Zoom Avatar Tutorial

Requirements: Animation Shop 3 or higher and a regular image editor such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop

This tutorial will teach you to create this avatar:

Start by copying this image into your image editor. Crop a 600x600 square out of the very top. Resize it to 400x400. Now, apply any effects you'll want - you won't be able to apply them in your animation program. (I used the Glamour setting on the Virtual Photographer PSP filter.)

Now copy your square, open up Animation Shop, and paste it as a new image. Go to Effects > > Insert Image Effect. Under the drop-down effects menu, choose Stretch. Click the Customize button, and set horizontal and vertical stretch both to about 180. Set Effect length to 1.2 seconds and Frames per second to 7 fps. Click ok. Resize the image (Shift + S) to 100x100 pixels. With all the frames still selected, hit Alt + Enter to bring up the frame properties box, and set Display time to 14.

Now select just the last frame of your animation and go to Effects > > Insert Image Transition. Choose Fade from the drop-down menu. Set the Transition length to 0.5 seconds and keep the Frames per second at 7 fps. Now, under the End With section, choose Custom Color and click on the color swatch. Use the eyedropper to select a color from your animation - I chose the light pink of Arwen's face - and click ok.

You can now preview your animation and see if you're satisfied with it. To do so, click View > > Animation.

Now all that remains is to save your avatar. To give it high quality, go to the Optimization Wizard (Shift + Z). Animated GIF File and Replace should be selected. In the next step, click the Customize button. Give your avatar 255 colors, Optimized Median Cut, and Error Diffusion. Keep hitting those Next and Finish buttons until you complete your animation; then hit Ctrl + S to save it to a folder, and you're done!

Notes: 1) You can vary the effect by checking "Run effect in reverse direction" when applying the Stretch effect to make the avatar zoom out rather than in. 2) It's important to start with an image several times bigger than 100x100 pixels (that's why this tutorial has you use a 400x400 image), because otherwise your avatar will appear grainy when it zooms in. 3) Make sure horizontal and vertical stretch are set to the same parameters; otherwise your avatar will look skewed. 4) When cropping an image to use as a zoom-in avatar, make sure the section you'll eventually zoom in on is exactly centered; otherwise, you might end up focusing on a nose rather than eyes, for example.