Apocalypse Animated

I’ve revived my temporarily-abandoned Apocalypse project, which now lives at apocalypseanimated.com. Instead of a movie, I’m illustrating the Book of Revelation with animated gif loops, in the tradition of Medieval and post-Medieval Apocalypses. Except instead of being hand-lettered and painted on parchment, it’s all digital. Still, the gif is the 21st Century’s equivalent of the woodcut, as I discussed 6 years ago:

…the advent of the printing press led to the explosion of a unique kind of illustration: the wood-cut. Since…the internet is in many ways analogous to the printing press, I saw a parallel in its own new kind of illustration: the animated gif.

I am currently up to Chapter 8, out of 22 chapters total. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Revelation 1:11 “What thou seest, write in a book….”
Revelation 4:2 “…behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.”
Revelation 6:13 “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.”
Revelation 7:3 “Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”
Revelation 8:4 “And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.”
Revelation 8:7 “The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
Revelation 8:11 “And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

Ultimately I’d like the whole thing to be available for download as an eBook. Some of the gifs are heavy, weighing in at over 4MB, although many are under 2. With up to 17 gifs per page (each chapter is one page), that can make it unwieldy to download on-the-fly in a phone’s browser. That said, it looks freaking great on phones, thanks to the “dynamic” WordPress template I was willing to wrestle with. As an eBook it could be downloaded in a single package and viewed at will on any device. But get this – there aren’t any eBook publishing programs that support animated gifs in this way! A few e-Readers support animated gifs, so such an eBook is at least possible, but it will take some custom coding for it to happen. Meanwhile, if you have a proper Internet connection, view the work-in-progress at apocalypseanimated.com/.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

8 thoughts on “Apocalypse Animated”

  1. It’s an amazing work, no surprise. I’m wondering about your iconography – this book is so full of wild visuals that stand in for other things and that echo other things from earlier on. You’ve used some repeated iconography eg rainbow, eye even when not named as such in the text. So I have to ask, did you actually go through and make sense of all this? Or do you just open up the next verse and say ok on this one I think I’ll grab x, y and a from my symbol generator?

  2. Hmmm….I haven’t made sense of it all, but I love the visual density of the text. There’s so much to draw (literally) from. I use the rainbow to indicate communication to and from god. So the “prayers of the saints” rising from the censer are rainbow-colored, as are the trumpet blasts. And eyes just go on everything, you can’t go wrong with eyes. I want variation in the angels, instead of just making them all winged people that look similar, so I’m finding ways to leave the people out and make the things they do (throwing censers) or hold (trumpets, seals) the main part of their designs. Add wing(s) and eye(s) and boom, it’s an angel. Economy also dictates design; I re-use as much as possible. The “sealed” Elect are all the same bearded guy, partly because the gifs need to loop on as few frames as possible, and different character types would lengthen the loops’ duration and increase the file sizes.

  3. You can save space by converting gifs to mpegs. That’s what twitter does, even when it slaps the text “gif” on them. There might be more support for publishing ebooks with them, too.

  4. Hi Nina,
    it’s really hard to get hold of you any other way (I’ve tried before but you didn’t answer, maybe I didn’t write the correct email address). We are LAVA (Lesbian Action for Visibility Aotearoa) and have just today launched our website lava.nz. You’re mentioned and linked there so we thought we’d better let you know. The mention also contains a sneaky wish: We would like – at some stage – to do an interview with you for our podcast. We’d love to hear from you! Cheers, Sabine

  5. Another reason to draw lots of eyes “The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” Ezekiel 10.

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