FAQ > Color Cycling 8bit Art > Q: It will take me some time to figure out what's going on in these images! How does it work!?
A: It may take some time to answer your question too! :D
At the most basic level, color cycling creates the illusion of animated movement in pretty much the same way light bulbs on a theater marquee do. When the light bulbs on a theater marquee flash off and on in the right sequence it LOOKS like little dashes of light are chasing one another around the perimeter of the sign. But, as we all know, the individual light bulbs are not moving - only turning off and on in a coordinated sequence that creates the illusion of movement. In color cycling, each affected pixel on screen is holding completely still, like those marquee light bulbs, but changing colors in a looping sequence - which, in coordination with all the adjacent pixels changing colors in their own offset sequences creates the illusion of moving bands of color.
By carefully arranging different ‘moving bands’ of color next to or over one another, masking or blending or disguising those moving bands in various ways, all sorts of surprisingly convincing ‘continuous and repetitive movement’ effects can be simulated, as seen in the images recently revived by Joseph Huckaby. I will leave my answer at this for now, with one important caveat: While the following may seem obvious, the ingenious open source code Joe recently made available finally enables this kind of ‘apparent animation’ to be viewed online, but both the pixel art file itself and its attendant palette(s) must still be carefully constructed beforehand to make these effects possible, just as the light bulbs and wiring on those theater marquees must be carefully arranged beforehand to enable whatever illusions of movement they will create when ‘plugged in.’ One cannot just take Joe’s open source code and apply it to just any 8 bit image and expect more than a simulated acid trip to result. :D