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Droste Effect refers to an artistic technique that creates a recursive picture in which a smaller version of the image is placed inside itself repeatedly. In still images, the recursion is limited by the fixed resolution of the picture but can repeat as an infinite loop in animations.


Art History

According to Wikipedia[1], the first known Droste effect image was a triptych from 1320 by Italian artist Giotto di Bondone called the “Stefaneschi Altarpiece.” In the painting, the Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi is holding the exact same painting he is featured in. The name for the technique originates in 1904 from the cover art for the Dutch Droste cocoa powder that featured a nurse holding a serving tray with the same box of cocoa powder on the tray.

Animated GIFs

Droste effect animated GIFs can be made to loop so that it appears to be infinitely zooming in on the image. One of the earliest known Droste effect GIF fads was inspired by an image called “Fractal Grandma” that featured a woman in a blue shirt wearing a duplicate of herself on her hand. The first known posting of the image comes from a post on the image site Moonbuggy[2], that was cached by Google on November 7th, 2007. A YTMND page using the same image titled “Recursive Grandmother”[3] was created on May 6th, 2008. On September 3rd, 2009, an edited version with Gary Busey’s head was posted to YTMND.[4]


Several pages worth of Droste effect images can be found on Tumblr[10], Flickr[8] and deviantArt.[7] The first relevant deviantArt[13] image was titled “Picture in Picture” and was posted by user nlife on November 26th, 2004. The first Droste effect Flickr[14] image was titled “Honey I Escherized the kids!” and was submitted by user Seb Przd on July 6th, 2006. An explanation of the mathematics behind the Droste effect was posted to the Mathematical Imagery[6] blog on December 26th, 2008. A round-up of Droste effect images was posted to the photo blog Pixzii[5] on December 31st, 2009. A Facebook[9] fan page has 113 likes as of November 15th, 2011.

Usage in Video Art

The collaborative art project Zoomquilt[11] that featured a looped zoom flash animation taking the viewer through several different paintings was created in 2004. The sequel Zoomquilt 2[12] was published in November of 2007.

The music video directors Alex and Martin made a Droste effect style video for the song “Seven Nation Army” by the rock band The White Stripes in 2003. The video appears as if it is one long shot that zooms into a tunnel of black, white and red triangles.

On September 2nd, 2008, a music video was uploaded to Vimeo using the Droste effect by user OneInThree for the song “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants” by the Wild Beasts. On September 8th, 2008, Director Frank Beltrán uploaded a Droste effect music video to Vimeo for the song “Clap your brains off” by the Mexican band No Somos Machos Pero Muchos.

Search Interest

External References

[1] Wikipedia – Droste Effect

[2] Moonbuggy – Fractal Grandmother

[3]YTMND – recursive grandmother


[5] Pixzii – 20 Illusional Droste Effect Images that will Twist Your Mind

[6] Mathematical Imagery – The mathematics behind the Droste effect

[7] deviantArt – droste

[8] Flickr – drost effect

[9] Facebook – Droste effect

[10] Tumblr – #droste

[11] – Zoomquilt

[12] Mad Mind Worx – Zoomquilt 2

[13] deviantArt – Picture in picture

[14] Flickr – Honey I Escherized the kids!

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This is a guide for indie developers that tells you how to go through the whole process of finding freelance artists, picking the best one, negotiating, and working with them. Based on my experience with "Girl with a Heart of" game.

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UPDATE: New embed.
There’s the preview of NCsoft/Carbine’s ambitious new sci-fantasy MMO Wildstar, and here’s the first scene-setting video. Pre-rendered intro vid kinda stuff rather than in-game footage, but sets the scene, the tone and introduces the three playable races and some of the classes… Take a look. Now, I must run off to a giant German convention centre to go see many, many games.

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Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Here's an advance copy of a sketchbook from my artist friend, Ray Toh (aka torei).

The design is unique. It has a brown cardboard cover and 200 pages inside are brown as well. It comes with a customised wooden pencil that you can remove from the book spine. It's quite costly to get it printed but the result looks great. It's a cardboard cover so be careful of wrinkles from bending it — mine has a few already.

The Ideabook is a collection of sketches Ray did over the years, for conceptualising and exploring ideas. They are mainly character designs. The style is quite loose since they are at the drafting stage, with a couple with more details. It's interesting to look through the character sketches, some of them can be further developed and I wonder if they were. It would be cool to see them fully coloured and realised, maybe the next book.

This book will be available for sale at Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention 2011 on 20-21 August 2011, booth G24. I'm not sure how much he's going to price it yet. Another book on sale is Ray Toh: Voyage which he published previously.

