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Glitch an Image On Your Mac Using Audacity

Friday April 19, 2019. 03:00 PM , from MacMost
Image glitching can be used to create unusual and random effects to an image. On your Mac, you can convert an image to a TIFF file and then import that data into the Audacity audio editor. You can then manipulate the bits as audio and export it out to create what looks like a corrupt image. This techinque requires a lot of experimentation and trial and error to get a good result.

Video Transcript / CaptionsCLICK TO EXPAND
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Glitch an Image On Your Mac Using Audacity.
Hi, this is Gary with Today I'm going to show you how to glitch images on your Mac.

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So what does it mean to glitch an image. That means to take an image and distort it in some way by playing with the bits inside it. One of the ways this is done is to actually take the image into an audio editor and then adjust the bits there like it's a piece of audio and then save it back out as an image. It sounds crazy and it kind of is but it creates some interesting artistic effects. So let's look at how to do it.

So here I've got an image, just a regular JPG image that I pulled out of my photo library. Now I want to convert it to a format that will work with glitching. JPG is a compressed image format and compression means that if I mess with the bits in it, it's just going to corrupt the file and it will be unreadable. So I want to convert it to either a bitmap, a BMP or a TIFF. TIFF I find works best. Unfortunately, using apps like Acorn or Pixelmator, converting as a TIFF and then glitching it just ends up with an unusable file. Doing it in Photoshop seems to be the way to do it although I did find one website that had a converter, that was free, that also worked.

So let's go and take this JPG image and bring it into Photoshop. Now it opens up in Photoshop and all I want to do with it in Photoshop is Save it As a TIFF image. I'm going to Save As, not Export, but Save As TIFF. It's going to give me a bunch of options. I want to make sure Image Compression is set to None. If I use Compression this won't work. Now as far as some of these other things are concerned you can play around with these and the glitching will work differently. Hit okay and it will save out and I have a TIFF image here on the desktop.

So of all the online conversions I tried a lot didn't work as well but I was able to go and use the one at for free, choose the file, get the JPG there, go to Convert, and it automatically downloaded the image. Then I ended up with a file that was also usable. So that's an option if you don't have Photoshop.

Now we need an audio editor. The most popular audio editor is probably Audacity. It allows you to directly edit the audio. GarageBand is great for editing and stuff like that but you can't manipulate things the same way as you do here in Audacity. So Audacity usually starts off with a blank document. If you don't have one just go to New and it creates a blank document. Now we want to go to File, Import, Raw Data. Then we're going to select the TIFF file and we're going to set the import options you U-Law. These other options won't stream the bites in the right way. You want to basically go from the top left to the bottom right in terms of the bit order for everything in the file.

U-Law is one of the formats that does that. If you get asked the number of channels I find it's useful to go to Mono. It seems to get the best results. Now I'm going to Import it in. Now I get an audio file here. I can click the Fit Project to Window Width and see the entire audio file. If you press the Play button it will try to play the image as a sound and it's a horrible sound. It sounds kind of like something trying to eat your soul from the inside. The sound will haunt you in your nightmares. It's not easy to forget so whatever you do don't press play.

Now let's test it out by not glitching it. We're just going to go and do an Export right away. We're going to Export as Audio. Then we're going to Save it as, call it city glitch. We'll save it as a TIFF file so we'll give it a fake file extension because obviously an audio app is not going to want to save an image type file. We're going to save it out as Other Uncompressed File. We're going to set the Header to Raw Header-less and in coding we're going to set it to U-Law which is what we used in the beginning. So this has to match what we imported it as. Using those settings we save it out and we get a warning saying hey you're trying to save it as a TIFF? We'll say yes. It going to ask if we want to add any audio metadata. No. Now we have it saved out.

If we look here on the desktop we see we have the glitched TIFF file and if I look at it it actually does change something. So just passing it through Audacity creates some sort of weird green effect on here. Now let's go back to the file. We haven't closed it. Let's glitch it. Now when we glitch it we want to select some of the sound. It's important not to select everything because there's some bits of information that are important at the beginning and at the end. So you don't want to change those. I'm going to select from near the beginning to near the end. Once I've selected that area I'm going to go to Effects and Choose An Effect.

Now not all effects will work. As a matter of fact most won't. Most will corrupt the image. That's because they're going to add extra bites or subtract them and the file size won't be right and everything won't match and it's just going to be a corrupt image. But some things will actually just replace the different bites. Like Reverb. So Reverb isn't going to change the file size at all. It's just going to manipulate all of the bites in there. There is a ton of options for Reverb. I'm going to use the default reverb options here just as an example because it creates a great effect. So I'll say Okay. It's going to apply the Reverb to the data. Now I'll go through Export and I'll do Export Audio. It's going to remember my settings, uncompressed files, raw, U-Law. I'm going to save it out and then it's going to export that out. I'm going to Hide this

Now I get this new file. If I open it up in Preview and you can see this is what we're looking for. This is a great example of a glitched image that looks kind of weird and artistic and things are distorted. So now you can play around with other effects. Right. You can try all the different settings for Reverb. You can try some of the different ones. You're going to end up with a lot of corrupted images that won't work but in experimenting you might discover something really cool.

You can also only glitch sections of the image. So back here in the file I'm going to Undo the Reverb. Instead of reverbing the whole thing I'm going to take a section here and I'm going to go to Effect and repeat reverb effect just for that section. Then another section and then repeat reverb. You can see I used Command R for it. So I can do an even smaller section without it being too difficult. So I've just done some sections here. Now let's export. Now the result glitches only pieces of it. So you can see that's kind of cool. Some sections kind of unaffected. Other sections effected. You can see the three sections here that I glitched. You can create smaller ones and do all sorts of things.

So it's all about experimentation. You experiment with different effects doing it on different sections. Exporting you end up with a lot images that just won't open and then you just Undo. Then you go back to a working version of it and you try different things to create all sorts of weird and interesting effects.

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