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Background story of the Expressn Candle Tutorial


It started with an idea of making something fun and interesting on Cyborgmoln for Christmas. Some funny or cute pictures maybe? And why not animated? Good idea but not too innovative. And I'm no big artist or cartoonist either.

Some kind of counter maybe? There are zillions of visitor counters and downcounters are rather well known too.

Now we got the background setting and the framings. It ended up with the candle. It was animated and it was (as far as I know) new. I found a few candle animations but they were just GIF animations. The new element was the combination of GIF animation and candle. And maybe the XMAS association. Real live candles with numbers to count down are well known. which adds an extra twist. It's both new and familiar.

I had some struggling with candle animation. My first attempt was to film a live candle and run 10-15 frames/second. It looked terrible so I gave up. Then I Googled for GIF animated candles and learned how a few others did it. Seemed like they where good artist and just painted it with fairly few frames. Somewhere there I learned to avoid big moves. No matter how great paint job it was - big moves made it easy to see the animation cycle repeat over and over. I also learned the lesson to avoid too much work. Having lots of frames isn't worth it. GIF animation is not video. Keep it small and simple.

Expressn candle burning towards XMAS.

Eventually I also found a Photoshop tutorial of candle animation. It used the Twist-and-Pinch tool and was extremely simple. They didn't even bother to cut out the flame before they distorted it - since it worked well enough anyway. Now I don't use Photoshop, but GIMP is more or less equivalent if you're not using too many features. And although Twist-and-Pinch was new to me, it appears to be very old news for an experienced artist.

I also had to learn GIMP GIF animation. Hard to learn, but trivial when you know it.

Anyway, I got the animation working. Then I made a number of candles - one for each day. And set up a cron script on the server to replace the image every day. One image changing at midnight Swedish time and another one (with English text) changing roughly at or slightly after midnight in Americas depending on time zone.

After a while I learned that some people were intersted in details about the candle. Thus I decided to write it down in a quick GIMP tutorial and provide some text. Hope it helps someone learning something just as I have learned from so many other texts and tutorials on the net.