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Making Animated GIFs

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If you read my review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 last week, you may have seen the little animation that I included on page two to illustrate the action of the articulated monitor screen.

Animated GIF images of this type are used in a lot of web applications, and can be displayed by all web browser programs and most email clients, which means they can be sent via email, embedded on web pages, used in online forum posts, and even sent as messages on mobile phones. Many modern mobile phones can also use this type of image file as an animated screensaver. Animated GIFs are used wherever short looping animations are needed, especially where small file size is a requirement, but ultimate high-res quality isn't so important.

Animated GIF images are fairly easy to make using Adobe Photoshop using a series of specially-taken photos, hand-drawn art or any other type of graphic image. For this tutorial, I'll be using photographs, just as I did for the Sony H9 animation.

What can you animate?
You can use any sequence of photographs you like for an animation. I've seen some fantastic ones using time-lapse photography of clouds moving across the sky, or flowers opening (and one rather gruesome one of a dead mouse decaying, but don't worry, we're not doing that today!). You can use your digital camera to photograph traditional hand-drawn animated cartoons, or make and animate clay figures in the style of Wallace and Gromit (...just a tiny amount...). I don't have the patience of Nick Park however, so for today I'm just going to show you a quick looping animation using photos of one of my model cars.

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