He'll also be selling the book online, just email him (torei at or send him a message on deviantART to find out more details like price and shipping.

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

Ray Toh's Ideabook 2011

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Translator Paul “Otaking” Johnson, probably most famous on the internet for his criticism of fansubbers (not the illegal part but that they draw too much attention to themselves) and his particular views on how anime should look (five-tone shading), recently released a finished preview of his Doctor Who anime treatment. Taking the iconic British science fiction hero and putting him in Japan, the whole thing lasts 12 minutes. While Johnson has since taken the Doctor Who video down, I still want to give my impression of it, and you can still find previous versions around.

I’ve been critical of Johnson in the past over his adherence to “five-tone shading.”  There was never anything inherently wrong with the concept of “five-tone shading,” and my criticisms were primarily that there are a variety of ways for anime to look good, that budget inevitably plays a factor, and that if you disregard all shows that don’t use that shading style, you look down on not just current anime but also anime from before the 1980s. But it being a few years and all, I had to wonder what he’d learned since then.

Now I am not a fan of Doctor Who as much as I have never actually watched it, so I cannot judge this preview animation based on how well it captures the Doctor Who spirit. Anything I know about it is from reading the internet. I also understand that it’s more a proof of concept, not a trailer or anything that requires a storyline, so I won’t say anything about plot coherency. Having done a bit of animation in the past myself, I can tell that Johnson has talent and put a lot of work into this project.

But it still doesn’t look good, and while that doesn’t preclude an animation project from being all right overall, it is a problem for Johnson who prides himself on understanding what makes anime look good, especially because the preview is meant to be a visual showcase.

There are certainly elements of it which look impressive, bits and pieces that stand out and grab your attention, but taken as a whole, it is less than the sum of its parts. I do not mean that the characters sometimes look off or that the animation goes sour at times, because that sort of thing happens. The real issue stems not from a lack of technical skill or any minor flubs, but from an inherent flaw in Johnson’s aesthetic philosophy.

Five-tone shading is not the entirety of the problematic philosophy, but its effects are very clear in the work itself and so a good place to start. Again, there is nothing wrong with thinking five-tone animation looks better, but just about very single character and object in the animation has this in spades, to the point that it becomes overwhelming. Everything is so specifically made to have that elaborate shading scheme that it is difficult to look at. Characters are frequently as prominent as their surroundings, the foreground is often times difficult to differentiate from the background, and it just ends up as a garish mess. It’s just too much. There are plenty of anime out there which use that shading method, but they don’t overwork it into every single thing all the time to the degree that everyone and everything fights for your attention.

Another problem is that when you’re animating with five-tone shading constantly, it becomes difficult to maintain the shadows while in motion. One need only look at the original, pre-release animation from Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix to see this problem. They originally went for a similar shading style there, but it causes shadows to be inconsistent and to “pop” unnaturally unless a lot of care is taken. There are limitations to five-tone shading, among then simply time and manpower. When five-tone shading is used as an absolute rule, those limitations become even more apparent.

It’s not just shading which can create this problem, but also character design, which is why a show like Turn A Gundam has relatively simplistic ones. This is also another area where the Doctor Who anime preview runs into problems, because much like with the shading, the character designs have too many aesthetic bells and whistles as the result of a particular desire for 80s anime-level “intensity.” All of the characters look dated as a result.

I can potentially see why someone would think that I’m criticizing 80s/90s character designs as a whole for not being “new” enough, I should clarify my point. Everyone, with possibly the exception of the Doctor himself, looks like they were inspired by a 1980s version of a “How to Draw Anime” book in the sense that the characters all look like they were made with the idea that this is how anime characters are supposed to look, down to the hairstyles and the little details. This is most prominent with the character of “The Master,” whose eyes make him look like a 17 year old wearing a fake beard. Certainly there are actual anime out there which are also guilty of this, but it’s still something to be aware of.

I could touch on more aspects, but I’m not trying to nitpick little flaws as much as I’m using them as examples of how the basic approach to this project has problems. Again, the whole project is impressively made, but the overall flaw with Johnson’s animation style is that he sticks too closely to his beliefs about how anime “should” look. Because the aesthetic philosophy upon which that’s founded is underdeveloped and incomplete, it results in a work where certain elements, such as shading detail and particular character traits, have been rendered extensively but at the expense of fundamental aspects like visual clarity and not forcing characters into overt visual tropes just because that’s how things were done. There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire for elaborate visuals in everything, but it alone cannot act as a visual foundation.

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