Monthly Archives: September 2015

Layer Tennis Part 2

A second layer tennis match happened while @DangerRanger11b and I were going at it on the other court.  This one was between @a_merrymary and @fenderbendr1994. @a_merrymary served this picture:

and @fenderbendr1994 returned with this:

then @a_merrymary quickly slammed this one back:

which was responded to with this:

Following a new line of thought was @a_merrymary

to which @fenderbendr1994 dinked this:

and @a_merrymary slammed home this surprise ending:

Well played, you two!

Layers Tennis Match 1

Yesterday, my students and I played a round of “layers” tennis. Originally conceived as “photoshop” tennis, the name was changed to acknowledge that software used to play the game extends beyond Adobe Photoshop, and also I’m sure to keep Adobe, Inc. content by not using one of its trademarked product names. I first heard about the concept from Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners when I heard him speaking about creativity, and he mentioned Layer Tennis being played by professional designers. I’ve always kept the idea around in the back of my mind, and yesterday was the day to bring it out.

My students are doing a digital storytelling course DS106, which incidentally is open to anyone who wants to join. I submitted the Layers Tennis assignment to the DS106 Assignment Bank, and we decided to play a match.

Since there are only three students in the Salina class, I decided to play so we could have two matches going on. Like a game of tennis, one player serves a photograph or image to the other player. Then, the receiving player modifies the image using graphics software like Photoshop, keeping some element(s) from the original. Then the new image is sent back to the first player for further modification. We used Twitter to send the images back and forth, so others could see the game too. In our version of the game, each player made three images each, for a total of six images in the game. Below you can see how our two matches progressed:

The first was myself (@billgx) vs @DangerRanger11b

I served this image I found on Flicker Creative Commons:

DangerRanger11b replied with:

For round two I sent back:

and received back this shot:

At which point, I nearly lost it. I don’t know how to compete with that, I thought. So I gave him a thumbs down.

Undaunted, he put my image on a TV screen with a family enjoying some popcorn:

At which point I became desperate. I didn’t know how to respond. Then I thought about what it might look like if they were looking out the window of a Star Wars ship or something. Then I remembered the asteroid field from the Millennium Falcon. Then I thought the chicken heads would make good asteroids. Then I thought they should be animated. Shoot, I can’t remember how to do animations in Photoshop. But I’ve been doing some After Effects, maybe I can do it in that. Yes, I can make a movie in AE, then import it back into PS to make an animated gif. And this is the result…


It was the end of a hard fought battle against a worthy opponent. Go to the next post to see the other match.

Napoleon Dynamite Quotes

Here is a little After Effects project I’ve been working on with the Motion Graphics class at K-State. Starting with some source video (I chose Napoleon Dynamite) we exported still frames and made drawings from them on tracing paper. Then we scanned and imported the drawings, and added a track matte effect that allows the drawing to appear like it is being drawn. I also decided to add some text and sound effects from the scenes. Finally, I selected some funky music that would underly everything. I thought about adding some colorization, but I’ve already spent a lot of time putting this together.

Personal Horror Story

For this DS106 Visual Assignment, I want you to tell a true story of horror. If you’ve never had anything horrible happen in your life, you won’t be able to do this. If you have and you dare to share it, do the following:

Search the Flickr photo archives for five images that when arranged in the correct sequence can tell the viewer your true story of horror. For this assignment, I want you to use only Creative Commons tagged photos. After entering your search terms, change the search result settings from “Any Licence” to “All Creative Commons” so you will only see images that the author grants you permission to use.

Download your five images using the small format (240 x 180) option. Using photo editing software, create a single image that will contain all five of your small images, reading them in sequence from left to right. Save as a single JPG image and upload to Flickr.

Here is mine:

One Cannot Forget
Personal Horror Story

Image Credits:
Frank Müller Devastated/Am Boden zerstört
Luigi de Guzman ambulance
Jason O’Halloran Lindsay crying
Steve Holmes Night prayer in silhouette
Schristia Dark Matters (IMG_5941R)

Bathroom On The Right

When I was a kid, most of the music we listened to came to us from the radio. There was no internet and no album jackets with song lyrics, we just relied completely on our ears. When I got older and started buying records and tapes, I was finally able read the words to the songs I listened to. Now, with the internet, almost any song’s lyrics are just a Google search away.

