Saturday, December 03, 2005

HowTo: WoW .gif animations

I got so many people asking me how to create those .gif animations i use in my blog... so i took the time to write a detailed HowTo.

Step 1: Showing the animation we want
Get WoW Model Viewer (updated), a great tool which lets you explore the models and animations from your WoW files. Start the program and select the model/animation you want. For our example we choose a little Gnome with a funny hat. Choose the character model and the equipment you want. In the lower part you'll see the "animation controls". Play around with the animations (from the drop down menu) and choose the one you want to use.

Step 2: Adjusting the animation loop

Now we'll modify the animation shown. If we change the settings so we'll only go through one animation loop, the later .gif animation will be much cleaner. We'll loop the .gif animation later anyway and we want to have a perfect endless loop so it will be a smooth ongoing animation.
a) deselect "Auto Animate"
b) press "clear"
c) select the animation you want in the drop down menu
d) choose "1" in the second drop down menu and then press "Add"

If you press "Play" now, the screen should only show a one-time animation and stop afterwards. If you think the animation is played too fast, so the later looped .gif anim will be too "uneasy", you can also adjust the animation speed with the slider.

Step 3: Recording the animation

Before you record the animation, go to View -> Background Color and choose the color of your background you want to use the animation with. This step makes it easier to use it with correct color settings.

Now you need a program that can record your screen, preferable a selection of it. I'm using Camtasia Studio for this purpose. I create a new project, select the part of the screen i want to record and then start the recording and the animation. While selecting a region of your screen be careful to watch the animation before, as the object you want to record will move slightly.
With Camtasia i record the animation and can also choose to save the project as a .gif file. Now we have our first .gif anim.

Step 4: Shaping the animation

The .gif anim we have now needs to be edited of course, so we'll end up with a good animation. To edit the .gif I'm using Adobe ImageReady, which is part of Photoshop.
First thing to do now, is to change the size of your .gif (if you realize the size you chose in Camtasia was not correct). After this, have a close look at the animation frames. Most likely at the end or at the beginning you'll have too many frames and need to delete one or two. In addition, have a close look at the animation times from each frame. You want a smooth animation and all are supposed to have the same time. Change them if needed. The only reason you should choose a different time on a frame is if you want to "emphasize" a certain animation part, a gesture.
The last finishing touch would be to sharpen the animation, as probably after resizing and it, etc. it looks a bit blurry. So now you go through every frame and use a sharpening filter on it.

Step 5: The final animation

I hope this small guide helps you to do your own animations. Good luck.

Final tip: Sometimes you get a one or two pixel border around your animation - 'cause of the screen recording. Just adjust the canvas size in total (shrink it), then you don't have to edit every frame by hand.


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