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Make A Light Painted Animated GIF [Instructables How-To]

Light painting and GIFs might be two of our most beloved “low-brow” forms of tech-art, because despite their impressive results, they usually require very little technical proficiency and are fairly easy to make. The results are typically beautiful, elaborate, and don’t require expensive materials to execute—what more could you ask for?

We’ve posted on numerous light painting projects before, which you can see here, here, and here. Last week we posted a guide to enjoying GIF art, which includes resources that teach you how to make your own. Appropriately so, this week’s Instructables How-To combines both light painting and GIF-making into one glorious project.

Some materials you’ll need are a DSLR camera with manual shutter speed, a laser pointer, a nice GIF, Animation Shop 3 (free download), paper, and colored pencils.

First things first—you’ll need to find the right animation, which is, of course, critical. You can either search for animated GIFs on the internet, or use a video or animation of your own. You should pick a simple animation with a length of 3-6 seconds or 10 frames/second (f/s). Then, open up the animation in Animation Shop 3.

After you open the program, you should see every frame of the animation displayed in front of you. If you’re using a movie clip, delete every second frame because they show 25 f/s. Make screen shots of each frame and organize them in order in a photo studio. Then print out each photo.

Now you’ll transfer each frame of the animation by hand to a separate piece of a paper using a different color. The author recommends starting with the frame in the middle, then adding the first and last frames, and finally filling out the ones in between. In this case, the author added a paper knot for his skateboarder to jump over.

Next, go into a dark room and set up your camera on a tripod, making sure the auto-focus is off. Set your shutter speed to 20 seconds, and trace the first frame of the animation. Then move on to the next frame, trace, and repeat.

Once, you have every frame captured, you can send your creation to a print shop that makes flipbooks, or you can just make your own animated GIF instead (referencing our GIF guide if you need it).

Visit the Instructables How-To for further instruction, more detailed photographs, and tips on where to buy materials.

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