Monday, March 19, 2018

Creating Animated (Lenticular) Business Cards

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Perhaps you are curious about the process of creating an animated business card. Read on!

Say you want to include 24 frames of animation on a business card.


Close-up of interlaced spider image

How do we squeeze these 24 frames into one business card? The lenticular process! It has been around since the 1940s, and you have probably found lenticular images inside chip packets.

The lenticular blank (which arrives in a box from America) is business-card sized, transparent and has a self-adhesive backing. If you looked closely at the left and right edges, you would see tiny semi-circular ridges. These are lenticules, and they are what makes the "whukka whukka" sound when you drag your nails over the surface.

How wide are they? 0.423mm, in metric. How many lenticules are there on a business card? In this case, there are 60 lenticules per inch (lpi). Since the cards are two inches tall, there are 120 lenticules per card.

What does the blank do? Basically, we print an image and stick it to the blank. There are a few steps involved in getting to this stage.

Okay. We have to chop our 24 images up into 120 slices. When I say we, I mean the computer. The amazing thing is that each tiny lenticule (which is 0.423mm wide) must display information from all 24 frames.  The finished image file (which is pretty huge) looks a bit like this.


If you were to print the finished image at 300dpi (a pretty good resolution), it would be about 90cm wide! Instead, it ends up on a business card  9 cm wide.

To create this image, each slice from the 24 frames is squashed down to 17.6 microns (about the thickness of a silk fibre), and stacked up with corresponding slices from the other 23 frames. This process is known as interlacing.

Here is a close-up of the interlaced image. This represents about 6 x 4 mm on the finished card.





Each lenticule will have 24 slices underneath it. But you will only see one slice at a time, because the shape of the lenticule magnifies and refracts a different slice depending on your eye's position. As you rotate the card, you are seeing a series of slices which corresponds to the 24 frames of animation.

So far the computer has done the hard work.

Now it's the human's turn (that's me). Aligning the lenticular blank (the clear, ridged, self-adhesive bit of plastic) with the printed image is the trickiest part of the process. It takes a lot of concentration (and strong thumbs) to make sure the alignment is perfect. If it isn't, you end up with a psychedelic mess of a card which looks cool, but isn't much of a business card.

Finally, we squeeze the air bubbles out, give the back of the card a coat of lacquer for durability, and sit down to playing with the finished product. Spider goes up. Spider goes down. Hours of fun...probably more like minutes, but it's cooler than most business cards:)