ROOK GIF, because

What's he up to?

What’s he up to?

Well, I just thought another GIF would be good to finish the day. I’ve already commented on the chess puzzle in The Tally Ho, so I thought that puzzle could be animated. All frames taken from the Checkmate episode of The Prisoner.

It turns out that the entire sequence of writing the word ROOK takes 10 seconds. Using MPEGStreamclip, even saving at 8 frames per second gives 80 images. I actually gave up after the program seemed to time out. So I actually had to reset the in and out points a couple of extra times to get the frames I wanted. Anyway, I have some extras to mess around with some other day.

Importing selected images into GIMP as layers made it trivial to export as a GIF. The first try had too much of a blue cast, so I went back and desaturated all layers. Then I needed to adjust the timing, settling on 180ms for all but the final frame, which is 800ms. Since this sequence doesn’t smoothly wrap back to the beginning, I thought it best that the checkmark would have a bit of a lag before repeating the action.

I like the slight movement of the paper as Number Six writes the letters. The shadowing makes the sequence more realistic.

Be seeing you, tomorrow!

Many Happy Returns: The Book

Many Happy Returns

Many Happy Returns

I made the basic image for this book in GIMP a few days ago, using a clip from the “Many Happy Returns” episode of The Prisoner (near the end). Most of the text I created in Word, converted to pdf, and opened as layers, positioned and sized, and anchored (or merged). I do this because I still haven’t figured out why GIMP doesn’t correctly display the Village font. The quote under the title refers to the ease of reading the text, as well as the lack of dialogue in the episode.

Once I made the book cover, I realized how flat it looked. It needed work to look more realistic. To get a more three-dimensional look, I took a photo of a handy book with mostly plain white cover (it was The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog) sitting on my desk. The angle allows a slight view of page edges, but I needed to adjust my image to fit on the book. It was easy enough with the Perspective tool, grabbing and moving the corners to match the corners of the underlying book. I then used the Smudge tool to rough up the edges just a little bit.

First try, too flat!

First try, too flat!

After all this, I thought the cover still looked too fresh and unused. So, I used the free select tool to isolate the book, and found under Effects->Distorts->Video the ability to make a surface of small dots, simulating a paperback cover printing process.

Overall, this was a good exercise in learning. Not only did I try some tools in GIMP, but I had to think about design. Of course, I used the Village font, but how about placement of the wording, cropping of the picture, etc? I had accidently left a blue line near the bottom (from my media player), but I took advantage of that to put a publisher’s name in the same color just above.

If I were to start over, I would not use a photo cover, but would go for a more minimalist look. But, if I remember right, TV shows and movies often had spin-off novelizations, and they often used photos from the original productions for the covers. It is a good marketing design (if not artistic) so the interested consumer identifies the tie-in.

By the way, no author is credited on the cover. It was probably written by a team of hack writers working from the original script, piece work, no royalties.

A Design Analysis of the Number Two Great Seal of Office

Number 2 Great Seal of Office

Number 2 Great Seal of Office

In the episode “It’s Your Funeral”, Number 2 is honored during ceremonial occasions to wear the golden Great Seal of Office. In the scene in the watchmaker’s shop we see a rare glimpse into the design process. Left laying around for all to see is the original designer’s sketch of this seal!

Original Design Sketch

Original Design Sketch

As is common when analyzing ancient manuscript documents, I found it useful to record my experiments with various lighting conditions from various angles. For simplicity in this presentation, and in presenting the evidence of my conclusions, I show only the results for light from the four cardinal directions, and I do so in rotating images.

First, the sketch in natural light:

Natural lighting

Natural lighting

As you see, in natural light, no particular artifacts of creation are evident. One sees the inscription in the normal Village font, and the central icon of the Village pennyfarthing.

Exposed in near-ultraviolet light, we see some additional information developing on the surface. There are areas of differing colors showing variations in the surface texture. The spectrum from red through violet shows increased surface height. One would think that a piece of drafting paper would be smooth, but here there is apparent evidence of unevenness.

