March 8
Batch Processing in ImageReady

Unraveling the perplexitude of multi-layer, multi-frame GIFs

by David Nagel
Senior Producer

Last week we discussed batch processing in Adobe Photoshop, and I promised you that we'd talk about batch processing multiple frames this time around. It's a shame, really, since I just got my hands on the Adobe LiveMotion beta, and I'm dying to do a tutorial on it, but we'll all just have to wait until next week for that. For now, it's back to batch processing. This time around, we're going to tackle the project in Adobe ImageReady, which ships with Photoshop 5.5.

Before we go on, one quick note about last week's tutorial. I arbitrarily chose the DCS 2.0 single-file format for the example. You might notice that if you try the same approach to multi-file DCS images, you wind up with semi-opaque grayscale images rather than a color JPEG. To fix this, follow the same instructions as before, but when you start recording, choose Open from the File menu and click on Show All Files. When the pull-down menu appears, choose EPS Preview, and then pen your first file for conversion. This will cause Photoshop to record the file type in the Action you record, which will prevent it from opening the cyan, magenta, yellow and black files. (If you have any specific questions about multi-file DCS format, feel free to send me an e-mail about it or post your question in the Creative Mac User Forum. For a review of last week's tutorial, click on the image at the bottom of this story.)

And now on with the tutorial.

The ever-popular animated GIF
For this week's tutorial, we're going to look at batch processing a multiple-frame document in Adobe ImageReady. If you read last week's tutorial, you're about three-quarters of the way there.

ImageReady handles batch processing and recordable actions the same way Photoshop does. Where last week we focused on file conversion, though, this week we'll look at filtering images and adding layers.

For our example, we'll take a common, everyday, ordinary spinning globe. There must be a billion of them on the Web for you to practice with, but feel free to pull this one down to you're local drive to follow along. What we're going to do is take this globe and make it at least 10 percent more interesting by adding a funky background and a little spaceship that flies by.

What to do
1. In this tutorial, we'll be dealing with a single animation that has 15 frames. A much larger file would make the whole process a little more worthwhile, but this is just a tutorial. Open up the globe image in ImageReady. Before you do anything else, create two new layers. One will go on top of the images, and the other will go on the bottom. The top layer will be for our little rocket ship. The bottom layer will be for the background. Just for the heck of it, adjust the canvas size to twice normal. Paint the background whatever colors you want. If you make it a solid color, there won't be much call for half of this tutorial. So just humor me and put in a few colors with the airbrush tool, as seen on the right.

Now make an image of a rocket ship and put it into your new top layer. Once it's there, move it off the frame. Our animation will show it entering the frame, moving across the frame and going off the frame. I will do mine right to left, so I'll move it off the right of the frame, positioned at the exact height at which I want it to enter the frame.

This will be a two-step, kind of nonsensical project, but it works. (You will be able to impress your friends at parties with this incredibly obscure knowledge.) Ready for recording? Here we go.

2. Start off by clicking on the first Frame in the Animation palette (Frame 1, not Frame 15). Select your background Layer in the Layers Palette. (By the way, it will be helpful for this exercise to separate out the Layers palette from the Actions palette. Just grab the Layers tab and pull it away. It will automatically create a new palette.) Select the menu in the Actions palette, and choose New Action. Call it whatever you want, and then click Record.

3. From the Layers Palette, go to the menu on the right and select Duplicate Layer. From the Filters menu, select Distort > Twist. This will create a spiral effect. Then duplicate that Layer and Twist it again. Toggle visibility off and then on again in your second duplicate Layer. Click on the Next Frame button in the Animation palette. This will take you to Frame 2. (Your Actions recording will abstract the notion of Previous Frame from this, rather than thinking you want to go specifically to Frame 2. If you just click on Frame 2 instead of clicking Next Frame, it will record "Select Frame, Frame: 2," which will cause fatal errors the first time you try to do this.) Click to stop recording.

4. Now, to batch the rest of your frames, select the name of your new Action from the Action palette. Click the Play button. Nothing happened, right? Right. Click back on Frame 2 in the Animation palette and click Play again in the Actions palette. This time it worked. Now you can just keep clicking the Play button in the Actions palette until each frame is rendered. When you're done, click Play in the Animation palette to check your work. If you don't like it, go back in your History palette, and start again.

5. Think that was weird? Wait until you try to animate the transparent Layer on top with the rocket ship. First click on Frame 1 in the Animation palette. Now select the top layer that contains the rocket ship, and make sure the rocket is in the right starting position. You can't change the starting position later without starting over. Now duplicate that Layer, and make sure this duplicate Layer (in this case "Layer 16 copy") is selected and visible. Create a new Action, and start recording. Duplicate Layer 16 copy so that you create a Layer called Layer 16 copy 2. Now move the ship ever so slightly into the frame. Duplicate this new Layer (to create Layer 16 copy 3), and move the ship slightly further into the frame. Now make Layer 16 copy 2 invisible, visible and then invisible again. Make Layer 16 invisible and then visible again. Click on the Next Frame button in the Animation palette, and stop recording. (Now you see why this is really only valuable with larger projects.)

6. Now you can batch the rest of your frames. Frame 2 should already be selected in the Animation palette, so just select your action in the Actions palette and push the Play button (in the Actions palette). Once again, nothing will happen (although the frame will advance in the Animation palette). Click back on Frame 2 in the Animation palette, and click Play in the Actions palette. Voila! It worked this time! At this point, you should be able to render the rest of your frames just by repeatedly clicking the Play button in the Actions palette.

For some types of animation, especially simple effects like the rocket moving across the image, an animation tool like LiveMotion from Adobe or Flash from Macromedia is just simply better. There's much more control. For other effects that require repeating filters, this approach will do you some good. It's very likely that any batch project on multiple-frame images will require serious tweaking. If you need any more information, feel free to send an e-mail or post a message in one of our User Forums below.

Post a message in the Creative Mac World Wide User Group!

For more tutorials, click on the images below.

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