One thing that sometimes happened to me when I listened to music is that I would mis-hear (and mis-sing along with) favorite songs. Evidently I am not the only one this has happened to, because there is a website called Kiss This Guy. Kiss This Guy is named after a famous mis-heard lyric from the Jimi Hendrix song. The actual lyric is ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky, but plenty of people heard ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.

So, without further adieu, here is my favorite misheard lyric: There’s a Bathroom on the Right, by Creedence Clearwater Revival.


First, I submitted this assignment to the DS106 Assignment Bank. Then, I recorded the song Bad Moon Rising off of an old CCR cassette tape into Audacity. I edited the song down to just include the intro and the refrain. I recorded my daughter & I singing the misheard lyrics, “there’s a bathroom on the right.” Then we edited the two tracks together. I saved to an MP3 and published the piece on Soundcloud.

Napoleon Gifs

Pull me to town Tina you fat lard

Tonight, I did the Say It Like Peanut Butter assignment on DS106. I used to make a lot of animated gifs, but have gotten away from the practice. But apparently, ,the tools have gotten a lot better. I used Photoshop CS6 to do mine. I actually have Photoshop CS5 and CC on my Macbook, but either of these gave me an error saying that video import was not supported on Mac. For some reason, the CS6 version was happy to import a video clip.

For my 2 gifs, I chose scenes from Napoleon Dynamite. My kids & I love this movie, but my wife, and plenty of other people just don’t “get” it. To me, it is a lot like a non-sensical Monty Python film, but come to think of it, my wife doesn’t care for those either. It takes a special brand of humor, I think.

As for my process, since it’s been a while, I googled for an animated gif tutorial and found this one that told me what I needed to know.

*** Edit – Ok, I looked at this and decided I could tell you a bit more about the process I used. I was in a hurry and wanted to get this post made, but I’ll tell you more here.

I used Handbrake to rip the movie DVD. Handbrake is hands-down the best tool I’ve used to make a video file from a DVD. It’s free, and simple to use. It works on Mac, Windows and Linux.

Once I got the entire film into a digital file, I brought it into my favorite editor for quick video projects, Camtasia. It is $179 with an education discount, but really powerful andwell worth it if you make a lot of video projects. It is best known for screen capture, but also has a really nice, simple-to-use editor. If I needed to, I could have skipped the Handbrake step and just recorded the scenes I wanted directly from the DVD in Camtasia.

But I already had the fully ripped film so I brought it into Camtasia, and edited it down to the scenes I wanted to use. I rendered to a new file a smaller video that had only these scenes. Once I had this digital file, I imported it into Photoshop using the “import as layers” command. After it was in Photoshop, under the “Window” menu, I selected “Timeline” so the video frames were visible. From there, I deleted any frames I didn’t want, and used “File -> Save For Web” to save the project as an animated GIF.

A Letter From Out of the Blue


Recently, my family and I were visiting the Eisenhower Center in Abilene, KS for a quick “staycation” not far from home. My daughter noticed a basket full of little American flags with notes intended for veterans of the US armed services. I picked one out for you, Dad, she said. So I took it home with me.

The note came from elderly woman from California, and I received it here in Kansas. My note reads: “My oldest brother did not come home after WW2. He is always in my heart as you all are.”

Since her full name was on the note, and a hometown, I was able to do a little digital detective work and find a street address. I sat down and wrote the woman a thank you letter and dropped it in the mail. I’m not exactly sure when was the last time I mailed a hand-written letter, but it has been some time. About a week later, I was pleased to receive a reply in the mail from her. What a treat it is to receive mail that is something besides bills or advertisements!

So this is my assignment for you. Sit down and write out a letter longhand to someone who will appreciate it.Be sure to get some evidence of your “snail mail” exchange, either by photographing your letter, or even better still, the reply you got back. Extra internet points if you do like I did and write it to someone whom you do not know, but still feel a common connection with.