
  • Woland Style.. - make random asymmetrical selections all over the image.. (using the Rectangle Marque Tool, press M to get it) now go Selection > Save Selection > *type a name* > OK.. now Group all your layers (Select all the layers and press Ctrl+G), select the group folder.. press the layer mask button (in the same place where the "New Layer" button is, 3rd from the left..) create a new layer, now go to Select > Load Selection... > *chouse the selection your saved earlier* > OK now using this selection apply any type of border you like (recommended : 1px color border)
  • Standard Double-Border - make a 2px color border then a 1px color border over it.. tada..

The thicker the border the more optimized (bytes) your gif is .. borders made from complex selections (woland type) are very byte efficient..

Step 10
Finishing the job..

Now's time to save it..
Go File > Save for Web...
You should see something like this... The objective here is to get it under 50k. Since my animation sequence is small (12 frames) there's little to no optimizing to be done.

For something like a 40 framer. Try something like Selective/40-50 colors/10 loosy or something smaller. The drop in quality should be.. uhh.. acceptable.. Example-Output

Once you're satisfied select Save and give it a name and location.. and your all done.

Don't worry.. you'll forget it all soon enough....

Mics. Stuff ---optional
More guides..

>> Tweening.. (to get nice loop)
Tween is generally more usefull with text layers but anyway..
Version 1 - Lets say you have a 8frame animation. * Select Frame 1 > * Duplicate > * drag Frame 2 until it's Frame 9 > * select frame 8 > * Tween (set Frames to add to 3) > OK
This is better if you have 2 or more short animations 1 after the other and want to separate them..

Version 2 - Lets say you have a 12frame animation. * Move the layer for Frame 1 next to the layer for the Frame 12 > * Duplicate Frame 12 > * Select Frame 12 > * make the layer for Frame 12 and the Layer for Frame 1 visible > * do the same for Frame 13 > * Select Frame 12 and the layer for Frame 1 > * Using the move tool (Press V) move the image down until you can't see it (if the layer is under the layer for Frame 12 then disable visibility, for the layer for Frame 12, to make it visible) > * Do the same for Frame 13 only this time move the layer for Frame 1 Up > * tween (Set Frames to Add to something like 5 frames) > OK
You should have something like this..

And the Result.. (I added 1px black line between the rolls..)

To get it Up-Down, Left-Right, Right-Left.. same idea as above..

Version 3 - Create a new layer.. go Edit > Fill > * Use Black or White > * Duplicate it (* right click it > Duplicate Layer) > * Move them so they're above all layers except the border(s) > * Make them visible in all the frames (use Visibility and Lock > * Move one to the extreme-left and the other to the extreme-right (so they're not visible) > * Create a new Frame > * Move them back (so they're visible) > Tween > * 5 Frames or so > OK > * Delete some of the frames that look the same... all done.. you can't do this on the y-axis.. etc..
>> Layer Masks
Duplicate the last layer several times. Duplicate the last frames several times. Make the first layer visible in all of them. Make a sligltly bigger layer mask in each of the layers. Make every one of the frames you made (duplicated) corespond with one of the layers you made. All done.
Here's an example-result..

Last edited by felix; 2007-05-18 at 08:07. Reason: Fixed Glitch..
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