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Answers from the AVATAR Guru ("How did I do that...")
First of all - we need to keep in mind that there is a maximum size for the picture you use as an Avatar, both in display size, and in file size.
It can be up to 60 pixels square, no more. It must be a file that is 8.0 KB in size or smaller.
That being said, it can be a .gif, a .jpg, a .bmp, or even a .png image. And if it's a .gif, yes it can be animated - BUT! Remember that it has to be no bigger than an 8.0 KB file...
So now we get into, "How to I change the size of those things - what YOU said, file and overall dimensions and stuff..."
To modify any graphic (digital picture) you need a program that will do that. There are a lot of options there, and some work better than others. Most such programs COST MONEY, sad but true. There is quite a bit of freebee software out there though. And if you have a windows op system, there is always MS PAINT - but it only deals with .bmp files (Bitmaps).
If you manage to save your file as a bimap, you can probably work with it using that. I happen to know that most images downloaded from FTE for some reason turn out to be bitmaps, don't know why it is but so I have noticed.
Most decent graphic programs will tell you outright what file size you are looking at, but if not you may have to right click your start button and use "EXPLORE" to list the file size of the graphic.
Changing the physical size is easy - somewhere in just about every graphics program is a menu choice labeled "Modify Image Size" or something like that.
Now about how to pack it up and get it here -
If you have the picture in your computer, it is the right size, and you are ready to use it on FTE: Go to "User CP" on the forum menu options, and go into the "Edit Avatar" screen.
Among the other options, you should see a choice to "Upload an Avatar From Your Computer". It's all point and click - right click on the button marked "Browse" and surf through your directories and files until you find your picture, and select it. Make sure you click on the "Save Changes" button when you are done and there ya go...
This is the basic and simple way to go about it. It assumes you don't have to email or pass around a file to someone so they can help you out.
My best advice on displaying an un-edited picture that needs work is to post it on PUTFILE.com, or even pop open a free webpage at geocities so that you can post it somewhere and refer someone to it. That to me is much easier than piping things through email. If you can post it and pass on the webaddress or even put it in a gallery that's fine.
Much easier to do it yourself, but sometimes faster for some hotshot with a wild graphics engine (like me) to just go look at it and do it.
The way I go about it, once I know where the graphic is, I size it and then post it at one of the webhosts I use, then link to it in a post. Whoever wanted it then right clicks on it and "saves as" to their computer, and uploads it as above.
Piece of cake!
I hope this puts the major Avatar questions in an organised and easy to understand way so that everyone can understand how it works.
Consider this a minor 'How To' article for the FTE Users Manual...
Hmm, I see a dumb mistake in the above. The browse button when uploading your avatar is a plain old left click - sorry about that.
I did want to add in a little more about shrinking graphic files down though (the actual size of the file).
The type of image, jpg/gif or whatever, can have different amounts of detail even though the actual size is 60 by 60 pixels. JPG's have greater and lesser quality, expressed as "DOTS Per Inch" and this can be increased or reduced to make an image higher or lower resolution. The lower the res, the smaller the file.
GIF images, like bitmaps, have specified numbers of colors that are used in them. 8 bit color is less than 16 bit, or 32 bit, and way less than 256 or true color formats. Somewhere in between you can strike a balance between gray scale and true color that will often fit just within that 8.0K max file size without losing the detail you want.
And so on...
A special circumstance comes into play with animated graphics though. Just like a movie film, or a cartoon, animations are made by putting together sequential images that are shown one after the other. What that means to us is that there isn't just one picture that has to be squeezed down to fit the max file size - there are several! Think of them as 'frames', or slides.
Each frame is so many bits of data, and all of them together make up the total file size. The more detail, the more colors, the more frames that are used to simulate motions - the bigger the whole file is. But the cheat here is to use the bare minimum number of colors you can get away with, and clip out any un-needed frames.
A very smooth looking Animation probably has several dozen frames to it. An Animation that works as an Avatar probably only needs 5% - 20% of them, thus trimming out a huge bunch of file space. Each frame that goes by-by makes it smaller!
Here is something else to think about - the length of time that each frame is displayed before flashing to the next one is another thing that can be changed. You can speed them up, or slow them down. You can have an image that stays put for many seconds, and then one or more that flip by quickly. Making a picture of someone blink its eyes can be a lot simpler than most people think! And it doesn't add anything much to the size of the file, since that information is part of the file(s) anyway...
Since Avatars are very small images, they don't really need a lot of detail. Nobody is going to look at them under a microscope... You'll be amazed at how blocky they actually look if you blow one up to 400% in a graphics program.
To take apart and put together animated gifs requires a specialised program or applet of it's own, and these are normally bundled along with most good graphics software. You can find a few applets at places like javaboutique.com, or zdnet.com if you surf around a bit. Beware of "Free Trial Downloads" of Paint Shop Pro, bad things happen when the trial period runs out. All the images you've looked at with it become transformed into a proprietary PSP file format when it shuts itself down (or they used to - I had that happen just once, and swore it never would happen to my computer again).
Don't overlook used software either! I bought a terrific COREL suite for twenty bucks one day, complete with the lisence agreement in the box! And its upgradeable...
Anyway - there are some options for you. Have fun!
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