Lesson Plan: Turning Sculptures into Animated Gifs

In January, my 8th graders and I will be embarking on a series of studies about animation. I love animation. The more I learn about animation, the more I love, love, love (love!) it. In fact, I’ve even written about animation a few times on this blog, and have even made a full click-by-click wiki on how to lead your own stop-motion animation unit.

In order to prepare my students, we are working on a “baby” animation project prior to the winter holidays. I want the students to have a basic understanding of the process, and I want them to be excited to work on larger-scale (and thereby more frustrating) projects.

Image from here

I’ve seen different versions of this charming clothespin project all over the internet. While it is probably a little bit too elementary for my middle school students, I knew I had to find a way to incorporate it into a larger Art unit. After a bit of thinking, I knew it would work great to mash this sweet, crafty sculpture with some basic gif animation.

Gifs, in case you don’t know, are images in bitmap format and they support only 256 colors. Basically, gif images have to be more simplistic than say jpeg or vector images. Gifs also support very basic animation; you can tell your file format to show different images (think slides) with timed delays. It sounds complicated, but it really is not. There are all sorts of websites and free software that allow you to make gifs (type “gif generator” into Google). You can also make gifs with Adobe Photoshop.  I’ve been making gifs with Gimp, which is a free photo-editing software (similar to Photoshop Elements, but free). Incidentally, if you are looking for quality, free, photo-editing software, Gimp is it!

My students have been using Pixlr thus far to edit photos. I’m in the process of getting administrative approval to load Gimp onto a whole lab of computers. But, until that time, I’m Pixlr-dependent. Pixlr, while awesome (it’s free, it’s a website, and has an almost exact interface as Photoshop Elements), is not able to make gifs. But, you can make individual images to serve as frames, and then load these frames into a gif generator like Picasion.

Again, if you are new to gifs this all sounds confusing. . .Trust me, it is not hard!!

Here’s what we did (and directions on how we did it):
1. We learned how to make clothespin sculptures. Here is a great pic that explains that.
2. Students took 2 pictures of their clothespin sculpture. In one picture the pin is closed, in the other it is open. Students tried to keep the same exact composition for both. To make life easier, I had them take their pictures in front of a “green screen” (a green sheet of paper; it makes editing backgrounds easier).

3. Students uploaded images to the computer
4. Students manipulated their images in Pixlr in order to get 2 “frames” for their animation. I have a full set of (editable) click-by-click directions on how to do this in Pixlr right here (be not afraid!).

5. Students uploaded their “frames” to Picasion
6. Students saved their gifs and shared them on Edmodo

P.S. If you/your students make this project; share it with me. I would soo love that!
P.P.S. If you need some awesome gif-spiration check out these ah-mazing artists:

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