Frosty Interviews ‘Folds Five’ the Man Behind The Animated Gif’s

     May 24, 2006

A month or two ago I posted an animated .gif of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Shortly after posting I got a lot of emails asking questions about who made it, but mostly the emails were just people saying how cool they thought it was. In my story I mentioned I had no idea who had made them, as I was just as curious as everyone else. Then a few days later I got an email from the man known as Folds Five, the creator of the Raiders .gif as well as a bunch of others. Since I had gotten a number of emails asking questions about his work, I figured an email interview might be in order. Also, this would be a perfect reason to post more of his work. In the interview I will post some, but to see all his work go to The PixelMash Theater where he hosts it all. At the end of the interview look for his Back to the Future and Flash Gordon animated gif’s. Now without further ado, here is Folds Five.

Frosty: So how did you start making these .gif movies, what was your inspiration?

Folds Five: A couple of years ago out of sheer boredom I’d drawn a pixellated version of most of the cast of the original Star Wars Trilogy and the file had just been sitting on my PC. On a dull evening back in October 2005 I just started messing around with the concept of fitting a whole film (albeit heavily reduced) into an animated gif and having the cast already drawn made my choice of film a lot easier – added to the fact that I’ve seen the films in the Star Wars Trilogy so many times that I wouldn’t have to watch them again to be able to work out the sequence of scenes and animate it..!

You have done a number of them, are you working on any new ones now?

I’m giving them a break for a while to be honest, or more to the point not pushing myself as hard as I used to. I’ve started work on the Matrix but am not doing my usual trick of doing nothing but for five solid nights until its completed – this time I’m grabbing quarter of an hour here, half an hour there.. I’ll have it ready in a couple of months as opposed to within a week!

What was the order that you created them?

The Star Wars Trilogy came first followed by the Indiana Jones Trilogy (which was a collaborative effort between myself and various people who volunteered to assist following a request on Next came BTTF, then Ghostbusters, Aliens and finally Flash Gordon.

Have you learned any new technique that makes it easier to do them, or are they all time consuming ventures?

I’ve learned a couple of tricks along the way a good frame size so the picture is still identifiable but doesn’t take up too much space, when to and when not to animate. Restricting your color palette is essential so when Imageready optimizes it you don’t end up with a garbled mess of an end result – Despite all this though there’s no shortcut unless I start doing them in Flash, I guess, which kind of defeats the object..!

Speaking of time, about how long does it take to do one?

The smaller ones tend to take between six and eleven hours to complete the larger ones (I.e. Back to the Future and Ghostbusters) took around 10 hours. As I do more of them and am learning new optimizing tricks I’m adding more frames simply because I can, so if anything each new one takes a little longer than the one before!

What is the process of creating one of these can you tell how you go about making one?

I would love to say I’ve got some great scientific and ordered method for creating them, but this sadly isn’t true. I tend to do the scenes for the films in a completely random order (probably subconsciously doing my favorite scenes or ones that’ll just best pixilated first, just to give me the impetus to finish the project). I draw backgrounds in MS Paint (occasionally touching them up with the odd Photoshop filter in the later projects), draw the animations as a separate layer and then overlay them. After a couple of hours I chuck them all together using imageready and see how much space I’ve got left to play with.. repeat until I’m happy or I’ve hit my 250k window for the end file size..!

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Out of all the ones you have done, what is your favorite and which one do you think came out the best?

My favorite would have to be Aliens it’s got more frames than most of the others and there are some bits in it I’m really pleased with, namely the marine APC and the powerloader bit at the end. That said, I was very pleased with the end result of the Indiana Jones Trilogy – despite handing out the graphical “cast” to all of the participants, everybody was left to do their own bit in whichever style they wanted – I think the combination of artwork and animation styles makes for a really good end result and every participant definitely left their personal ‘mark’ on the project as a whole. The collaboration idea was very much an experiment that paid off, I believe, and I’d be interested in organizing a similar project for the future.

Why are certain movies different sizes, for example the Indiana Jones .gif’s are small compared to Back to the Future or Ghostbusters?

The reason for the differences in size and detail for these two was just to try something a little different – If anything it would appear that people preferred the smaller size though which is why I reverted to that for Aliens and Flash Gordon – and the smaller size of course allows me a much larger number of frames to keep me within the maximum 250k submission limit for pictures on b3ta (which is what they were originally submitted for).

Have you had anyone request a certain movie?

Many times – Back to the Future and Ghostbusters were done following requests on I’ve had e-mails asking me when I’m doing Star Wars Episodes 1 – 3 The answer to this is simply ‘never’ – I didn’t really rate them as movies in comparison to Episodes 4-6 and wouldn’t have the patience to animate something I basically didn’t enjoy.

What do you think is the most popular one you have created?

Star Wars Episode IV in 168k” is the one that seems to have hit a nerve – The initial response for this was overwhelming (to the extent that on the day that it was first posted the hits against my website went up from a few dozen hits to over three thousand hits per hour). It got mentioned on pixeljoint, digg and in4mador and I received hundreds of e-mails – I still receive the odd one about the Star Wars Trilogy now, but the best thing was receiving an e-mail from an employee at Lucasarts to say that that it was a real hit there and to be added to the Lucasarts Christmas Card list as a result (as well as being sent a really nice goodie-bag from their offices).

Is their one that you really want to do, but you are waiting for the right time?

Good question.. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy would be a great project, but I suspect I would have to ignore the 250k file size limit that’s set against the other pixelmashes to do it any justice. I’ve had interest from a fellow member of b3ta about working on this, so there might be something done about this in the not so far future..

Most of the ones you have done seem to make you a child of 80’s cinema. Have you thought about doing Weird Science, Gremlins, or The Goonies?

It does appear that subconsciously I have been restricting myself to films from the eighties, you’re absolutely correct! (But then again, being born in 1971, these are the films I grew up with). I don’t think Weird Science is action driven enough to make a good pixelmash, but Gremlins is certainly a very good idea and would translate very well to pixelmashery as would the Goonies. Anyway, in closing, thanks to everybody for the interest in these silly little pixelmash films and I’ll continue doing them until people get bored of them or I finally succumb to RSI from poring over tiny pixels, whichever comes first!

Back to the Future

Flash Gordon

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