A New Glitch GIF

I recently bought a VCR/DVD combo in order to preserve family recordings from a couple of decades ago. Initially, I am importing them into my laptop using the Power Director 9.0 program that came with the component video/USB adapter I bought. That works fine, but produces a MPEG-2 file, which doesn’t play well with many video players. So, I am using MPEGStreamClip to convert to MPEG-4. (I had to remove QuikTime and install a QuikTime substitute to be able to work with the MPEG-2 files.)

One of the old tapes was made by my then seven-year-old son. Using a camcorder as we were driving around looking at Christmas lights, he was learning to narrate his journey. As I started the conversion process, I noticed the first frame in MPEG StreamClip had a nice glitchy look to it. In fact, most of the video is black background with lights moving around in and out of focus. Before I continued the conversion, I used the Snipping Tool that Microsoft so kindly provided in my operating system to copy that first frame.


Now the fun began. Since the conversion takes many minutes, I decided to work with that frame snip and see what I could do. I use GIMP as my photo editing tool since it is free, open source, and reasonably powerful. Most of what I did for this image had to do with altering the colors. Playing around with Auto Color Enhance, White Balance, and adjusting contrast, and also inverting the colors, making changes, and inverting back, I was able to produce a range of interesting effects.

VCR Frames

The animated GIF is easy to make in GIMP. Once you have the frames you want to use, export the file as GIF, select animation, and the frame-time you desire. I used 330 milliseconds.


The interesting thing to me is that the initial image, mostly black with a bit of color and light, actually has much pixel differentiation. By changing contrast, enhancing color and white balance, and other options, I was able to bring out sections of colors that weren’t apparent. Those colors weren’t necessarily there, but the original image contains the seeds for change.

The original frames (and more) can be found at my Flickr glitch and databending album.




So, Mariana Funes just posted about merging together an image of cogdog and another color gif to make an interesting animation. Well I don’t know what her original assignment was, but I had a few minutes to spare at lunch, so I thought I would play around.

Here is the link to her post, with the originals and her nicely abstracted animation.

Here is mine, with cogdog emerging within the animated background, maybe a magical way of communicating in the tapestries, like Sirius Black in the fireplace.


A little bit more playtime would lead to improvements, like gradually changing opacity values to have cogdog more visually emerging. Maybe wiggle his head? Maybe add color to his eyes? All kinds of possibilities.

Amendment: cogdog said he wants his head chopped off. This is the best I can do. (You might need to refresh the page to see the action.)




Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

Just finished a quick read through Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. Like many books on creativity, it is full of good ideas, some of which I can use. I have started “following” Austin Kleon on flickr, and checking him out online. I’ll learn from him.

In the meantime, what art have I been stealing making?

George Wither

A project started several months ago is using GIMP to colorize images from George Wither’s 1635  “A collection of emblemes, ancient and modern“. Several folks joined in with an initial outpouring of gifs and anaglyphs. But I am taking it further, and am planning on working with all 100 roundels and the few other images in the book. Final product will be published somehow, maybe a pdf with little or no comment; maybe text stories for each of he images. Right now, it’s an album on flickr.

Wendy Tree

Another art activity has been an increase in picture taking. I always have my phone, but also keep a camera in my car, and occasionally take along my good camera. On flickr, I’ve been adding to my “along the road” album, mostly pictures snapped while driving (usually stopped) or on walks near work or home. Of the many pictures taken, a few are slightly edited in GIMP and put on flickr. The editing on these is usually just a little color enhancement, white balance, and contrast adjustment.

Getting ready for November Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month. I really don’t have a big idea for a novel, so am considering making a narrative to go along with a series of pictures, and posting the whole thing on flickr. I’ll let you know what happens. Are you doing Nanowrimo? The idea is to write a 50 000 word novel in 30 days. I did this in 2009 with an autobiographical narrative, but nothing since. Hint: just write, don’t revise. Save revising for later, if you want to revise at all. Just get the words done!

Along the ds106 trail, I’ve been completing the occasional Daily Create. I haven’t been following along with the current wire106 version, nor did I actually participate with the summer Berguron106. (Previously involved with ds106Zone and Headless ds106). I hope I’m not just gafiating, but just being more selective. Dipping into ConnectedCourses keeps me busy, too. Not to mention real work!

