How I Make GIFs

I launched MacManX Aside about a year ago, and since then, I’ve been filling it with animated GIFs. I’m no stranger to GIFs, I like that they can provide additional context on top of text when replying, and there is even a thankfully now-dormant Slack bot at work that pings me to return a reaction GIF instead of Slack’s built-in GIF sources.

Folks have been asking me how I make GIFs for quite some time, and it seem appropriate on this almost-one-year anniversary of MacManX Aside to share that now. A quick note before you read any further, these instructions are for macOS only, but the basics might still apply to whatever you use on any other system. So, let’s learn how to properly make GIFs, or at least how I do it.

First of all, you’ll need GIF Brewery. This hasn’t been updated in a few years, but it’s very feature-rich and still works great. That’s the only third-party thing you’ll need going forward, so find your GIF’s source, and open QuickTime Player.

Get your source close to where you want the GIF to start, think of this like pre-editing, and in QuickTime choose File > New Screen Recording. Line up the crop markers and hit Record, play the video you’re recording from, and hit the stop button in the menu bar when you’re done. Not all video sources will let you record this way, some even blank out the video when QuickTime is recording. If you find that happening to you on a streaming service, try playing the video in Firefox instead, as it doesn’t seem to share the same qualms about this with other browsers.

Once you have your raw screen recording in QuickTime, choose Edit > Trim to further edit your selection. Hold the shift key while dragging the selector to move frame-by-frame, and when you’re done, choose File > Export As > 480p. There’s no reason to export higher, because we’ll size it down even further later.

Next, open the video in GIF Brewery. In the Settings section at the top-right, check “Calculate Frame Count & Delay” to synchronize your GIF’s frame rate to the video (so it’s not too fast or too slow), and “Optimize GIF Colors” and “Enhanced Color Optimization” for the best quality to file size ratio. For the color count, start at either 256 or 128 colors, more on that later.

In the Resize section at the top-left, resize the GIF to 500px wide with “Maintain aspect ratio” checked. 500px is plenty big enough, and it’s the content width in Tumblr’s default theme. Remember, someone will have to download this to view it, maybe on a mobile phone, so there’s no reason to be posting huge GIFs. Now, finish up any necessary edits at this point by clicking Frames, where you can highlight individual frames and choose “Set Start” and “Set End.”

Finally, let’s talk file size. First of all, many places allow maximum uploads of 10 MB, but don’t shoot for that. Again, someone will have to download this to view it, and they may be on a mobile phone, so be nice. I try not go higher than 5 MB in general, and no higher than 2 MB for reaction GIFs (by default, Slack won’t auto-play GIFs larger than 2 MB). When you click “Create” in GIF Brewery, after some processing time, you’ll see both your finished GIF and its file size. If you need to decrease the file size, mess around with the number of colors first, and don’t go below 48 colors. If messing with the number of colors isn’t enough, make the GIF itself smaller. I recommend no lower than 450px wide if it includes text, and no lower than 400px wide overall.

What’s that about text? Yes, you can add text in GIF Brewery! Choose Text up top where you can type your text and choose its font, color, and size. In the editing window, you’ll be able to drag that text around and right-click it to set its start and end time. You can even add multiple text elements, like I did for The Code, which has no place being embedded here so you’ll just have to click the link. Or, if you don’t want to bother with that, try making your GIFs from already subtitled sources, like that massive tokusatsu library at ShoutFactoryTV.

Most important of all though, learn by doing, tweak your formula as you go along. You won’t learn anything about making GIFs by not making GIFs, so go out there and have fun! If you don’t have anywhere to post GIFs, consider opening a Tumblr or WordPress.com site just for this. And when you post your GIF, don’t forget to share its source. If you’re using Tumblr, they have a special field for that.

Everything in this tutorial is free except GIF Brewery, which is about the price of a fancy coffee and worth every penny, so start making some GIFs today!

