The animated GIF has never been so prevalent. What was once a way to bring some motion to a very static internet has now become a hugely popular way to share short animated clips without the need for YouTube or other Flash-based video. Unlike internet video, animated GIFs work in most browsers, requires no plug-ins, and even instant messaging services such as iMessage support them.
Until recently, creating animated GIFs was a painstaking process, either using apps such as Photoshop to build them frame-by-frame or relying upon web services to convert videos with little control. Now there’s an app for Mac OS X called GIF Brewery which aims to make generating animated GIFs from video clips as easy as possible.
GIF Brewery works by converting video clips (such as MPEG–4) but providing you with controls over the finished GIF with options for as resolution, frame rate and even special effects. All of this lets you create truly customised animated GIFs that you have complete control over.
When you launch GIF Brewery, well, not a lot happens. There’s no introduction or Open… window, leaving you wondering what to do or if the app is working correctly. Moreover, the app doesn’t support the Resume feature of OS X Lion or Mountain Lion so if you quit and re-launch the app, the same happens – the menu bar and dock icon are the only clues that the app is running. Only after selecting File > Open… does any part of the interface appaear.
One feature I’d like to see in future versions would be for the app to have an Open… window or splash screen, something that lets the user immediately know that the app is ready to use.
You can open any number of movie files that are playable on your Mac natively within QuickTime, which covers a wide range of formats including MPEG–4 (iTunes purchases aren’t supported). The app presents the video file with a progress bar as well as information about the video’s resolution and duration, all useful to know when you’re wanting to generate a small GIF.
You can specify the start and end of the animated GIF you want to create by dragging the cursor along the progress bar to the desired positions and selecting the appropriate option. For fine-tuning the exact location, there’s even the ability to scrub frame-by-frame until you get to the exact frame you want. Your desired selection is highlighted in blue, making it easy to distinguish between it and the rest of the clip.
A great feature of GIF Brewery is that all of the changes you make to the video file before generating the GIF are done on the fly. Resizing or cropping the image gives you an instant preview so you know exactly what your GIF will look like without altering either the final GIF or the video you’re working with. You can even rotate or flip the canvas if you’re wanting to change the orientation of the finished GIF.
Going beyond just grabbing portions of video files and converting them, the app includes some useful edit effects to further enhance and customise your finished GIF. A number of filters can be applied non-destructively (meaning you can remove them at any time and not have to start again), from blur to comic book effects.
Oh Hai Meme!
A popular use for animated GIFs is to use them for internet memes. Usually this involves a static image overlaid with text but animated GIFs are fast becoming as popular. GIF Brewery has you covered, offering the ability to overlay text which can be placed wherever you want, simply by dragging them. Even better, you can add multiple pieces of text and specify when they appear and disappear.
Rendering the GIF is as simple as pressing the Create GIF button and the app takes care of everything automatically. Before the GIF is saved, you’re presented with a preview of the final product, along with a very useful file size indicator. Should you want to tweak your GIF further, it can simply be discarded.
You’re able to change almost every aspect of the GIF, from the number of frames to generate, the delay between each frame and how it loops. Just by using this app I was able to discover animated GIFs had a lot more features available than I realised. Because of this, I found that some tweaking was needed to get the GIF down to a suitable file size and I was able to shave off 2MB just by changing some of the settings myself, along with getting a smoother-looking animation. Your progress editing a GIF can be saved and a project file created, letting you open and continue at any time.
That’s a Wrap
If you’re someone who likes to share animated GIFs but has always wanted to create them yourself, GIF Brewery is the perfect app for you. It’s very easy to use and includes a comprehensive set of options, effects and tools to create your perfect animated GIF. A splash screen when loading or more information on how to start using the app would be a nice addition but overall GIF Brewery is a must-have app for anyone wanting to create their own animated GIFs.
If you’d like to see some examples of GIF Brewery’s work, check out the app’s website.