Okay, geek dads, listen up… I got a desperate email from a geek dad buddy of mine asking for instructions on how to make a flipbook for a Mother’s Day gift from his two kids. I’ve dabbled with flipbooks over the past few years and refined the process here and there, but the problem is that the flipbooks I give my wife typically take between 2 and 4 hours to make. I shoot the video, select the right 6 seconds (yes, 6 seconds), rip the video to individual JPEG images, apply some filtering and effects to lighten the images or sharpen them up, apply a cutting template over each image, number each image (in case the stack falls on the ground and I lose the order), print them out, cut them out (typically with a paper cutter but I’ve since discovered FedEx/Kinkos can do it faster), drill the binding holes, cut a leather binder, wrap the flipbook, and bolt it together with some solid brass machine posts. But my geek dad buddy says “I don’t have a lot of time!” Hmmm…. I wonder if any other geek dads might be in the same bind?
Okay, so I took a look at my process and figured out where to cut some corners and cheat a bit to create something that his kids will still be proud to hand-deliver on Sunday. He’s got four day, and I managed to create one in less than an hour. Here’s how you can do it, too.
1. Shoot your video – divide the scene you’re recording into three vertical slices of equal width and do your best to keep your subject (or subjects) in the far-right third. With one subject, you can get close… with two or more, you’ll have to pull back a bit. (The reason behind this is that you’ll only be able to see the right-most 1/3 of a stack of photos and anything close to the middle of the image won’t be easy to see when the flipbook is bound.)
2. Use some video editing software to trim it down to the best six seconds. Six seconds will give the closest approximation to real-time speed, but feel free to go with 12 seconds if you must… just know the final flipbook will have that choppy look of old time movies. Save the six seconds somewhere where on your computer where you can find it easily.
3. Download VirtualDub (free) at www.virtualdub.com and install the software. After it’s installed, open it, click on the File menu, and browse to your video and open it. Click File again… choose Export… then Image Sequence. A window will open – provide a name for the image files, enter 3 for the “Minimum number of digits” and select JPEG as the file format. Select a folder on your computer where the images will be stored and click OK.
4. Your video will be converted into approximately 180 or so JPEG files. Delete the even numbered images (or delete the odd numbered images – you pick) so you get down to around 80-90 JPEG images.
5. Use a batch editing program such as Picasa to apply effects such as “I’m Feeling Lucky” or increase the lighting if the images are dark. Apply the effect(s) you choose to all images and save them.
6. Print your photos – I had my 87 images printed for $0.06 each for a total of $5.22 plus tax. Most photo developing services put a number on the back of each photo that increments by 1 as a set is printed. If you’re not certain your developer does this then ask or insert a number on each image (yes, time consuming) in either the lower-left corner or upper-left corner of each photo – make the numerals small… tiny tiny! You might also ask your developer if they can print them in the order that you submit them from your USB drive.
7. After printing, make certain the photos are in the proper order, lowest number on top to highest number on bottom. Grip it tight on the left side, point the right flat edge of the stack towards your nose, and give it a flip – it might not look that great until after the trimming is done.
8. Take the stack to FedEx/Kinkos and ask them to use their “guillotine” device to trim the stack down. I had them cut off the top 1/8″ border, the bottom 1/8″ border, and a 3/4″ strip from the far right side. Your trimming will be different and be dependent on the subject’s position on the photos. This cost me a total of $1.50 per cut (3 cuts total) for a total of $4.50 plus tax.
9. Take the stack. square it up as good as you can get it, and clamp it along the right side. Mark two holes on the top image, anywhere from 1/2″ to 3/4″ from the top edge and bottom edge and 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the left edge.
10. Use a drill bit to drill two holes completely through the stack – put a piece of scrap wood on top and bottom of the stack to prevent the drill bit from tearing up the photo paper. This part can be frustrating so the only advice I can offer is to maybe drill two holes through the top piece of wood first and use them to line up with the marks on the top image, clamp it together like a sandwich and drill.
11. After drilling, use two 3/4″ machine posts (these are special hardware where one ends screws into the other and both ends have nice, smooth rounded tops. You can find these at most hardware stores for about $0.80 each for the metal ones and cheaper for the plastic ones. I have a bunch of 3/4″ solid brass ones that I’m using that (I think) run me around $1.75 or so each because I buy them in bulk. Another option is to go for the Handyman look and simply use a machine screw and nut to secure the stack – doesn’t look as nice IMO but does have that manly, garage-y feel.
12. Secure the stack of photos with the machine posts as tight as you can get it and your flipbook is done.
The flipbook I made here cost me a total of around $13.00 plus tax and took a little less than an hour to complete (not counting short drive time to FedEx/Kinkos across the road).
I’m fairly impressed at the quality of this flipbook compared to the ones I spend much more time making. If you want to see more detailed steps for making flipbooks, you can check out my Instructables.com writeups for flipbook1 and flipbook2.
Happy Mother’s Day!