Making animated GIF pictures

(Graphics Interchange Format, “GIF” is a computer image format that has become popular on the internet.)

It’s not very difficult to get children interested in computers. (What an understatement.) And if one hopes that their interest can be channeled into something useful, this is a fun way to start. Animated GIFs are a great way to create interesting web pages, blogs email attachments etc., and the ability to create them will be a useful skill in any future internet-related career.  It’s not hard to learn how to make them. I’m describing here how I have made them on the Linux operating system. I use it for two main reasons:

1) It is all freely available software, so one will not be tempted to use pirated software and set a bad example.

2) Children are rarely familiar with it so they will not be distracted by their favorite games, chat programs etc.

These were some of my students’ first attempts.

Jonathan's table tennis player

Lily wagging her tail. Made by Ariel

1) First one needs to create each frame of the animation. In the case of Jonathan’s table tennis player, each frame was simply a photo of the clay model with his body and arms in different positions.

Ariel used a single photo of Lily. Her tail was copied, rotated to different angles and pasted back on, saving each one separately. This was done using “Kolourpaint” in Linux – similar to Paintbrush in Windows.

2) The picture files are then opened in the GIMP – another Linux graphics program. When GIMP is started, from the file menu, choose “Open as Layers”, then select all the files and open them.

3) Next, the file size should be reduced by choosing from the menu, Filters > Animation > Optimize (for GIF)

4) From the file menu, choose “Save as”, give it a name ending with the GIF extension, i.e., “myfile.gif” and save it.

5) A message will appear as below. Choose “Save as Animation”

6) Another window will appear, allowing you to set the timing:

If the default settings are OK, just press “Save” and your animated GIF will be created in the same directory as your original files.

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