Stand by to stand by. –Mad Squid

If you’ve followed me from before the pandemic, you may already know that I have been working on a 100% solo and independent documentary film about the disappearance of my grandfather in 1987. His story is both enchanting and difficult to believe. It ends, however, in tragedy.

Here is the very first trailer that I mocked up to announce to my audience on an old Twitter account–long since deleted by that service at the height of Trump’s power–that I was beginning real work on the project, rather than just opining and pontificating about it.

This trailer is crude, and not very complete in the sense that you don’t actually come away from it with a sense of the story behind the film. That’s why I decided, shortly thereafter, to craft a better trailer for the potential film. At the time I was flying many drone missions, both for myself and for gig services like Drone Base and SOAR. As such, my confidence was growing and I was really getting a feel for the project. Not to mention that I was capturing some sweet footage!

But I have begun, and paused, and begun and paused this project so many times now that I lost nearly all of my inertia when the pandemic hit, and really believed that the project might be done forever. Until today. Today I had a reawakening.

#TheGreatUntold caught my attention. Check it out here:

https://t.co/DYK1OwBNuT?amp=1

“Stand by to stand by.” –Mad Squid

After making three NFT that were kind of all over the place–and which mostly used old models rendered at new resolutions, if I am being honest–I have decided to launch my very first, all original, NFT Collection on Opensea.io!

While surfing another popular NFT site, I was very impressed by a collection of “toys” created by an artist named Trym Ruud. The Collection is called “RUDE BOY’S.” These collectible digital toys come in the packaging, as it were.

This made me think of all the fun and innovative forms of packaging that I have seen over the years. You know, the kind that makes a product stand out against all of the others on the same shelf. RUDE BOY’S was that way for me, only with NFTs.

Not wanting to mimic Trym Ruud so precisely that it might be considered intellectual theft, I set out to find a form of packaging that was both easy enough for me to model and was invoking of a sense of childhood nostalgia.

I quickly settled on the acorn capsule toy machines that I used to see at every grocery store and gas station in my youth. You still see them here and there, but not like back then. The toys you would get inside, which were usually cheap and simple, would generally cost either 25¢, 50¢, or 75¢. Sometimes they would be $1.00, but I couldn’t afford such high stakes in my youth.

I decided to make five colors, plus a silver and a gold for rare and ultra rare toys. The colors are Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby, Amber, and Amethyst. I haven’t decided if I will depict rarity with groupings of the primary colors and secondary colors, or by the rarity of the gemstone names I have given them. Leave a comment if you want to weigh in!

Here are the seven I have so far:

If you would like to watch the modeling process in time lapse (sped up to ~2750% of the original speed), as well as a preview of the very first toy, and thus NFT, that I will be releasing, you’re in luck:

Sculpting the acorn capsules and a quick preview of FlameBoy!

Stand by to stand by. –Mad Squid

More like diving headlong, but yeah. I’m trying to make this a new thing for me. I chose to begin with a model that I sculpted a few years back for the Sculpt January competition. Here is what I submitted for that competition:

To update this asset as an original NFT, I opened the blend file in Blender 2.9 and added some animation to the camera. I then used the new Eevee rendering engine to render a much higher resolution version than I ever have before, with improved lighting, etcetera. I exported to a PNG sequence, then imported those PNGs into Apple Motion. Next, I rendered to an Apple ProRes 4444 XQ .MOV file. Finally, I converted that to an animated GIF, with transparency intact.

Find it here:

My OpenSeas NFT Listing

In the process of creating stickers for TikTok (via GIPHY), I have been learning things at every turn. A GIF without a transparent alpha channel, for instance, is not a “sticker.” GIPHY apparently automatically assigns one label or the other when you upload a new creation. Since I’m still waiting to hear back from them as to the fate of my brand account upgrade, I am still very much in the dark about how this will ultimately play out when moving my artwork from GIPHY to TikTok. However, if TikTok calls their entire library “stickers,” it seems to follow that any GIFs which are lacking that sticker label will probably not make it to being live on TikTok.

Furthermore, any stickers which are of insufficient resolution will likely be screened out before going live on the app formerly known as “Musical.ly.” This could be a real nightmare for someone like me because the software that I use to create my motion graphics–and even my still MEMEs for that matter (I could do a whole post on why I prefer Apple’s $49 software to high priced juggernauts, but that would certainly be a digression)–can be very quirky when it comes to resolutions during export. This is especially true when dealing with text, and even more so if that text is animated.

I’m not a software engineer, but I believe that it comes down to the way animation is rendered in Motion. Movement in film/video is an illusion, as we all know. It isn’t actually a temporally flowing event we’re watching, but rather a series of individual still frames which are slightly different from one another, but which are shown to us in rapid succession. High end films retain nearly perfect resolution, with no blurring, even when motion on screen is chaotic and quick.

But, and I’m guessing it’s about saving space (compression) and keeping the price tag low for the software, but Motion seems to handle this in an old-school way: breaking up each frame into two, slicing 50% of each out in an every-other-line fashion, and then merging half of one frame with half of the next. This leads to very obvious striation on screen at lower render settings, and even at the highest settings, if the overall image isn’t large enough, you can see these “artifacts” quite visibly.

So, to make a long story short…oh, who am I kidding? This is already too long for a post about GIF/sticker resolutions! This was a very long way of saying that I have figured out that the resolution that I was making “stickers” at was likely too small (and therefore of insufficient resolution and/or quality) to make it to TikTok.

I had been making them at a resolution of 750 by 250, or 3:1. But this led to several of my creations displaying blurry or with an excess of the aforementioned artifacts. Since many of my stickers are 100% animated text, this was a real problem. Here is an example of one that I made at this resolution:

When I realized my error, I did a little more research and found that I would need to upscale to at least 1080 x 360. So far, this resolution is working better for me. What do you think? Please tell me in a comment!!!!

As I’m typing this post, I noticed that the new, higher resolution one, is displaying with more blurring than the older, smaller one. That one displaying poorly was the entire impetus for writing this post, and now I’m wondering if it wasn’t just a “processing” thing on GIPHY’s end? Maybe the new one will look better tomorrow?

Stand by to stand by. –Mad Squid