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Animated GIFs can be fairly simple to create on a Mac, especially if you own ImageReady that comes with Photoshop.
This tutorial demonstrates the process using a very simple animation.
I'm going to mess around with the Emotiguy. So, load him into the scene and apply the !Default pose. I've added a global lighting set and turned shadows off in the render options to avoid those nasty smudges.
Although you can use the animation controls at the bottom of the screen, I find it a darn sight easier to use the Animation Palette. Click on the 'Window' menu and then click on 'Animation Palette'.
A great little window pops up with a grid which shows each element in the scene. Including the body parts of each figure.
You'll also see a number of frames running along the top of the grid, labelled at every 5 frames.
We want a longer animation than the default 30 frames, so where it says Frame 001 of 030, change the 030 to 060.
In the Animation Palette, click on the grid where the 'Body' row crosses the '10' column. Now apply the 'Angry' pose and you should see the pose take effect in the main window.
Do the same thing for the following frames, applying the following poses to each of the corresponding frames.
Frame 0 : !Default
Frame 10 : Angry
Frame 20 : Baring Teeth
Frame 30 : Disappointed
Frame 40 : Shh
Frame 50 : Wink
Frame 60 : !Default
You should have an Animation Palette that looks like the following.
We make the last frame the same as the first to allow the animation to loop nicely.
We now want to render the frames for the animation now. Select 'Make Movie' from the 'Animation' menu.
Set the settings as below. You'll see that I've told it to render at Half resolution. When you're testing your animation, you will probably want to render at Half or Quarter the final resolution so that you can preview it. The last thing you want to do is spend hours rendering at full resolution only to notice that you made a mess of it somewhere.
When you click OK, you will get a Save window. Put all of the files into their own directory somewhere where you can find them easily. It's important that they are the only files in that directory.
Load ImageReady (or load Photoshop and then select 'Edit in ImageReady' from the 'File' menu).
This is one of the most painless parts of creating the animation.
Select the 'File' menu, and then 'Import' and then 'Folder as Frames'. Select the folder that has your rendered images and leave it to it.
When all of the images have been loaded in, you will have an animation window as well as your main image.
In this window, you can set all sorts of options, including how many times it should loop, whether it should loop at all, the delay between frames and so on, but that's another tutorial.
Anyway, we're nearly done. Click on the 'File' menu, select the 'Preview In' option and then select the browser of your choice.
After a short wait, you should see your animated GIF in action. All you need to do now is save or drag the GIF to a location on your drive.
That's pretty much all you need to do. If you find that it doesn't run very well in Internet Explorer, you may want to consider deleting every second frame from the animation. It's a good rule of thumb for getting the speed right.
As to creating wonderful animations, I leave that up to you and other tutorials. At least you now know the steps involved in getting your animation to a GIF.