Just so we're clear: I made it, with computer trickery. Here are the gory details.
I didn't bother to actually print a timetable; it's all done in Photoshop.
It took me half an hour to find a suitable bus stop to photograph! I wanted a road behind it, neutral lighting, and nothing reflected in the glossy front panel.
Now I had the neutral shot, I used Photoshop's perspective crop tool to pull the original timetable.
Then a few minutes with Photoshop's Content-Aware Fill gave me a blank template to work from.
The font is what really sells the joke. It's Transport for London's official font, New Johnston. I'm not really supposed to have a copy, but TfL's new beta site uses it as a web font, utterly unobfuscated. Thanks, anonymous web designer!
As a comparison, here's a section of the timetable rendered in the ‘public’ version of Johnston: it's just plain wrong.
So then it was just a matter of writing a load of Vengaboys jokes. And that wasn't too difficult: I know far too many of their songs.
Finally, I added a slight monochromatic noise filter to all the text in the image, so it'd look like it was in the original photo. Then I pasted the finished timetable back where it came from, and since it's based on the original image, it fitted exactly.
It's good enough to have fooled at least one picture editor!
Side note: the aircraft and rocket-ship symbols on the final version are actually text. They're Unicode characters rendered in Microsoft's surprisingly tasteful Segoe UI Symbol font, which has lots of dingbats and Emoji in calm monochrome — unlike Apple's rather more colourful efforts.
I've often professed — on stage, no less — that there's no way that you can predict what will go viral. Things that you think are brilliant may sink without a trace; cheap one-off jokes may become massive.
That said, I had a good feeling about this for a few reasons:
It's always nice when something takes off! It's not the biggest thing I've done online, not by a long way, but for a cheap Photoshop gag, it's done respectably well.
If you find a thing you've made going massive, here are a few tips:
People will, intentionally or otherwise, take your work without credit. A couple of sites did that accidentally this time, because I wasn't clear enough in my tweet.
Rather than my slightly-cryptic message, I should have made its origins clear in the original tweet and said something like ‘I've had a bit of fun with Transport for London's timetables’.
Several folks assumed I'd just snapped a picture of something real, which is not an unreasonable assumption to make. Fair play to all the sites involved, though: as soon as I pointed it out, they added a credit line or tweeted out the details. Which is nice of them: there's nothing I could really have done to stop them just nicking it.
On YouTube, consider filing under the DMCA if someone copies your video and sticks their own adverts on it. I've done that in the past, particularly for videos where I haven't enabled ads myself.
Enjoy it while it lasts, but remember that everything will be back to normal sooner than you might think.
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