I recently decided to start making stickers and videos in direct response to trending hashtags on the discover page of my TikTok feed. Over the weekend, I saw the #SugarCrash (often misspelled as #SugarCrush) hashtag and thought it might be fun to make my own version. While it would have been more canon to open with a shot of how many likes @thenickluciano got on his video, then cut to a CU of me making the, “why not?” face. But this music video is much more my style:
But my version has yet to even break 100 views. It certainly hasn’t raked in the hundreds of thousands of views and likes that I was hoping for. So…
Am I shadow banned, or am I really just that boring?
Anyway, while I sit here pondering that question, why don’t you go grab yourself a copy of the song and try your hand at this trend?
At this moment I am feeling giddy. That’s right, giddy, like a puppy with a new friend. But for me, that friend is you! I mean that quite literally. It must be true, too, because at least 13 Million of you have taken the time to direct your ocular sensors at one of my GIFs on Giphy. And, if I’m reading the stats right, it’s going to be much higher tomorrow. (They update the posted numbers daily.)
This new success is the culmination of a long battle with both Tenor and Giphy. I still don’t know if it was something I uploaded, or if it was the simple fact that my account was created through Facebook and never had it’s own individual login credentials. Both are potential theories that I have developed. But the truth could just as easily be something else. I’ve had social media accounts deleted on me, which were listed as official channels for my brand. Just one additional example of another theory. I may never know how or why things got to where they did, but I do know what fixed things: I deleted my account.
Once I severed cleanly, and began again from scratch with a fully credentialed, independent account, success came quickly. I began uploading both old and new content, with a strong focus on stickers, specifically for use on the TikTok platform. In creating new content, I try to be responsive to what I’m seeing on my #FYP. For instance, in one week I saw several friends, both old and new, announce that they were launching a 10-part series on this or that.
One source of inspiration was a video created by an elderly gentlemen who very publicly took three or four TikToks just to figure out how not to stop recording himself mid-recording. In this video, he bravely announced that he would be starting his first 10-part series! Knowing that this could be an uphill battle for a guy or gal like that–and wanting them to succeed at it anyway–sparked an idea for a group of ten “Part [X]” stickers, so that their 10-parters could have a consistent professional look with minimal effort:
And so I carried on like that, even dabbling into a little bit of sports related art, which is not germane to my particular personal identity. Then, seriously, just two afternoons ago, I saw that my stickers had reached what I saw as a massive milestone: 500k views!
I was so proud that I brought it up to my son Hunter the next evening, and when I went to show him proof, the number had jumped to 750k. Hunter was actually impressed, and commented that I had nearly a millionpeople looking at my art. (The rarest of things in my home, a heartfelt compliment from one of the kids. 😉
I was ecstatic about this, and would have been completely satisfied had it stopped there. But it didn’t…
This morning I logged in to see that my 500k views had skyrocketed to over 13 million! No joke… 13 MILLION views:
My son isn’t even awake yet to share this exciting news with. But he will be soon, and I am really looking forward to having another positive interaction with him. But it gets even better! I dug around in my uploaded catalog, the dashboard, and analytics page(s) to see if I could glean more specific information, and what I discovered made my jaw drop! That number above, 13.8M, is the total published up to yesterday. That number updates once per day. I have reason to believe now, that this will jump to over 30 MILLION VIEWS tomorrow.
How? Oddly, it turns out to be one specific GIF that is driving almost all of this exposure thus far, though I believe it will have a synergistic effect on the rest of my catalog in time. Amazingly, that one GIF, when I checked it this morning, appears to have reached 33, 340, 250 views by itself!
I am truly exuberant about this, and have no intention of stopping any time soon. I would really like to maintain the tradition of being responsive to my community rather than just pumping out content that I like and want to use. As such, I am open to suggestions and requests. The design process is fairly short, a few hours generally, but the turn around is lightning fast once the GIF is uploaded to my catalog. New stickers generally appear, ready for search and for use by the TikTok community, within a matter of 10 minutes. Groups of stickers seem to take longer to sort through the system, but do eventually make it online the same day.
