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Maker of Animated GIFs Waits for Offbeat Moments -

Stashed in: Football, Awesome, History of Tech!, About GIFs, GIF ME MOAR, Rising meets Risen, Content Curation, Avant Graphique

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Talk about dream job!

Oh man. GREAT article. Eric, this is SO COOL. Sarah Lyall writes:

At 2:44 p.m. on a recent Sunday, Tim Burke took a moment from monitoring numerous N.F.L. games for the sports Web site Deadspin to post something that had nothing to do with football: a smidgen of a clip from an English rugby match he also happened to be following.

He stitched together still-frame images captured from the broadcast into a short, continuous loop that showed a player built like a cement mixer strong-arming an opponent to the ground by the unfortunate man’s throat. The GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, showed a vivid moment, the kind that has become standard currency for online sports journalism. That Burke had time to produce it at all reflects the vacuum-cleaner-like way he approaches his job.

I had to look at said gif. It is, in fact, awesome:

Brutal Stiff-Arm Rugby Match gif deadspin Imgur

I am in awe of Tim Burke's skills:

The sports editor at the Web site Buzzfeed, Ben Mathis-Lilley, could only observe in awe.

“It’s hard enough to watch one or two games at once and to actually get the stuff people think is great,” he said. “It’s hard enough to monitor all the American sports. But Tim is so good at coming up with stuff from all around the world, and from sports like minor league hockey, that no one else is watching.”

Burke, 35, is known among sports journalists for his ability to capture the moment — whether as a still, a video clip or in his favored format, a GIF — better, faster, more frequently and from more sports events than just about anyone. How he does it is a matter of wonder.

The best gif makers know it is part art and part science.

LOL at him admitting he has no life:

He works from home here, in what his colleagues call the “Burke-puter,” for its seamless integration of man and machine. It is less an office than an organism: a flashing, beeping, glowing, thrumming assault of screens, wires, remotes, tuners, phones, receivers, computers and general electronic effluvia wrapped around a person (“the monitor situation up there is insane,” said Burke’s wife, Lynn Hurtak.). Burke sits here alone in the dark day after day, for about 100 hours a week, watching dozens of sports events simultaneously.

“My job is to know at all times what’s happening in every game,” Burke said in a recent interview in the Burke-puter.

Some of his 10 functioning monitors are programmed to split into eight or more miniscreens, and he can record from 28 sources at once. This time of year, he is watching a lot of football. On Oct. 6, he watched the New Orleans Saints versus the Chicago Bears; the Philadelphia Eagles versus the New York Giants; the New England Patriots versus the Cincinnati Bengals; the Baltimore Ravens versus the Miami Dolphins — a dozen N.F.L. games in all — as well as two Major League Baseball games, four Premier League soccer matches and a ragtag assortment of other events, starting at 10 a.m. and finishing at 2 a.m. the next day.

“I am not able to do many other things,” Burke said of his life in general.

He'd probably have more of his life back if he stopped running Windows.

Windows updates must absolutely suck for him.

Tim Burke truly is the gif master:

To people who follow sports news, Burke is known as the person who helped unmask Manti T’eo’s fake dead girlfriend. But it is his particular talent for GIFs — which he posts on Deadspin, Twitter and his own Web site, 30FPS — for which he is known. Not only are his GIFs considered to be of high quality, but he also seems to have a sixth sense for identifying the exact moments to capture.

“He’s made GIFs the standard for sports highlights,” Mathis-Lilley said.

A GIF, pronounced jif, is a compressed image file format invented in 1987. In the last decade, the animated GIF has become popular. Burke has figured out a way to use it in the service of sports reporting.

“It has to be small, it has to be shared quickly, you want it on Twitter and Tumblr, and he’s great at realizing which moments are best for it, which tiny slices are indicative of something larger,” Mathis-Lilley said.

Example: the startling second in the Super Bowl last year when the singer M.I.A. suddenly gave the crowd the finger.

The charm of animated gifs is the content:

The league has not made much of a fuss over the animated GIFs, which are perfect at capturing instances of embarrassment and absurdity — a baseball player tumbles over a fence, ESPN’s football score box shows one team leading another by 975 points, aspectator swears or a football player mows down another before the play starts. The charm of animated GIFs is in the content — those clumsy moments captured, and repeated again and again. Unlike videos, which provide a smooth stream of action, a GIF is like a digital flipbook, a choppy rendering that adds to the silliness of what happened in real time.

“Video requires a reader’s intervention to play, whereas a GIF adds itself forcefully,” Burke said.

He added: “It’s an art object. You’re taking this little moment and making it exist in perpetuity, because it constantly loops,” as in a GIF of a fumble by Bears running back Matt Forte.

“A lot of stuff I do here — nobody’s done this stuff,” he said. “How did I learn to do it? I messed around with stuff until I found something that worked.”

His GIFs’ very inanity makes them profound, in a way:

“This is going to sound really pretentious if I give any more value to it, but there’s a reason people like seeing these things,” he said. “I think mundane is human, and we’re capturing people being human, and anytime we can make someone feel smarter — even if it’s vis-à-vis someone else being stupid — that’s something that appeals to people. People like to feel smart.”

“This is going to sound really pretentious... we can make someone feel smarter... vis-à-vis someone else being stupid...   Sorry, Timmy, that doesn't sound really pretentious :P

The use of the word "vis-a-vis" is the tipoff.

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