My first attempt at an animated gif was laughable. But this was also in part by design as my motto (see tagline at the top of my blog) is “revise and you will learn something new every day.” As an open online student in DS106, a course on Digital Storytelling, my professor and colleague, Jim Groom, encouraged me with a link to a tutorial to help me master the process and inject some real animation magic into my homework assignment. I used MPEG streamclip and GIMP, both free and freely available on the open web. I am continuing on the same theme of my previous post which features Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact. Grooms’ Gun Crazy Gifs post really got me thinking and upset about where the US stands in regards to gun reform. In light of the Newtown massacre, it’s time for Americans to say, “enough is enough,” by outlawing AK-47s, Glock 27-pack clip magazines at $27 each, armor-piercing bullets and the like. Charlton Heston, a brilliant actor and orator whom we all know and respect for performances in Ben Hur and many other films that span decades, was also an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.
Growing up with WTBS and TNT on the tube on most Sunday afternoons, around the holidays I remember catching his awesome performance in the role of Judah Ben–Hur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem in the 1st century. Ben-Hur is one of my all-time favorite films and is right up there with Casablanca. When I lived in London, England in 1987-88, I was fortunate to see him in a play at the Savoy Theatre in the role of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s, A Man for All Seasons. Fifteen minutes into the first act, a towering figure emerges in darkness from the back of the theater. Voice first, then a ghostly figure glided down the left side aisle of the theater about three feet from where I was sitting. It was Charlton and we had great seats. I instantly recognized his fierce yet gentle voice and was simply amazed at his towering stature. He was in fact 6’3″. Later in life, when he became the spokesman for the NRA, my opinion of Heston plummeted. Back in May of 2000, during a recorded press conference, he exclaimed and brandished a rifle over his head: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands.” Maybe he thought he was on a set? Either way, how could Ben-Hur and George Taylor (Planet of the Apes) disappoint millions of fans in one simple act after such a fabulous career? This was his last well-known public performance and I think it’s safe to say that he went out with a bang. Here are few animated gifs that speak volumes to Charlton Heston acting expertise, both good and not so good, but clearly focused on giving a stellar performance on and off-stage.
After seeing a call by Alan Levine on Twitter about a certain animated GIF festival under way, I began to see more of the familiar DS106 animated gif on different sites I follow. I’ve never made an animated gif before, and to be honest, I’ve never understood the cult-like fascination with them in DS106: “What do those guys do in DS106? Well, they make animated gifs. Word.” And so much more! What this means is I’ll start making many more animated gifs to keep the DS106 energy going over winter break. It wasn’t until I saw one by Andy Forgrave, Zack Dowell, Brian Lamb, and then the great Reverend himself, that I finally decided to give it a shot. I’m not one who’s inclined to follow tutorials in general. I end up learning much more about my own process while stumbling along the way toward the light. Having the community chime in via comments is especially helpful. Still rather new at the blogging scene compared to folks out there who model best practices and who’ve been at this since the beginning, I’ll follow their lead and leave comments enabled on my site. I’ve never understood why some well known and established bloggers disable comments on their sites. So, back to the lecture at hand, I’ve revise and improve thanks to you kind folks out there giving advice. While I know there’s a more acceptable way to do this with all due DIY artistic merit and pride in mind, here’s how I did it. I did a quick web search for animated gif generator and found Image Flip. Jim Groom’s Gun Crazy Gifs post is inspirational and right on the mark about the bigger picture context of American civilization in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. It really got me thinking about the obsession American culture, for good and bad, mostly worse, has for guns, violence and rugged-individualist machissimo. I chose Clint Eastwood in the unforgettable role of Dirty Harryin the most memorable scene from Sudden Impact. Harry soberly mutters early in the morning and before his first cup of coffee: “Go ahead, make my day.”
Using Image Flips’ markers, I isolated the segment and executed its automagical workflow to produce the animation. Only thing is, when it came time to embed it in a post, there wasn’t a share html embed code to use. I poked around a bit trying different code samples but to no avail. How does one get it disappear? Pretty lame. So I ended up downloading a trial copy of Screenflow and recorded about 2:30 minutes of my desktop playing the file. Then I used the cropping tool to isolate the clip alone and exported and uploaded to YouTube as an mp4. Voila! The Demo Copy watermark is there but hey, I’m now giffin’ it… sort of… not. My make-believe creation would be far more subtle and devious had I managed to conceal the video player controls at the bottom, set loop=true, etc. Almost fooled you, eh? Not too shabby for winging it and having a blast.
Last night, I once again was reminded in a very positive way just how connected I am with others on social media and Twitter in particular. Such powerful connections give rise to a sense of immediacy and proximity to real events as they occur. This also provide the basis for experimentation and creativity in ways that align with DS106, my favorite online community for digital storytelling. For example, as I came online after dinner, I started seeing news tweets flash by that North Korea had launched a missile. Indeed, it raced southwards and was spotted by the Japanese on the island of Okinawa.
Other news sources began to light up as well. I got a bit nervous thinking that perhaps something big was going down… yikes – just what is the payload in that rocket?? But shortly afterward, it was confirmed that North Korea had fired a rocket into orbit to launch its first satellite. In the end, all was fine… at least so it seemed. But this got me thinking about this country’s insane leadership and the nefarious ways of dictatorships in general. Something about a missile and evil of course took me back to Mike Myers as Dr. Evil et al. in Austin Powers II, right at the point when Dr. Evil and Mini-Me are launched into space.
This prompted me to send the following tweet to my followers: “Did North Korea just launch Dr. Evil into space? Someone call Austin Powers.” And wouldn’t you know, shortly after publishing it, Austin Powers responded to my tweet, through his own dynamic search of the Twitterverse, by making it one his favorites.
This could be a cool assignment for DS106 students: based on a real life event, engage historical figures (real or fictional) on Twitter. What’s ironic is I didn’t tweet this message at Austin Powers; in fact, I had no idea there was some character out there pretending to be Austin Powers! Could it be Mike Meyers, as in, could the real Mike Meyers stand up, please? This is also what makes Twitter so great- a place to create and co-create meaning with others while also keeping a watchful eye on authenticity, purpose, and one’s very own crap filter.