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Making Animation Christmas Card by David Mattingly

Dear Friends,
Every Christmas for the past fifteen years, I have made a Christmas card featuring my wife and I and our cats. As with many tradition, the cards have become more elaborate each year, and feature us in increasingly complex situations: caroling outside our house, doing yoga, ice skating in Rockefeller Center, prospecting on Mars, all with the cats joining in. Last year I did a red/blue anaglyph card that I sent out with 3-D glasses, so I was trying to think of something more spectacular than that. Ever since I was a kid, lenticular screens have fascinated me, so this year I got inspired to do a lenticular animation.

I should begin by explaining that I am an illustrator specializing in science fiction and fantasy book covers. Therefore, I'm accustomed to painting fantastic elements in a composition that I can't photograph, such as space ships, monsters and aliens. When I began the project, I thought I was going to use 6 steps to make the card, so I set about getting all the necessary elements. I had pictures of the previous year's Christmas tree, so I used that as the background. Then I photographed my wife Cathleen and me dancing around as the foreground human figures. For the cats, luckily we are professional cat trainers, and we were able to teach them to dance exactly as we had. Just kidding!! The cats are pretty much digitally painted, using photo reference of them squirming around while I try to get a clear shot of them with a leg or paw extended. This is where being an illustrator came in handy.

With all the elements in hand, I dropped them into Photoshop and created the six images I originally intended to use for the animation. To add more visual interest, I also painted blinking lights, added the type to alternately say "Merry" and "Christmas." The top of the tree blinked with two distinct images: a star and the face of my late cat Orson.

To test the idea, I made a proof using some of Igor's excellent 60 LPI lenticular screen material. One of the great things about Igor's's screen is that it is thick, so it does not expand or contract. As a result, you don't have to do calibration on it-it is always exactly 60 LPI, not 60.02 or. 59.06. Since I do my screens without the aid of interlacing software, it is important that the screen material will not change from one test to the other. Buying some interlacing software like Igor sells ("PhotoProjector" software) will make your life a lot easier, but I chose the more difficult route of doing it manually in Photoshop because as an artist I want to understand all aspects of the process.

Here's how I did it: I created the files at 600 DPI, since I was using 60 LPI screen and 60 goes into 600 ten times. That means that each interlacing section gets exactly ten pixels in Photoshop, and since I initially had 6 images, each image got just a smidge less than 2 pixels each. I made 6 templates for each interlacing band in Photoshop, and used that to chop up my six images and interlace them. Buying interlacing software will make the task exponentially easier, but my more labor-intensive method works as well.

Once I interlaced image, I proofed it on the 60 LPI screen. It immediately became apparent that I had too many images - the six images made my wife and I look like a moving Francis Bacon painting. So I took out 3 of the images, re-interlaced them (so each slice got a little more than 3 pixels each). The three - part image looked good-not too blurry this time. Because I intended to produce a large volume of cards, I e-mailed around to find the best deal on printing, and I got a good estimate from Gabe Lanas at I sent him my proof so that he would know exactly what I wanted. Big3d did a beautiful job printing the card with a holiday greeting on the reverse side.

The last thing I'd like to emphasize is how important it is to be able to proof an idea, and experiment until you get the best possible results. The project did take longer than I expected, but the response has been wonderful. I've always viewed the cards as a way to reach out to friends and business associates at the end of the year. If "the medium if the message," than a lenticular screen is a medium that makes people stop in their tracks and look, giving you more time to get your message across.

You can download all 3 frames that I used for making that picture (Xmas_001.jpg, Xmas_002.jpg and Xmas_003.jpg) and make the picture by yourself.
You can also download the Animation Screen Saver (2.38 Mb) I made from these frames.

David Mattingly,
Artist and Illustrator


Thank you, David, for sharing your experience and frames with us. Nice job and very interesting letter!
I hope it is not last time when somebody wants to describe in our newsletter how he made his lenticular pictures. I guess that could be interesting and useful for everybody.

Yes, that is a good idea to make a sample by yourself, see and correct all errors and then to order already good lenticular picture. In this way you will get the picture exactly what you want. It could save your money, your time and your nervous health.

For this picture you will need:

  1. "PhotoProjector" interlacing software.
  2. Lenticular sheet 5"x7" (13x18 cm) with lenticules run parallel to short side.

Best regards,
Igor Kurchavov