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Sprite animation on original classic Pebble smartwatch

By , 07/20/2015 2:08 PM

SDK 3.x for Pebble Time smartwatch offers cool and very convenient set of functions to create animation from your existing GIF or MP4 via APNG support. APNG is an obscure “Animated PNG” format (at the time of the post only Mozilla Firefox supports it) but it’s very powerful and can store animation in much more compressed format than traditional animated GIF, so Pebble chose it for a reason. So if you have a GIF, convert it to APNG with Gif2Apng (or if you have a video, convert MP4 to GIF first and then to APNG) and you’re ready to use it on Pebble Time. Just keep the size in check, since Pebble has to load entire APNG sequence in memory, try not to go overboard. The first video is showing animation from my “Vortex” watchface using this approach on Pebble Time.

But what about original classic Pebbles? Eventually they will get firmware 3.x and SDK 3.x support and with that APNG functions among other advantages, but at the time of this writing it is still hazy when this is going to happen. But where there’s a will there’s a way – you can still use your MP4/GIF source for animation it’s just a bit more tricky. Instead of dealing with a single APNG file as your resource and relying on Pebble firmware to draw the frames you will need to help it a little.

First you will need to split your source into individual frames, for example using this service. Yes, you will be dealing with individual frames, so don’t go creating a Hollywood blockbuster. But don’t fret, it’s a bit more manual work, but you won’t have to hand-crank the moving pictures all the way.
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