All of this to say: I’M TAKING REQUESTS! Leave one in a comment! Mmmmmmkay?
Yesterday was the fifth week since I began making TikToks about my attempt to get constituent services from Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Her office here in Grand Junction, Colorado–my hometown–has not been open once since Lauren was elected. This means that constituent services have not been available to anyone living in her district who needs, say, a Letter of Recommendation to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They haven’t been available for anything, actually.
Now, my weekly TikToks highlighting this absence of representation and service for the people of my district, have grown to be one of my most popular series on that platform. They helped to propel my first account to over 10k followers, a huge milestone. Then came the death threats from Republicans:
That’s just one example. The threats were many. Reporting them to TikTok resulted in a 7-day suspension of my account, which I appealed. Apparently, the appeal struck a nerve at TikTok HQ, because without any warning, my entire account (@realMadSquid) was “permanently banned.” Never mind my 10k followers. Never mind my content. Never mind the money I had on the account (for tipping live streamers). Never mind the threats to my life. Never mind that I’m a veteran. Just: DELETED.
So I started a new account (@MadSquidProductions) and started over, beginning with content that exposed irishsc23 for making threats against me. That content was taken down by TikTok for “harassment or bullying.” I couldn’t figure out why TikTok would want to silence a veteran whose life had been threatened by another user on their platform, and allow that person to continue using TT in spite of their blatant violations of “Community Guidelines.”
So, being the incorrigible person that I am, I re-uploaded that video, with huge lettering over the top stating that TikTok had taken it down, while allowing violent right wing users to threaten a veteran’s life. In the description I added the following:
“Take this one down TikTok and you’ll be speaking to the #FBI next. Protecting the guy who THREATENED a veteran instead of the VETERAN? 🖕🏼”
It stayed up, and eventually they put the original version back up. For this reason, one or two of my early videos on this new account appear twice. One, however, remains unavailable, though it’s 2nd iteration is still available. But I digress…
The new account is already back to 5k followers, and growing, thanks in large part to this weekly series of visits to Boebert’s office. People are really not happy with Lauren’s performance in office. From the milage fraud scheme that paid off a lien on her failing restaurant in Rifle, Colorado to the fact that she illegally carried a firearm into Congress on her first few days at work, an act that served as the impetus for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take the controversial move of installing metal detectors.
Who can blame Speaker Pelosi, though? Lauren tweeted out “Today is 1776” on the morning of the terrorist insurrection in Washington DC earlier this year. In fact, this is the subject of one of my three sets of Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which Lauren and her staff have illegally ignored since January 20th.
Colorado law provides 3 days for a response, with a maximum of ten days with the allowed 7-day extension, which they must request of the CORA’s author. But they have simply ignored me. Somewhere around week 4 I did receive a form letter, with rubber stamped signature, which also completely ignored my requests:
So, long story short, I am still making TikToks about this situation and publishing them to my new account. Yesterday I made a trip down to Lauren’s office, again, and once again found the door locked, no signs on the door, and no answer to my knock, even though–as I commented in this video–I could hear voices inside. LOL.
If you watched the full, 11-minute video at the top of this post (you probably did, or at least skimmed it, because it’s most likely what brought you here in the first place), you will see first hand what unfolded afterward. First, I made a failed attempt to contact the building’s leasing office, to inquire about the payments for Lauren’s empty office. But they were closed.
So, I stopped in the lobby of the beautiful Horizon Park Plaza to film some “b-roll” to used in future TikToks. Once finished there, I decided to keep filming as I walked back past Suite 112, Boebert’s office, toward my car in the rear parking lot. If you haven’t watched the full 11-minute video at the top of this post, this would be a good time to do so, because what happened as I walked by their door on my way out, was PRICELESS!
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?