Hi fellow editorial staff members! It’s 2015, and the internet is full of gifs. Here’s how to make your own. Doesn’t matter if you work at Kotaku or are some random person who stumbled upon this post accidentally (hi!), you’ll get the same results.
There are two ways to make gifs. One is by capturing footage (like the thumbs up top), which is easy, the other is by manually creating frames (like the consoles image above), which is sometimes not. We’ll start with the easy way.
If you’re on a PC, your best friend is Giffing Tool. It’s a small piece of software that lets you capture anything that’s showing on your desktop. All you do is drag a box to determine a capture area and you’re off.
Once you’ve captured your footage, it then includes a basic suite of editing tools, allowing you to trim the clip, add text, crop the gif and adjust its quality (more on that later).
It’s dead simple. If you’re struggling, though, here’s a tutorial video made by those cool kids at Lifehacker (it’s an older version, but they’re still the same basic tools).
Now, the hard part. Creating a gif manually, using Photoshop. This is useful if you need to go doing something drastic to existing footage, or if you just want to go and make something more unique than Giffing Tool’s raw capture ability allows.
Digital Trends have an excellent guide here, showing you how to make a gif using both video footage and a bunch of images. But really, in 99% of situations, you don’t need to use photoshop, you’ll get by using Giffing Tool just fine.
Making the gif is only half the battle. You’ll probably find that after you’ve made a gif using default settings, its filesize is anywhere between 5-20MB. Which is way too big. Twitter has a 5MB limit, but really, if you’re making a gif that’s intended for use as the top image in a post (and thus will show on the front page), you ideally want it to be around 1-2MB.
How do you turn a 10MB gif into a 2MB one? There are a few ways you can do this.
LOSE FRAMES - Gifs are basically a movie, meaning one of the biggest contributors to their filesize is the number of frames it contains. Less frames=smaller gif. If a gif is too big, see if you can lose some footage from somewhere (maybe from the slower parts before or after the action you want to show off).
CROP - Gifs don’t have to fit a 16:9 format. If you’re sitting at around 3-4MB and want to get your gif smaller, consider cropping; the top and bottom areas of a gif might not have any action going on, which means it’s safe to crop them out
COMPRESSOR.IO - Use this. This is everything. It’s a tool made by Stephane Lyver that, through the use of dark magic, takes big gifs and makes them smaller with only a tiny loss in quality. In 90% of cases, it’ll get a 5-6MB gif down to a very usable 2-3MB.
Note: as awesome as compressor.io is, sometimes it’s down. If/when that happens, use ezgif. It’s not as magic, but it works.
BONUS GIFFING TOOL TIP - Set the quality to HIGHEST and the frame count to around 14. Lower settings may reduce the filesize a little, but the loss in quality isn’t worth it; compressor.io does a much better job of getting the MB count down.
Let’s say you’re making a post with multiple gifs. Your top gif has to be in the 1-3MB range, no exceptions. But the gifs in the rest of the post aren’t bound to this restriction. I mean, if you can get them that low, do it, but if you can’t, then you have another option.
Don’t just drop 5-10MB gifs in there. We don’t use them at that size because they’re slow as shit to load, and can do funny things to people browsing on older computers. Instead, use gfycat.
It’s a program that takes gifs and turns them into little movies, which you can then embed. Here’s an example:
HOW GOOD DOES THAT LOOK? It acts like the smoothest biggest sexiest gif you’ve ever seen, but it’s not a gif, it’s an embedded, repeating movie. To make one, just head to gfycat, upload your monster gif then embed the IFRAME code using Kinja’s HTML mode.
It’s super useful for those times you need to post something big/longer than your usual gif, like sequences in games (special moves, combos, whatever) that wouldn’t be feasible for a regular gif. Just remember, it has to be for gifs inside a post; if you put one as the top image in a post Kinja won’t let you bigpic it and it might not even show on the front page.
That about does it! Or at least everything I can think of. If I’ve left something off or you can think of something else to ask, hit me up in slack!