GIFs, or Graphics Interchange Format image files, have been around since the late 1980s but they have only recently become popular as a way to communicate on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
So, what are they, how do they work, and what are their pros and cons? In this guide, we'll cover:
- A definition of the GIF images
- A brief history of the GIF
- How to create a GIF from scratch
- How to create a GIF from video footage
- The benefits to GIFs
- The downsides to GIFs
- How to open, edit, and convert GIFs
What is a GIF?
So what are they? GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format and it is a type of raster image file format that allows for animations. GIFs are made up of a series of images (or frames) that are displayed in rapid succession, creating the illusion of motion.
GIFs are often used to create short, looping videos — often memes — that are posted online. They are most commonly used as a way to create animated images from popular culture on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Animated GIFs can be created from scratch or they can be made from existing video footage.
For the more technically minded: GIF files are compressed using the LZW algorithm (also used by TIFF files), which helps to keep file sizes small while preserving image quality. This algorithm produces lossless compression, meaning that no data is lost in the compression process. GIF files are made up of GIF87a and GIF89a formats, which allow for animations and transparency.
And, what you’ve all been waiting for: the pronunciation. According to GIF inventor Steve Wilhite, it’s pronounced ‘jif.’ But according to Barack Obama, it’s pronounced ‘giff,’ with a hard g. So...
A brief history of GIFs
The GIF file format was created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite at CompuServe. They were first introduced in 1987 by CompuServe as a way to compress images so that they could be loaded faster on early dial-up internet connections.
At the time, GIFs were used mostly for images with low colour depth, such as line drawings and logos. In 1989, GIFs began to be used on the internet to share short animations. However, they were not widely used until the early 2000s when they became popular on websites like Reddit and Tumblr.
(One major reason for this surge in popularity is that there was no native support for video in HTML until HTML5.)
GIFs are now widely used on social media platforms and far too many web pages and — for better or worse — they have become an integral part of online communication.
How to create your own GIF from scratch
When it comes to creating GIFs, there are a few different methods you can use. If you want to create a GIF from scratch, you'll need to use an image editing program like Photoshop or GIMP. Alternatively, you can use a video editing program like Adobe Premiere to create GIFs from existing video footage.
How to create a GIF from video footage
If you want to create a GIF from existing video footage, the process is a bit more complicated. However, it's still relatively easy to do.
First, you'll need to download a program that can convert video files into GIFs. There are a number of programs that can do this, such as GIFMaker.me or GIF Brewery.
Once you have a program installed, open the video file that you want to turn into a GIF. Then, use the program to convert the video into a GIF. This may take a few minutes, but when it's done you'll have a GIF file that you can share online.
Where to find great GIFs
- Giphy is a search engine for animated GIF files, and it has a massive database of GIFs that you can browse by keyword or by category.
- Reddit. GIFs are becoming increasingly popular on Reddit, and there are now several subreddits (sections of the website) dedicated to GIFs.
- Imgur is a website where users can upload and share images and GIFs. Imgur has a search bar where you can type in keywords to find GIFs that match your desired topic. You can also browse GIFs by category or by the most popular GIFs of the day.
- Gfycat. GIFs created on Gfycat are typically high quality and they allow for a lot of customisation options. Users can add text, stickers, and filters to their GIFs and they can also choose from a variety of playback speeds.
- Your phone. GIFs are now built into the messaging applications of many Iphone and Android mobile phones.
The benefits of GIFs
Honestly, GIFs aren’t a great file format, and most of the benefits are due to how they are used culturally on the web, rather than anything inherent in the format itself.
- GIFs are eye-catching and fun: GIFs are a great way to add some visual interest to your social media posts. They can help you to stand out from the crowd and they can also be a lot of fun to use.
- GIFs are easy to share: GIFs are easy to share on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. All you need to do is copy the link and post it on your profile.
- GIFs are versatile: GIFs can be used for a variety of purposes, such as capturing a moment, expressing an emotion or adding humor to a post.
- GIFs are easy to create: GIFs can be created from scratch or they can be made from existing video footage.
The downsides of GIFs
- GIFs can be distracting: GIFs can be a lot of fun to use but they can also be distracting. If you are trying to read something, it can be difficult to focus on the text when there is a GIF in the background.
- GIFs can slow down your website: GIFs can slow down your website because the file size tends to be larger. This means that they tend to take up more bandwidth than other types of images.
- GIFs don't work on all platforms: GIFs are not supported by all social media platforms and some websites will not show them correctly.
- GIFs can be annoying: Some people find GIFS annoying and intrusive and they would prefer not to see them online.
- GIFs are often low quality: Many GIFs are low quality and they can look grainy or pixelated when you enlarge them.
How to open, edit, and convert a GIF.
GIFs can be easily opened by standard apps in Microsoft and Mac operating systems, and by any major web browser.
Once you have a program installed, open the GIF file that you want to edit. Then, use the program to make the changes that you want. This may take a few minutes, but when it's done you'll have a GIF file that you can share online.
You can use these same programmes to convert a GIF into a different file format, such as JPEGs, PNGs or MP4s.
First, open the GIF file that you want to convert. Then, use the program to convert the GIF into the desired format. This may take a few minutes, but when it's done you'll have a new image or video file that you can share online.