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

The last four years have been a whirlwind of epic proportions. It might be more accurate to call the whole thing a whirl-hurricane. (Feel free to use that term, just send me some bitcoin every time you do. 😉 I was sent home from my job–the first one earning above the poverty line since leaving the Navy in 2003 and coming home to Colorado–and ultimately fired, on Trump’s Inauguration Day in 2017.

This was by no means my first clue as to how terrible the Trump years were going to be. I do have a (pre-law) degree in Political Science, and my years serving as an intelligence analyst for the US Navy imparted me with a strong interest in geo-political matters. I had already been following Trump’s ascendency within the GOP with a sense of distraught fear. Being fired on the day that he seized power was merely the final nail in the coffin.

I don’t have to remind anyone of what has happened since then. The truths of the Trump failure(s) will scar this nation for years to come. With that said, the Trump era is coming to a close, and with it comes the death of this never-ending chaos. A Sailor knows that any port will do in a storm, but that peace won’t be upon thee until the storm has passed.

Today, the skies are clearing. I can see rays of sunlight bursting through from between the rapidly parting clouds above. An array of hope washes over my world like an expanding rainbow, come to cleanse me like the Democrats did to the GOP last week.

With the return of stability comes the return of past responsibilities. There are bills to pay, new projects to start, and old projects to complete. I had been working on a documentary about the disappearance of my grandfather, a WWII veteran, in the mid 1980s. My commercial drone pilot license (Part 107) has lapsed, and requires renewal.

There is much to do, and four fewer years to do it in now. But here we are. And onward we sail!

“Stand by to stand by!” –Mad Squid

For Christmas this year I decided to try and make at least one gift from scratch. My daughter lent me the perfect idea when she began reading and talking about witches. This is an interest that I believe she picked up from her Anime shows and graphic novels. Wherever it came from though, it was a perfect match for my gift plan because hand made objects are imbued with power in the world of witching.

Also, in order to make a quality gift, I knew I’d have to be into the concept on some level myself. When I began reading up on witchcraft spells, I quickly found my way to the story of the origins of magic runes. Originating from an ancient Norse poem called Hávamál, the tale is one of sacrifice and attainment of knowledge. It is also one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read!

In this story Odin pins his corporeal self to Yggdrasil, the tree of life which contains the nine realms (be prepared for lofty language and imagery). There he hung above the Well of Urd, a repository for all of the knowledge of the entire Universe, for nine days and nights. He refused help, food, and water from all of the other Gods for this entire time. After the ninth night, the Norns recognized his sacrifice (himself to himself!!!) and taught the power and use of the runes to him. Odin then passed this knowledge on to Humanity, teaching it to the first generation of witches himself.

I was blown away by the depth and beauty of the imagery of this story. If you are unfamiliar with it I highly recommend looking it up. Here is one pretty good link to further you along that path: https://norse-mythology.org/tales/odins-discovery-of-the-runes/

I built this box from an idea. I had no blueprints or plans. Also, I chose not to use fasteners of any kind (except to affix the bronze hardware). The wood is basswood, sourced from my local hobby shop, called Hobby Hut Models. They were very helpful and understanding of my staring at their wood selection for what seemed like forever as I measured and remeasured in my head.

Wooden blocks on the shelf at Hobby Hut Models.
Block selection at Hobby Hut Models.

I began by cutting and gluing the frame of the chest together using 90º clamps. I then cut and glued boards around the frame to create the body of the chest. For the floor of the chest I used the thickest pieces of basswood board so that it could hand the abuse of having things tossed into the chest over the a period of years.

Next, I used a plate to trace a semi-circle onto slightly thicker boards which I used to create the end caps of the domed lid, as well as two ribs to give it more structural integrity. This I had to do because in order to bend the planks for the rounded top of the lid, I knew I had to use fairly thin sheets of wood. I glued these to sticks to create the frame of the chest’s lid, and then glued boards atop the arched end pieces in what I would call a shingled fashion.

For the consecration, I focused my energy and chanted “Elhaz” as I burned the rune itself into each side of the chest, and onto the end pieces of the lid. When the consecration ceremony was complete I used a weathered gray wood stain to color the box, as well as a clear coat inside the chest. Lastly, I glued a beautiful golden garland around the lower seam of the lid, both to close a small gap and to provide some aesthetic nuance to the chest.

My family watches television directly outside of my office, so my daughter knew that I was working on something in here, but we didn’t let her see what. Instead I pieced together a small gazebo from an old wood burning kit and showed it to her at various stages of completion. We repeatedly told her that she was getting the gazebo for Christmas, which really messed with her because of how much time I spent in here working on such a simple object, not to mention the noise and smells that I created in the process. I even wrapped the gazebo and put it under the tree. It was really great fun!