Tuesday, January 18, 2022

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Tech Talk

The gift of GIFs


If there is one thing technology is not, it’s cyclical. Once it becomes outmoded, technology is more or less immediately forgotten. Bulky computer monitors, floppy discs and audio cassettes are but a few tech innovations that can only be found in landfills, never to return. Still, the last few years have seen one dead technology claw its way back to prominence, the animated GIF.

Way back in 1997, it seemed the Internet was a proverbial wasteland of eternally looping, animated cartoon images. It was practically a prerequisite for every website to be crammed full of flaming skulls, burping Homer Simpsons and flashing neon “under construction” graphics. However unlike audio cassettes and floppy discs, GIFs did not slowly sail into the sunset; they simply dropped off the map. So why are they back with such a vengeance?

The beauty of GIFs is how perfectly they encapsulate our five-second attention spans. Whereas YouTube, Facebook and Twitter provide us with a never-ending feed of pointless cat videos, status updates and snarky comments, GIFs take the best video and film moments and cut them down to their two seconds of true glory. Plus, GIFs don’t require buffering like many streaming video services do, so these short animations are viewable as soon as a site loads.

Of course, the real fun is making GIFs, which is also exceptionally easy to do. Both the Android and iPhone app stores have easy-to-use GIF camera applications that record short bursts of video and quickly convert those recordings into animated images. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to immortalize your favorite moments from existing picture sequences or videos, a quick Google search will provide you with a host of options for looping practically anything you can think of.

If you’re anything like me, after you’ve made your first GIF you will look for any excuse to animate the events of your life. Next time you’re on vacation, instead of filming your family skiing down a mountain, why not capture it with a GIF camera and share your Dad’s downhill faceplant with an unending animation? CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @ResponsiblyWild.

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