The Art of GIF-making (Including “That’s a penis”)


I have made a number of GIFs that I’ve posted on tumblr. Most of them are very, very dated at the point in time. I’m going to link them (all?) on a separate page and try to categorize them a bit.

Most of these GIFs were developed for Tumblr from a period of 2010 to 2018(?) for use as reactions and some were requested from friends.

This blog post will discuss how I made these GIFs in the past and how I make them in the present. Note that the GIFs were made specifically for posting on tumblr so they meet the file size and dimensions required for tumblr through the years.

The Old Method:

After finding a video that you want to make a GIF of, the first step is to get the frames or screenshots. This used to be the most difficult part of GIF making. I previously used a program called ZScreen (this program has been depreciated since), to take rapid fire screenshots of clips of TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos. I would start the screenshot function and pick the approximate limits I wanted the gif to show, then take the screenshots. The “best” way to do this was to rapidly hit the “last region” screenshot hotkey as fast and as regularly as possible. Once this was complete, I’d have a folder with a bunch of still frames from the video, hopefully about 0.1 seconds apart.

Next, I used Photoscape, which helpfully released in 2008 to create the animated GIFs. Photoscape has an easy drag and drop interface and lets you pick the speed to display the frames at. Typically a duration of around 0.1 seconds per frame or 10 frames per second is what “looks” good. It all depends on the action. Faster movement requires more frames to look right.

Photoscape also has a convenient Batch Editor which lets you crop and add text, images, etc. to multiple images simultaneously without having to open each image in an image editor. This is mostly how I would get text on my GIFs, and I had some old favorite settings that I can’t remember anymore.

Once the frames are cropped and captioned they are put into the Animated GIF function of Photoscape. The last thing left (in the old days) was to pick a frame rate, which is more of a feel rather than actually trying to match the speed of the original media and the speed that the screenshots were taken at.

The next step is to confirm the size requirements for the website the GIF is being uploaded to. The size limits on tumblr varied through the years, so I found the easiest way to reduce the file size was to simply reduce the scale of the GIF. The more frames the GIF has, the smaller it’ll have to be. There’s a bit of compromise here, as it’s usually possible to delete a few “in-between” frames that aren’t necessary to capture the action that’s happening in the GIF. A lot of the final editing to fit down to size restrictions is just done by feel.

The New Method:

Kids these days are super spoiled because basic GIFs can now be made with a single program and just a few clicks. There’s not nearly as much fuss with getting the screenshots correct and now many online video players feature options to speed up or slow down media. Slowing down the media helps you get more frames easier.

Now-a-days I use ShareX, which is the latest version of ZScreen. ShareX has a lot of different options for capturing screenshots of your screen and comes with a handy little GIF feature that lets you pick a region of your screen to record. Simply hit the “Capture” then “Screen Recording (GIF)” buttons and highlight the region and the program will record a video of that region, cut frames every ~0.1 seconds, and compile the frames into an animated GIF. Unfortunately, since the output is already in GIF format, it’s not possible to use Photoscape’s Batch Editor to crop or add text.

I still use Photoscape to make final adjustments to the GIF following the same steps as above. If I really need to add text or get frames, I typically set up a hotkey in ShareX for “Last Region” and make sure that the program is set to repeat an action every 0.1 seconds. Then I just take an initial screenshot of a region and hold the “Last Region” key to get the frames needed at a decent rate. I personally find it works best to slow down media if possible so that you can double or triple the frames you’re getting.

That’s A Penis!

In 2011, I was at the height of my GIF making career (if it can be called that [it can’t]) and making many GIFs while watching the series How I Met Your Mother. In Season 2, Episode 6, there is a scene where Ted shows off a design for a building to a client and the client reacts with “That’s a penis!”

On January 30th, 2011, I created the GIF and expressed that it was “hard” to use. I later coordinated with a friend who made a post of some artwork that was very penis-looking so that I had an excuse to post the GIF, rather than wait for an opportunity that might never come. Unfortunately, that original use of the GIF is no more. The earliest version of the GIF that exists today is from February 3rd, 2011.

Here’s the original GIF in all its glory:

Note that this version is much more zoomed in than future versions because I had to work with the tumblr size limit.

The image became more popular after it was reposted on Soup and then Facebook in June, 2011. In August, 2011, was the first occasion where someone reversed the GIF using a GIF reversing website that unfortunately left a watermark on it. One of my friends sent the reversed (watermarked) GIF my way, so I obviously went and manually reversed the original version and posted that on tumblr.

Here’s the original reversed GIF in all its glory:

I also remade both in a larger size when tumblr changed GIF limits:

In 2020 when I started doing “research” for this WordPress, I noticed there was a “Know Your Meme” page for the GIF so I submitted my tumblr posts and finally claimed my small throne as the original creator of the That’s A Penis GIF.

And the rest, they say, is history.

[Link to the rest of my GIFs, organized, eventually]

By BrokenTripod

Making games, breaking things.

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