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How Well Do You Know Your Animated Gif?

Apr 13, 2008
GIF is a widely used image format introduced back in 1987. GIF means Graphics Interchange Format. The GIF89a image format refers to animated GIFs. This standard supports interlacing, transparency and animation.

The GIF colors are limited to 256 per frame, and compared to the 24-bit RGB colors palettes supported by PNG files, that's very little. So the quality of GIF files is reduced, therefor the size of the files is small too. That made GIFs popular in the early days of the Internet, when download speeds were not that great.

Back in 1995, Unisys, the company that developed the LZW compression algorithm used by the GIF image format, decided to start collecting royalties from commercial vendors. Instead of silently paying the bills, some vendors decided to start working on their own image format that would improve and replace GIF. And that's how PNGs were discovered. Even though the quality of PNG files is obviously higher than the quality of GIF files, you can't obtain animations with PNGs.

Animated GIFs are obtained by combining multiple GIF files in a single one. This way the impression of movement is created when displaying one image after another. Animated GIFs are currently supported by all the browsers, but unfortunately you can't obtain complex animations just by joining frames.

That's why, over the time, GIF animations have been replaced with Flash. Most designers use flash templates for their websites and their reasons are obvious: Flash is easier to work with and it has better quality. But they didn't ditch GIF quite yet, as Flash doesn't work in the email environment.

So if you're trying to create a design for a newsletter and you're thinking of using animations, GIF is the format for you. But keep in mind that Outlook 2007 doesn't work well with this file type, as it only displays the first frame of the animation. This means you have to make sure that the first frame of your GIF looks good as a static image.

Ok, enough about technicalities. Let's start working on your first GIF animation. After you have found a software application that you're comfortable with, start collecting images that you'll use as frames. They should all be the exact same resolution, otherwise your animation will shrink or grow as the size changes. Keep in mind that many people are still downloading with slow speeds, for example those that use mobile Internet. So try to keep the file size as small as possible. For the best results, pick images that actually look like an animation sequence. Then convert all your frames to the gif format. Think of how many times you want the cycle to repeat itself, as that will be the number of loops.

If you're planning on using the animation on a website, be careful: don't add too many effects! According to a study by Wright, Milroy, & Lickorish, animated images distract the visitors from attending to the textual information around the graphic.
About the Author
TibbyAv recommends www.image-tools.com/Animated-GIF-Generator-Tool.php and www.image-tools.com/Online-Image-Resize-Tool.php . These tools allow users to create an animated GIF and also to resize their pictures for free. You can also try www.twopics.com . It is an useful tool for creating avatars.
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