Chris Gannon is an interactive designer, illustrator and animator. You can find all his news and updates here.

One Billion - That's Like, One Thousand Million

billion giphy.jpg

Well it finally happened. I reached a billion views on my Giphy channel on February 10, 2019. That’s a billion views generated by 149 GIFs, which, as I’m sure you just quickly worked out in your head as I did, is roughly 6711409.395973154 views per GIF. Well actually most of my views are stickers which are far more popular with those crazy kids.

My second most popular sticker (97M views - showing the most popular is too obvious).

My second most popular sticker (97M views - showing the most popular is too obvious).

I thought it would make a big difference to my life - I thought I would wake up the next day with a nicer car or a full beard.

But no.

Nothing has changed at all.

Damn you over-promising, under-delivering social media.

Half a Billion - That's Like, 500 Million Or Something

This was my first sticker animation (obviously the one on Giphy is transparent) - it’s currently on 99.5 million views - zoinks!

This was my first sticker animation (obviously the one on Giphy is transparent) - it’s currently on 99.5 million views - zoinks!

Recently I was hired to design and create some stickers for Instagram by a swimwear brand - they wanted to add personalised animated content to their posts and videos. Stickers are HUGE in terms of use and visibility and everyone wants to add more to their content, whether it’s personalised or funny or brand-specific (or preferably all of the above).

You may already know this but if you don't, stickers are transparent animations that are overlaid on top of your photos, photos and videos. Think popping hearts, slow claps, Carlton dancing, multi-coloured flashing OMFG text etc - you know the drill.

But they can be so much more than that - creating slicker, more beautiful and better produced animations for brands and companies is totally possible and it’s what I’d prefer to do.

These two are some early tests

These two are some early tests


The GIFs are fed to all sorts or major platforms like iOS, Android and Instagram via the Giphy API and, whilst you can search for your own hashtagged GIFs inside these platforms (great for brands), there's usually a trending page too that displays first without needing to search.  

So I start creating my own for fun, mainly to make sure I could produce something good quality for the client. You must have a verified Giphy account for your work to be considered and so in my spare time I’ve been creating new, transparent animations in After Effects. I’ve also been green-screening some existing SVG animations to make them transparent - similar to the way newscasters and actors are placed inside a different scene by removing the background; it’s great to be able to re-use some of my web animation stuff and get it in front of new audiences, even if they don't necessarily know it's made by me.

Anyway check out these figures - I have trended 8 times since I started doing it (start of November) and racked up over 383 million views in November alone and I've just passed half a billion total views on Giphy.

Can you spot the moment the penny dropped?

Can you spot the moment the penny dropped?

I've pretty much nailed how to time them properly so they loop in Instagram (I hadn’t in the examples above!)) and also how to produce them at maximum quality.

It’s not only a fun rabbit hole to explore but also something more and more clients are asking for.

So if you want to add some cool animated stickers to your photos, videos and posts click that button below.

Fronteers Conference 2018

I was honoured to be invited to speak at Fronteers Conference in Amsterdam in October this year (2018). Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities (no, not because of THAT (well, not any more)) - it’s a society that is very forward thinking in terms of health, transport and public policy and I wish our own government was as interested in, and cared about, the lives of its own citizens the way the Dutch government appears to.

Photo credit  Fronteeers

Photo credit Fronteeers

Anyway, I’d spent a great deal of time preparing my talk, panicking, getting nervous, overshooting my time in rehearsals and generally getting a bit lost with the narrative but eventually I finally wrapped it up, packed my bag and hopped on the plane to the Netherlands where the best ever conference care plan kicked in.

Right from the off I felt looked-after - I was met at the airport and taken straight to the hotel for a little rest. The hotel was wonderful (albeit a bit of an eye-full of mismatched decor which I slowly began to understand and, by the end of my stay, fully appreciated), the staff were great and once I’d showered and unpacked the speakers were whisked off on a canal boat for drinks and a meal so we could meet the other speakers and organisers.

I won’t bang on about everything we did over the coming days - this post is really just to highlight how well the event was coordinated, how every time I needed some information it was there, how nothing was too much trouble and how much of a fun time I had.

Photo credit  Fronteers

Photo credit Fronteers

The talk went well and was very well received (thankfully) and the rest of the time was spent enjoying other speakers’ talks and enjoying wonderful Amsterdam.

It went so well in fact that I had several requests to speak at conferences in 2019 so watch this space if you’d like to join me at FITC in February, FWDays in March and SmashingConf (potentially in Toronto in June).

Finally I’d like to offer my warmest thanks and heartfelt praise to the organisers of Fronteers for genuinely caring about their speakers and attendees.

Exciting Times for Interactive Animation

Drag that slider! This is an animation I created in After Effects using Shape layers. I exported it using Bodymovin, added in an SVG slider created using GreenSock's Draggable - the slider controls the playback speed using the Bodymovi API.

For years now I have been wanting to do more character animation and central to the kinds of characters I have in mind is the walk cycle.

And when I say I have been wanting to do more character animation, what I mean is I have been trying to do more character animation for years and whenever I have set aside time for it I never achieved the results I wanted.

Walk cycles are hard. Really hard.

We as walking creatures instinctively know if something doesn't look like it's moving naturally whether it's walking or slithering - many's the movie that has become an object of ridicule because the movement of the aliens or the characters has fallen woefully short of the mark (usually these films have terrible acting and wooden dialogue too but that's beside the point).

This combines GreenSock and Bodymovin but it's not interactive. I am fully aware that it looks more like a galloping baked bean and if this was in a film I would want my money back.