In Near-Ultraviolet Light

In Near-Ultraviolet Light

Finally, I found the need to slow the rotation to better see the square areas that appear from some angles. In slow motion, you can observe this “pixelization” of the surface. Normal paper does not behave in such a manner. Note that you can see the effect better if you click on the image to view it larger in your browser.

Slow Motion to Observe Squares

Slow Motion to Observe Squares

“What does this mean?” to quote Dr. Martin Luther. Apparently, the technology of The Village included elements more advanced than most of the world knew in the 1960s. This paper is actually synthetic paper made of nano-liquid-crystal. To our knowledge, this nLCD type of display is just now coming to market in advanced technical centers, such as Tokyo and Singapore. To find it in The Village is evidence beyond what we were looking for. The nLCD paper the watchmaker is using to draft the seal of office is nothing less than an artifact from the future!

The next stage of research must now shift from design, to source. Where and when could this nLCD paper originate? And how and by whom was it delivered to The Village? Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered at the present, but must wait for time to progress.

Investigating The Tally Ho – What’s It Got to Say?

The Tally Ho

While watching the various episodes of The Prisoner, I’ve noticed that the Village newspaper, “The Tally Ho”, usually has nice clear headlines, but it is difficult to read the stories. Since it would not be reasonable to read while the video is running, I have clipped several examples from individual frames.

First, one must realize that the papers are made up for one-time use in the show, not to be actually read. As such, they are filled with filler text. A close look shows that the vast majority of the text is English, possibly taken from other newspapers, but each line is out of context with the next, paragraphing and word-splitting is off, and there is really no sense. As seen in Figure 1, the job was done quite nicely. It was not a quick cut-and-paste (in the original sense of scissors and glue), but possibly typeset pages were used.

Figure 1

Figure 1

An exception to the nice typesetting is the actual cut-and-paste of a chess puzzle (Figure 2). Taken from the “Checkmate” episode, we see Number Six making annotations on the chess puzzle in his effort to confuse Number Two with a possible conspiracy. When you look at the page, though, the puzzle, its description, and its title are pasted onto a page that is similar to other editions. And it’s not a really good pasting job, either. You can see the edges, and even text extending a bit beyond, since the clipping wasn’t quite the right size.

Figure 2

Figure 2

I was interested in the source of this chess puzzle. It turns out others have been interested, and I found the answer at Chess and The Prisoner. I include their image (Figure 3) of the original puzzle as it appeared in Evening Standard of 9 January 1967. In passing, I wonder if the producers of The Prisoner obtained copyright clearance, or if they thought of the fair use doctrine, or just did their thing without worrying too much.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Many times, television and movie producers will make sure that even such trivial details as newspaper text will look authentic. Too many times sharp viewers have found such discrepancies that are an artifact of creation that take the viewer into the interstices between the fictional work and the methods used to create it.

Prisoner Number 6 in a Maze

Thanks to my True Friend Talky Tina, I’ve been prompted to make a maze. I would really rather make a labyrinth, and may do so later. But for now, I made a GIFfy Maze.

Prisoner106 in a Maze

Prisoner106 in a Maze

As you can see, Number 6 is at the center of this maze. If this was a real labyrinth, the Minotaur would be there. Can you find the secret entrance? (hint: it’s near the top) Can you trace the path through the Giffy Maze to have a secret meet-up with Number 6?

I made this maze by using an online maze generator at I selected options for a round maze of suitable size, and saved each of the six I made as a png. Note: you could save these as pdf files to print out and solve; plus, you can choose A4 or A3 sizes if you are European or letter or legal sizes if you are American. It was a simple matter to open these mazes as layers in GIMP. But I had to put Number 6 in the middle. I opened a previous picture of mine (the one where he looks like Chairman Mao (which I think means “Number One” in Mandarin)), but had to crop it to a circle and make extra stuff transparent so it didn’t show up. Then I had to duplicate that five times and merge all the pictures into the center of the six mazes. And export as a GIF.

Really quite simple, but that’s because I already knew stuff about making GIFs with GIMPs.

This also reminds me of how life is in The Prisoner. Number 2 always goes about trying to find the way to Number 6 and the INFORMATION he has hidden away in the maze of his amazing brain. And he is always right there in the center of things.

