Animate 2600: Miners on the Moon

Dec 27, 2012 by

I’m having a blast with creating GIFs for the ds106 GIFfest, but I’m also enjoying Stella, the excellent Atari 2600 emulator that Jim Groom turned me onto before Christmas. I spent a few good solid hours playing some of my old favorites, including Miner 2049’er (just as difficult as I remember), Moon Patrol, and Missile Command (still as good as I remember). I wanted to create a bunch of separate GIFs from these games to try and capture the twitchy nature of 8-bit gaming, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the results.

 

Miner 2049'er was a beloved classic for me.

endless moon patrol

 

It was difficult for me to capture a moment in Miner 2049’er that conveyed the strongest memories I have of the game, which would be a still shot of my miner in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the level after falling from a high ledge. I created a GIF of the miner falling to his doom, but I wanted something that worked better as an seamless loop, not just a “restart” and fall. The same goes for the Moon Patrol GIF. I wanted to create a seamless action shot to convey the frenetic “run and gun” that you felt while playing the game. Miner 2049’er and other platformers at least gave you a safe spot to rest or wait until pushing ahead. Moon Patrol was not so nice, as your vehicle pushed forward whether you wanted it to or not, in an endless treadmill of UFOs, pits, and other obstacles.

During the creation process I kept thinking about the episode of Futurama in which Fry, a present day schmo transported to the future after being cryogenically frozen, dreams of visiting the moon. His future friends take him to the Moon Park, which turns out to be a huge disappointment for Fry as the moon has been completely “Disneyfied” and turned into a cheesy theme park. The lunar rover ride is on a rail, cotton candy comes in “moon rock” grey, and the most awful form of revisionist history takes place in a riff on the “It’s a Small World” ride; the “Whalers on the Moon” ride presents Moon tourists with what is believed to be what man’s first trip to the moon looked like, a bunch of drunken sailors with harpoons who have set out to hunt whales on the Sea of Tranquility.

The only way to clear my brain out was to create a new ds106 assignment that I’m calling “Animate 2600 Mashup” and take both my Moon Patrol and Miner 2049’er GIFs and cram them together, thus creating “Miners on the Moon”. Sure, it’s not quite the same thing as the Futurama joke, but it was a fun remix of the idea.

miners on the moon

 

And because you’ve been a good sport about reading this entire non-education related blog post, I thought I’d at least create a “how to” video on creating an animated GIF using Photoshop and just about any video clip you can get your hands on.

6 Comments

  1. Jim

    This is brilliant, a mashup. Why do you and Cog Dog always have to one up me you jackasses. I’m JIM GROOM, DAMN IT!!! ;)

    Genius.

    I’m gonna do a version of this for Yier Ar Kungfu.

    • I can’t speak for CogDog, but I only one-up you because I know you just want another chance to best me and prove just how much you made me. That, and I can’t compete with your encyclopedic knowledge of film noir, comic books, or Gardner Campbell musings, so I figured I’d try to challenge you in the only arena in which I can hold my own; video games. :)

      Can’t wait to see the KungFu mashup!

  2. Jim

    OK, so I just watched your video, and what I want to know is how ou mashed up the two animations. How do you get them both animating at once. Do you import them as independent GIFs and somehow merge the elements? Are you creating them as a video before hand? What’s your method?

    • Great question! The video was meant just to be a tutorial for creating your average animated GIF, so perhaps it was a poor choice to include this along with the “mashup” version I posted here.

      It’s actually a pretty simple, albeit crude, method to mash the two up. I created two separate video files, and cut them down to nearly the same length. I then imported them both separately into Photoshop and cut out enough frames so that they both only had 24 frames in their animation sequence. I figured this would make it easier when creating the final GIF.

      I cropped the miner down to just a small rectangle around the space he was walking, and selected and cut out everything that wasn’t just him (the enemy, floor, and background were all deleted). I had to do this 24 times, once for each frame, because I couldn’t figure out a better way to do it. I then selected all 24 layers of the PSD file, and then dragged them into the other PSD file that contained the 24 layers of the moon buggy animation. I got the idea from here (http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/203/870917).

      I could have merged the layers with the existing moon buggy layers, but instead I opted to just put all the miner layers on top, and the moon buggy below, so I had 24 layers of miner running back and forth all stacked atop 24 layers of the moon buggy shooting and jumping. From there it was just a matter of going back to each frame in the animation sequence and making each “miner layer” visible for the appropriate frame. It was a longer process than I’m sure it could have been, but it worked pretty well.

      If that doesn’t make sense, I can do a screen capture to share.

      • Jim

        This makes total sense, thanks for sharing it. Looks like I am gonna need Photoshop, rather than GIMP, to do this right. So I am gonna have to wait until tomorrow when I can steal into a work machine and test this out. Thanks for the howto.

  3. Thanks for this great how-to video for newbie GIF makers!

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