Next week I’m off to a conference/forum on the state of manufacturing in Virginia. Then Saturday I’ll be at the OpenVA meeting at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach (hoping to say hi to one or two ds106-related folks).

This update has been brought to you today by the letters W and E.


True Story of Open Puzzle Sharing

Alan Levine has often encouraged folks to tell their story of what connections are made when one chooses to share openly on the Internet. You can see many of his collected stories at http://stories.cogdogblog.com/.

Here is a story of my own, concerning a crossword puzzle, another Internet person I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for Alan, and an unexpected use.

Back in April 2014, GNA Garcia, a participant in the ds106 Digital Storytelling phenomenon, posted this picture to Flickr. Apparently she was solving a crossword puzzle in real-time communicating with or on ds106 radio with Rowan Peter in Australia. All I saw was a crossword puzzle that needed to be finished.

another attempt thanks  Rowan Peter  for playing along #ds106radio

Rather than print it out, I imported the picture into GIMP, and used the text tool to insert the letters into the boxes. It took a little bit of playing with the font and size, but it met my needs. When I was done, I saved it to my own Flicker account, and gave GNA credit for the original. (Of course, the original puzzle had an author and editor, and was published in a paper. Those identities are noted in the images themselves.)


All well and good, this was fun with sharing on the Internet, and easily forgotten with time. But the story doesn’t end there. Last week I watched a TED presentation from Clay Shirky, during which he used the example of shared photos from thousands of individuals being sources for greater things. I got to wondering about my own pictures, so I performed a Google search using my account name, byzantiumbooks, and key words like picture, photo, CC, Creative Commons. The first one I found was this puzzle. (I have since found 26 pictures that were used and attributed. You can find them in an album at https://flic.kr/s/aHsk3s3C3G.  I have no idea if any were used and not attributed, but that is another story.)

Where was this puzzle being used? It was an article on how mental activity like puzzle solving can be used to delay the onset of dementia. This is a topic of interest to me as my Mom suffered from dementia in her later years. The article is here: http://www.everlastingplace.com/golden-years-a-blog-about-the-elderly/can-mental-exercise-delay-dementia.

So, a fun puzzle shared from one person to the Internet, completed and shared again, ends up giving hope of well-being to many.

Finally, what’s the connection between GNA Garcia, Alan Levine, and me? If he hadn’t presented about ds106 and the concepts of open educational resources at an online conference that I was encouraged to learn from by my own institution, I wouldn’t have been excited to join in on the ds106 action. GNA Garcia is one the longer-term participants, so I give Alan credit for introducing us.

Sharing #4Life!

The Daily Create Experience

One of the features of ds106 that has been most beneficial to me is The Daily Create. Every day we are challenged to be creative. Whether we participate in a particular Daily Create is our decision to make. Sometimes, I have completed one every day; often I’ve skipped one or more. But every day I read what the challenge is. Even the act of reading and thinking about it stimulates my creative juices.

Since the basic rule is that there are no rules, we are always allowed to interpret the task. Today, for example, we were to “Show your mood today by taking a picture of stairs. Show your feet too.” I choose to interpret stairs to include back-door steps.

Soft Landing

Soft Landing
Photo by Bill Smith cc-by

My general approach as been that generally “first thought, best thought”, a phrase variously attributed to Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg, but expressive of Zen thinking. But then I edit and adapt and think. For writing, I try to be spontaneous but also look out for grammar and spelling, and edit for the particular genre. For photography, I usually open up the GIMP and enhance the image a little (or a lot!).

I haven’t done many of the video or audio Daily Creates. Partly it’s the time involved. Partly it’s that I am more interested in images and words.

Happy = Art

Happy = Art
Modified photo by Bill Smith cc-by. Original found at Kheel Center cc-by.

Yesterday’s assignment was “Rouse Public Interest in the Daily Create via a Powerful Photo.” I searched the Flickr for images of “crowds”, thinking that a crowd scene would be helpful. I also limited the search to images with Creative Commons licensing for modification allowed. This led to an interesting news photo of striking dressmakers gathered in an auditorium in 1933. (Image located at https://flic.kr/p/93uF1F) The Flickr user who posted, Kheel Center, marked their licensing as “attribution” and gave information about their search for the copyright holder.

So, keep being creative! Make Art, Bub!