The Unexpected Obstacle
Ever wonder how I made this animation (or any of these)? You'll learn how in this tutorial, including a detailed behind-the-scenes look.

How do you make animations that behave in a realistic way?

Last updated: Apr 12, 2006 (first version)
Level 4 update on Jun 9, 2007 (various enhancements)

1 Introduction

Ever wonder how I made the seemingly complex-behaving, realistic-appearing animation at the top? Making these kinds of animations aren't just putting a bunch of frames together to form something that moves, rather, they have otherwise hidden details that are often not thought of. This tutorial will explain, step-by-step, in great detail, just how I went about making this animation and you can follow along to make your own variation of it yourself and other animated GIFs like it. It's not as complex as it seems.

While going through this tutorial, you'll see many (19) screenshots giving a behind-the-scenes look at how the animation was made. The screenshots on the main document have been heavily scaled down as having 1600x1200 images displayed as is means a high chance of horizontal scrolling and heavy memory usage. To view the full-size version of the screenshot, simply click on it. The screenshot will open in a new window (or tab) and be shown at full size. This way, you can read along with the tutorial and view the full-size screenshot to see what I'm talking about.

2 Tools used

I only use two main tools: a spreadsheet and The GIMP. The spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel 2002 in my case) is used for all the computations I do and for the planning. The GIMP is what I use to make the scenery with and to build each frame.

This tutorial is broken up into several sections and further subsections:

3.2.3 Animation creation tutorial - how I make my flash-like animated GIFs to the finest detail Introduction - The indroduction and tools needed Introduction Tools used History - The history of my animation creation The AVI days MSPaint and early animated GIFs GIMP and my latest animations Automation leads to extreme complexity Discoveries made along the way The future Glossary of terms and common formulas - Common animation-related terms and common formulas involved with art Glossary Commonly used formulas Planning - Forming the plan - what the animation will do and how to set up the spreadsheet The base plan The main plan The detailed plan Creating the scenery - Making the scenery - how to optimize it and work with it Some important notes The easy stuff The mountains Making the character Adding the obstacle and speed data Animating - Processing the frames - using the spreadsheet data to make the frames of the animation Important notes Doing the text objects The first scenery frames Further scenery frames Testing - Testing the animation - how to test the animation to spot problems Compiling the animation Testing the animation Tips and tricks - Tips, tricks, and shortcuts to make animation-creation easier and faster FAQ - Some commonly asked questions and help to common problems