WordPress 5.7 Released

WordPress 5.7 has been released! Along with more editor improvements and a far more accessible admin color scheme, this release also includes a far simpler flow for moving from HTTP to HTTPS and improves overall performance by introducing lazy load for most iframe embeds. For specifics, check out the changelog.

481 volunteers contributed to this release, and at the time of writing this, WordPress 5.7 has been out for just a bit over 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 592,229 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using Jetpack Backup, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and if it’s not covered there, please let us know in the support forums!

Rewatch: Samurai Jack

Long ago in a distant land, Aku, the shapeshifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil. But, a samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose him. Before the final blow was struck, Aku tore open a portal in time and flung the samurai into the future, where his evil is law. Now, the samurai seeks to return to the past and undo the future that is Aku. He’s gotta get back, back to the past, he’s Samurai Jack.

Samurai Jack is a 2001 children’s animated series lead by Genndy Tartakovsky, starring Phil LaMarr as the titular Samurai Jack and Mako as Aku. The series ran for 5 seasons, though there was a 12-year gap between seasons 4 and 5, more on that later. To call it strictly a “children’s animated series” though is a bit of a disservice. Like with Batman: The Animated Series, some episodes definitely have a time-filler feel, but other episodes feature moments that can only be described as art.

Stranded in the future, Jack (taking the name the locals call him) immediately sets out to find time portals or magic to send him back to the past and prevent the future that Aku currently rules over. The show focusses on his journey as a whole. He’s always walking towards the next rumored solution to his problem, encountering new challenges, friends, and people to rescue along the way. Though Aku appears a few times each season, Jack spends most his time dealing with robotic minions of varying statures in Aku’s employ. With that said, Aku is perhaps one of the best villains in children’s animation, largely thanks to Mako’s unique voice and comedic timing. It’s truly a treat whenever he shows up.

Samurai Jack was canceled without a resolution after 4 seasons. The lack of resolution was intentional. The final episode is just another “someone needs help” episode, Aku isn’t even mentioned. Tartakovsky intended the viewer to simply understand that Jack will continue his journey. 12 years later, the show returned for a final season. Rather than being episodic and kid-friendly like the past 4 seasons, it had an overall arc and was darker and more geared towards the audience that grew up on the show. Sadly, Mako passed away in 2006, and Greg Baldwin took over as Aku. Regardless, the final season is an excellent end to Jack’s story.

Samurai Jack is an incredibly diverse adventure, it’s art much of the time, and it’s simply fun. It’s well worth watching. Since the first 4 seasons are very episodic, it’s safe to check out episodes XXXV or XL if you want just a taste first, and I’ve posted a few GIFs if you need an even smaller taste. You can stream Samurai Jack on HBO Max, or buy the whole series on Apple TV for $84.99, so maybe just get HBO Max for a month and stream it.

Happy New Year! the 2021 edition

2021 begins today, and while the new year is supposed to be about casting aside the bad things to focus on a bright future, it hardly feels that way in the midst of a global pandemic. But, writing these has been a tradition since 2013, and this doesn’t seem like a good year to break with any traditions.

Keeping with the theme, the top post here was Working From Home, written at the start of the lockdowns in the United States. I’ve been working from home for 10 years, and now most of us are, so I hope folks found it useful.

A quick list of favorites this year, I hope you enjoy them too:

This year especially, we’ll need more people sharing their voices and experiences as we navigate our lives during this pandemic, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one! If shorted content is your thing, take Tumblr for a spin. I didn’t think I was going to do much there, but now it’s a big part of my online presence.

If we work together and have empathy for not only one another, but also for those we lost along the way, we might just make it through 2021.

WordPress 5.6 Released

WordPress 5.6 has been released! Along with expanded layout controls and auto-updates for major releases, this release also introduces the new Twenty Twenty-One default theme. For specifics, check out the changelog.

605 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Josepha Haden, Chloe Bringmann, and Angela Jin. At the time of writing this, WordPress 5.6 has been out for just a bit over 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 300,710 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using Jetpack Backup, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!