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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Using the power of GIF's to highlight your community member

For Queenie Tu

When you work with a lot of volunteers, recognition is crucial for retention rates. Having been a part of a various leadership positions in volunteer based organizations, it can be tough sometimes to give your volunteers the recognition you feel they deserve. However, that doesn't have to be the case ! You can quickly create personalized digital GIF recognition for whomever you want.

I'll walk you through the steps I took to create this GIF inspired by and for my girlfriend and maybe you'll find it useful for the upcoming 2014 National Volunteer week on April 6-12.

My girlfriend is awesome and I made this GIF for her originally since she is away in Vietnam. She was so thoughtful that I would miss her while on her trip and left me a box with letters to read while she was away. To my surprise inside some of the letters were sparklers for me to light ! I had used sparklers on previous dates to make the day a little bit more special and ended up working great. I wanted to share the happiness with her as thanks but she was on the other side of the world in Vietnam... I realized I could still do it digitally since she occasionally has internet access. With that in mind I decided to create a GIF of the sparklers lit. Here are the steps I took to make it quickly with programs that most people have access to.

Step 1 - Create a video

I am using a website called to create my GIF . You could just directly upload a video and transform it into a GIF but it needs to be under the size of 25mb which is difficult. Instead my approach is to combine 20 pictures which are just slightly different from one another together. By doing it this way I can also edit the images to have the text I want as well.

To gather 20 pictures of the lit sparklers  I used my cell phone to video record . You won't need to create a very long video for your images. From the originally video I only used 5 seconds of the footage.
Some tips while making the video:
  • Pay attention to lighting
  • A steady camera will help you create the best GIF ( I unfortunately did not succeed in that )
  • Use the highest quality video/camera recording for better quality pictures
  • You only need a small video. 
*Special tip if you want to re-use

Create it all with re-usability in mind ! I did not write on the blank piece paper in front of Wall-e because I wanted to be able digitally edit in any text I want. This way the raw files for GIF can be used for other occasions if I want to and I wouldn't need to record another video. The words provide the context which can change the way the scene is interpreted.  

Step 2 - Take a lot of screen shots

Once I uploaded the video to my computer I used a video player to take frame by frame snapshots of the sparklers lit. I would play the video, stop it, take a screen shot and then repeat till I had 20 images.

Your welcome to use any program and method to create the snap shots but for myself I chose to use VLC which is a free media player that anyone can download. Within the program you just need to click snapshot which is under Video in the menu.

*Special Tip
The smaller the changes are between each snapshot the smoother the motion in your GIF will be.

taking a snapshot in VLC media player
Taking a snapshot in VLC

Step 3 - Edit photos

You are free to use any photo editing program you want but since I am no digital marketing maestro, I decided to use PowerPoint. After opening up PowerPoint I went to the insert ribbon, selected Photo Album and clicked on New Photo Album to quickly import all 20 images.

Now with the pictures there I inserted text boxes, typed out the message in the font I wanted and copy pasted it into all 20 images.

Now that I have my edited text in I clicked save as and selected jpeg as a file type and turned every slide into 20 edited images, all within 5 minutes. VOILA !

Step 4 - Compile using a online GIF maker

Then I went to clicked on add pictures and proceeded to upload all of the 20 images I had made.

Afterwards you'll be prompted to select the animation speed that you want. The faster the speed and the more snapshots you have the smoother the animation will be. The slower the speed the more clunky the GIF can look. There is no right speed, it really just depends on what you're looking to accomplish.

There are a ton of online sites you can use to create GIFs and you can find them quickly using google as well. 

Start creating your own GIFs !

As you can see it's not too difficult to create a GIF and doesn't take too much time either. Now you have a quick creative way to digitally share with someone how special they are.

Leave a comment if you want the raw pictures I used for my Wall-E GIF but otherwise here are some more variations of the GIF:

I've uploaded the original recorded video if you want to watch me accidentally set wall-e head on fire with my sister here.

By Stevie Vu
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