Race to the Mansion for a Bowl of Sugar

Today’s Daily Create had us pick three cards, each with a word, and write a story based on the words. This is a great writing prompt, largely because it is random enough to stimulate one’s thinking into unexpected areas. Here is my story.

Race Map, ID, and Sugar

Race Map, ID, and Sugar

Race to the Mansion for a Bowl of Sugar
another episode of The Prisoner

One day Number 6 woke to the sounds of whistles and cheers. No, he wasn’t under arrest (again). It was Race Day in The Village!

Casually, Number 6 walked to the Park where he noticed several Residents in sporting attire lined up at a start line. Nonchalantly, he asked Number 72 where they were racing to. 72 said, “Oh, it’s a marathon! They are racing from here to there and back again. It will be quite wonderful. And such splendid weather!”

Not getting the answer he was looking for, Number 6 wandered until he found the Tally Ho news stand, bought a copy, and saw the headline: RACE TO TWO’S MANSION. The story stated that the goal of the race was to run to Number 2’s Residence, enter, find a bowl of sugar, and return to the start. Points were awarded for running time, bowl-searching time, the number of sugar cubes gathered in the bowl, and the number of sugar cubes still in the bowl at the finish.

Always plotting an escape, Number 6 instantly donned sporting gear, and stood in line with the other contestants. Being in top physical condition, he easily made it to Number 2’s mansion first. In the kitchen were just as many bowls as there were contestants, each identical but for the number painted on the side. Quickly, he found the bowl labeled “6”, reached into the bag of sugar cubes, and filled the bowl. Since he hadn’t had breakfast, he popped several sugar cubes into his mouth to replenish his energy.

On the path back to the finish, Number 6 almost immediately started meandering, spinning, gazing at nothing, and otherwise acting erratic. It was as if some drug had entered his system, probably from the sugar cubes, and he was hallucinating. Next thing he knew, he was waking up in the hospital with the trophy for the race. The trophy featured a large sugar cube!

The doctor, standing nearby, noticed that Number 6 was awake, and told him, “Ah, welcome back Number 6! Thank you for all the information you shared when you were wandering around out of your mind. It will be quite useful to Number 2, and of course even more useful when he reports to Number 1.”

Number 6 immediately began to panic, but only showed a bit of sweat on his forehead. “What could I possibly have said that would be of interest? All I could think of and see were marmalade skies, newspaper taxis, and cellophane flowers. I must have been hallucinating, so whatever I said was not based in reality.”

“Ah” said the doctor, “we each make our own reality here in The Village. And your reality is special to us. Our computers will extract the truth from your hallucinations, and soon we will know whose side you are on!”

Number 6 fell back asleep, confident that his reality would never be probed by this doctor. He knew the computer was programmed badly and would likely self-destruct when his hallucinations were input. And, he had won the race!

In writing this, I tried to keep in mind the times (1960s) and the themes of The Prisoner. Number 6 is often drugged. The other authorities are always trying to get information from Number 6. He is likely to participate in Village functions, but has his ultimate escape motive in mind always. The sugar cube, of course, was used in that decade as a dispenser of LSD, so we also have reference (in his hallucinations) to The Beatle’s song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Overall, I had fun writing this little story. I did proofread, and made a few grammar edits. Most interestingly, I found that I had subconsciously used the number “2” to identify Number 6 in several occurrences. Is this a sign? In the next episode will Number 6 be promoted to Number 2? Will he be seeking answers from himself, digging deep into his own psyche? Stay tuned to this channel, the only one that matters.

Be seeing you.

Animated The Prisoner Comic Book Cover

For my first project in Design Week, I chose to animate the comic book cover of Jack Kirby’s draft of The Prisoner. It is a Design Assignment (number 306) and worth an unbelievable four credit units.


My main method was to create duplicate layers, erase the text in the speech bubble, and add text. I also selected the head with the free select tool, flipped it, and anchored it back. I touched up a little bit with the pencil to close gaps created by rotating.

If I were to do it over (and I might), I would just have a background layer, with the speech cloud blank, and a right-facing head. Then I could use smaller layers for the wording and the flipped head. This would save file size.

Also, if this were to be a draft of a real cover, color would need to be added.