However some recent developments have made the process of walk cycles and limb animation a little less frustrating. My background is in After Effects (AE) - I was creating video animations long before even Flash came along and so AE feels like a second home. Every so often I dip back into the wonderful world of AE; sometimes a project needs it and sometimes I just feel like a change from the GreenSock and SVG combo.

During one of my prodigal returns to AE (which usually involves lots of Googling for tutorials) I noticed a new plugin called RubberHose from BattleAxe which states it's 'a quick way to remove a lot of the technical overhead from the animation process to allow you to really focus on character'.


...I whispered in caps to no-one in particular, purchased a copy and spent a happy afternoon making some fairly terrible animations (purely down to my own shortcomings). RubberHose removes some of the fiddly keyframing, rigging, inverse kinematics stuff that can get in the way of a stress-free project and it's pretty intuitive too. It's also great fun to play with and, with a little experimentation, has lots of application and uses beyond swinging limbs and pointy fingers.

Around that time an export plugin for AE called Bodymovin arrived on my radar. It piqued my interest in part because it exported AE stuff to SVG and as you may know I am a big fan of SVG and there were some very cool animations appearing, mostly courtesy of Hernan Torrisi (@airnan). It was in its infancy back then and the install procedure was pretty convoluted (in part due to Adobe's extension install issues) and I never actually managed to get the thing working in AE. I played around with some pens and tried to rebuild some and just didn't understand how it was working at all so I just sort of gave up.

RubberHose In Your Browser

Jump forward several months and a completely rewritten version 2 of RubberHose arrived. And behind the scenes those cheeky scamps had added support for Bodymovin. So I revisited Bodymovin with a renewed sense of determination to get the damn thing installed and with the help of Matt Wilson's useful video I finally got it installed (it too had been updated to make rendering and export much easier. I know this because Matt's tutorial had a different UI).

The scope for RubberHose support is somewhat limited, in part due to the SVG 1.1 spec, but you can do a lot of cool things with it and the most important parts are front and centre i.e. bending hoses. Yes, you might have to be a little inventive in order to pull off an effect that AE Shapes can do in a snip because the Bodymovin exporter doesn't support it yet but I'm just glad to be able to mess around with walk cycles and wobbly fingers and then output it to the web.

This tennis ball looks a bit cross.

The Stars They Are Aligning

Well, they are for me at least. It occurred to me that I could combine all of these things I love into one demo - namely GreenSock (number one best animation buddy), SVG, After Effects, RubberHose and Bodymovin to create an interactive animated character, albeit somewhat limited in its interactions. So recently I've been either designing new animations or revisiting old ones and refactoring the way they are built to conform to Bodymovin export spec - and most importantly I'm having a lot of fun.

My most recent project is a reworking of an animation called Eggs-ercise - I originally animated an egg working out on a treadmill (as you do) and it had a just-about-passable walk cycle. It was a flat video and it was ok but by mixing in these great tools there was real potential to take it further.

Make Egg Go Faster!

And so Interactive Eggs-ercise emerged (see what I did with the title there?). It involved designing and building the character animation in After Effects (using shapes only), animating with RubberHose, exporting it using Bodymovin, bringing it into CodePen, making a slider controlled by GreenSock and controlling the animation speed using the Bodymovin API. The interaction in this demo is limited - basically you can make the egg run really quickly or in slow motion but the possibilities are endless.

Stick With The Old and In With The New

I have always liked learning new things, although I am quite choosy about what I learn. It's easy to feel like you have to learn everything to stay up to date but that just isn't true. Choosing the right tools that interest and benefit you and your projects will always be the better choice than just trying to learn the latest thing to come out. However when I do learn new tools I add them to my skill portfolio; one rarely replaces another and in fact they usually complement each other. I have always loved and will always love GreenSock - it is THE tool of choice for SVG animation without doubt. There are very few things it doesn't do well but character animation is one of them and so when the need arises I now have the right tools for the job.

And by combining all these tools, a whole new world of opportunity for interactive characters has opened up to me and I have a renewed sense of optimism and energy for the future of web animation.

These really are exciting times for interactive animation!

Best Code Wrangler, again!

I'd like to thank my dog and my therapist...

I'd like to thank my dog and my therapist...

As I mentioned in a previous post, 2016 was pretty shocking. It wasn't all bad though - one good thing was being presented with the Best Code Wrangler award for 2015 by CSSDesignAwards. It's a nice feeling for your industry peers to recognise your hard work and offer a token of appreciation. Here's what they say:

Where would the digital world be without experimentalists? Last year we thought it fitting to introduce a unique commendation that shines a light on the people that spend countless hours perfecting the little things that drive big innovation in the web design and dev industry. Best Code Wrangler is a special accolade for code-loving experimentalists.

Well you won't believe it but I've only gone and won it two years in a row! I'm so chuffed because this sort of success NEVER happens to me twice - they tend to be freak occurrences that are never repeated. But there it is in black and white (well, green, yellow and purple).

I think if you were to ask me the secret to staying fresh and pushing things forward I would say that it's not a secret but it's something people may not want to hear and that is helping out other people.

I spend a considerable portion of my time helping people out with their questions and problems. Some are customers who have bought my work (who are actually entitled to the support!) but some are just people on my YouTube channel or emailing me directly or connecting on Twitter - people who are also doing similar stuff to me and just need a hand. It's during these exchanges that you can gain some real insights into new ways of seeing things and approaching problems, which in turn help you become a better designer or animator or whatever.

So it's really an award that recognises the value of helping out your community - because in times of trouble I too have reached out for help and received it in spades so I suppose what goes around come around.