One of the newest and most unique forms of animation is the cinemagraph. This is a looped GIF with only partial animation, keeping most of the image static while one part is animated seamlessly.
Cinemagraphs are new to the design world but have blown up in popularity. There are dozens of free tutorials on YouTube and a large subreddit with over 1 million subscribers.
Whether you’ve never heard of cinemagraphs or just want to learn a bit more, this post will cover all the basics. You’ll see quality examples and everything you’d want to learn to use them in your creative work.
What Are Cinemagraphs?
Most cinemagraphs come in GIF form because they’re easier to share online. But high-quality cinemagraphs are sampled from video files and converted into looping videos.
The key part of a cinemagraph is that looping motion only affects part of the image. This means a good portion of the GIF looks like a still photo, and only one part moves in a continuous motion.
This digital medium has not been around for very long. But in its short history, it has already amassed a huge following with popular tags and custom galleries all over the web.
People like cinemagraphs because they’re a unique mix of animated GIFs and custom videos. They allow for interesting effects that can be funny, insightful, moving, or just plain awesome to watch.
How To Create Your Own Cinemagraph
There are lots of methods for creating cinemagraphs, and most of them involve editing film footage directly. Many video editors prefer After Effects for this type of work, although Photoshop is OK for most of the editing process.
Please take a look at this guide posted to Reddit if you’re interested in the After Effects method. It covers importing and trimming part of a video to stabilize a portion of the background. From this you would import into Photoshop and edit layers until you have it just right, then export as a .GIF file.
The team at Phlearn also released a free video explaining how you can do this with a Photoshop-only method. This requires Photoshop CC or higher, although it may work in Photoshop CS6.
The most difficult part is finding a high-quality video to sample from. You can either record your own, or work with a stock video. Vecteezy is an excellent source of 4K stock videos, including some that are free.
Once you have a video file, just clip it down and follow the Photoshop video/timeline editing tutorial to completion.
Try these free video tutorials if you’re having trouble getting started:
- How to Create a Cinemagraph in Photoshop
- How to quickly make a Cinemagraph
- Create an amazing Cinemagraph
- Phlearn Cinemagraph: Part One
The biggest confusion often comes from GIF size and sharing online. There are some methods using After Effects for exporting HD GIFs, and it seems to be a common question.
I’ve followed this size reduction method to some decent success. Although getting the parameters right requires a lot of practice.
Cinemagraphs can also be set as your desktop background if you’re willing to do some video conversions.
The moderator of /r/Cinemagraphs was kind enough to post a guide on creating your own cinemagraph desktop background. As of right now, it requires software that runs on Windows, but there are likely ways to do this with Mac applications too.
As you get better at creating cinemagraphs, you’ll be more inclined to share and learn advanced editing techniques. Be sure to join the /r/Cinemagraphs community and share your work, critique others, and ask lots of questions along the way.
Since this medium is so young, there really isn’t a lot out there yet. But in another 5-10 years I can imagine cinemagraphs will permeate the mainstream and become a widely-regarded art form among digital designers & videographers.
Cinemagraph Example Gallery
How could this post be valuable without a huge gallery of examples? Cinemagraphs are fun to talk about, but even more fun to look at!
In this gallery I’ve curated some of the coolest cinemagraphs.