animated gifs enjoying comeback

animated GIFs have been around for awhile

baby cha cha and spinning globes

GIFs, or Graphic Interchange Format, was an early graphic format (dot-GIF) that demonstrated how different digital media was from print by offering flip-book like animation. One of my first attempts at the medium (READS, above) was constructed in Photoshop, while another early effort (HEADLINE!, below) was built with Fireworks.

My first recollection of the wow factor was of Baby Cha Cha, which easily holds the distinction of being the first viral internet/web sensation.

The GIF file was used extensively by the bulletin board ancestors to the web like CompuServe, which originated the format. When you see a GIF it’s most often in animated form (although there’s nothing in the file suffix to differentiate between animation and still), delivering economic motion characteristics in a sparse, somewhat choppy loop.

panic

gifs aren’t all cats blinking or presidents winking

GIFs definitely have their place as a banner ad upgrade. Unlike Flash movies, GIFs are perfectly compatible with Apple iOS mobile devices and easily jump email barriers that often stymie attempts to pass along Javascript effects. (How can you tell whether an image is a Flash movie or an animated GIF? GIFs can be selected and saved directly from your browser.) Because of its small footprint (depends entirely on complexity – large authoring files will generate large .gif output) and quick creation, GIFs are finding renewed popularity.

Programs used to render animation include imaging applications like Photoshop (top) and Fireworks (above) at the high end, freeware by the truckload directly off the net at the other. Production is easiest with the latter, more complex – and versatile – in the former. They’re often (and perhaps unfairly) thought of as the poor cousins of Flash (SWF) movie elements.

Awarded the distinction of being the 2012 US Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionaries, GIFs are enjoying a resurgence as a unique art form. There’s even talk by global PR firm Burson-Marsteller of resurrecting the medium as an actual tool for business communications. As if it ever went away.

I’ve put together a  vintage collection of animated GIFs over on my web site that shows how effective the medium is at maximizing a small space with a big message. No mischievous cats allowed.

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