One of the silver linings in the COVID-19 stay-at-home protocol is that we have time to pursue trivial matters that previously would have been preempted by more important things like…well, don’t ask me. I’m retired; I can pursue all the trivial matters I want, at any time. But, perhaps you aren’t that fortunate, but you now have time to enjoy MY trivial pursuits.
That’s a long and ridiculous introduction to the following gif that I made with my own two hands. It’s a big file (4.5mb…if you scoff because you have high-speed internet and unlimited data, keep it to yourself), so it may take a while to load. But if you can watch it, give it a shot (no pun intended) and I’ll tell you some stuff about it below.
What it is
This is a slow-motion time lapse of a spent ammo casing being ejected from a pistol being fired by MLB at a target in an undisclosed location in West Texas. The gun is a Springfield Armory XD-40 Sub-Compact, firing .40 caliber S&W ammo. The XD is a sweet shooting firearm and I like it a lot, the downside being that .40 cal. ammo is more expensive than the more popular (but generally less powerful) 9mm.
How it was done
The original video was shot via an iPhone 8 using the slow-motion feature of the Camera app, and I selected about a two-second interval from that video. I did this in iPhoto, and I worked backwards from the point where the casing disappeared from sight. I clicked frame-by-frame in reverse (iPhoto tends to jump forward more than one frame at a time, hence the reverse approach) and took a screen capture of each frame using a desktop app called Snapz Pro X for Mac. Each screen capture was automatically saved in Photoshop format (.psd) for editing purposes. I captured about 65 frames in this fashion.
I decided to convert the images to grayscale for two reasons. First, grayscale allows for a sharper and smaller image in gif format. Second, I wanted to showcase (no pun intended) the casing throughout the sequence by leaving it in its original color.
To achieve this effect, I applied the following steps to each frame using my ten-year-old desktop version of Photoshop for Mac (version 12):
[Warning: Extreme geekiness ahead]
- Immediately after opening each frame image, I enhanced the contrast, vibrance, and sharpness using the respective tools in the app.
- I zoomed into each frame 300% so get a better look at the casing. Using the lasso tool, I outlined and selected the casing, then copied it into a new layer (Layer > New > Layer via Copy).
- I returned to the original layer and converted it to grayscale via the Image > Adjustments > Black & White > Darker option. This yielded a slightly higher contrast image than the simple Grayscale conversion that’s available in Photoshop.
- I then flattened the two layers and saved and closed the edited file. I opened the next frame image and repeated steps 1-3, until all frames had been completed.
- The images were still in individual .psd files, but in order to create the animated gif in Photoshop, I needed one file with each frame image loaded sequentially into a separate layer. I accomplished this (rather laboriously, I might add) by creating a new master .psd file, opening each frame file one-by-one, and dragging the image into the master file where it appeared as a layer.
- I then opened the Animation window in Photoshop and selected Make Frames From Layers. Photoshop automatically created the animated gif and I selected the option to have no delay between individual frames.
- I then selected File > Save for Web and Devices, selected “GIF 128 No Dither” from the optimization options in the resulting pop-up window, made sure the looping was endless, and saved the finalized animated gif to my hard drive. I uploaded it to the Gazette’s server (using Fetch as my FTP program), and then crafted this post a pixel at a time (kinda) so that it appears in the glorious, mesmerizing incarnation you’re now looking at.
The entire process took a couple of hours, time that I would otherwise have spent plopped down in front of the TV. Being plopped down in front of a monitor is a MUCH MORE worthwhile use of time, right?
You really need to affirm the wonderfulness of this effort; otherwise, I might be forced to upload an audio file of my clarinet playing. You’ve been warned.