Midnight GIF of the Midday VIA

Midnight GIF of the Midday VIA Train

Midnight GIF of the Midday VIA Train, by aforgrave

Sometimes, less is more.

Sometimes, the first photo of the day is the best.

As animated GIFs go, this one had the potential to be the easiest, it-fell-right-into-my-lap-and-it-was-done GIF.

But No.

I remembered Alan Levine‘s Animated GIF Assignment 857 “All Aboard the GIF Train” earlier this week, and made a quick attempt to grab a video of the train while it was getting ready to leave the local station. By the time I got in position and ready to shoot, I realized that my camera battery was almost dead. Following the rush to swap out the battery, I managed to grab a somewhat shaky hand-held capture as the train was accelerating away from the station.

When I returned to the video , I eyeballed a segment of the video that seemed pretty stable, imported 50 frames, deleted every other one, and then took a look.

This is the GIF that resulted:

GIF the VIA Train, 600 pixels at 32 colours 1st attempt

GIF the VIA Train, 600 pixels at 32 colours 1st attempt

I should have stopped there. Can you tell the difference between this one, and the one at the top of the page? Look closely, and you probably can. What you don’t see are all the various attempts between the two of them.

You can likely perceive where the jump is, despite my efforts to conceal it. I was very lucky in that the eye-balled selection gave me an almost perfect loop. Almost perfectly matching, beginning and end. The gap between the two cars just happened to almost magically align. At some point, I went back and imported perhaps three additional frames in an attempt to smooth out the jump. But in the end, I wound up deleting a frame instead.

As it turns out, the challenge to smoothing the loop wasn’t any one of these:

  • the smoke from the station (you can see it in the upper left in the second GIF, I managed to remove that without too many artifacts)
  • the shaky handheld work (that managed to line up okay),
  • the acceleration of the train (which I tried to do away with by adjusting the timing of almost every frame — in the end, I just put every frame at 0.01 seconds).

No, as it turned out, the challenge comes from something that was kind of hidden in the image, masked by the fact that the boundaries of the train cars lined up and moved in sync so well. The visual jump that I worked so hard to remove came, in fact, from an almost imperceptible difference between the two train cars. Check out this GIF, using just frames 28 and 1.


GIF the VIA Train, the Challenge Understood, by aforgrave

With just two frames to look at, the subconsciously perceived difference is a lot easier to see. (Hint: count!) And trying to resolve that with a simple adjustment to frame intervals just wasn’t going to work. When I looked back at the earlier image, with the smoke, it somehow looked good enough. And so I just set the intervals back to a constant, and exported, uploaded, and pressed the POST button. At 23:58, the Midday VIA became the Midnight GIF.