Famed blogger, web strategy expert and technologist Anil Dash has professed his love for Animated GIFs penning about 1500 words on the subject. It’s good to see so many people talking about the file format, especially when these words come from such early web influencers as Dash (thx for the Graphics Interchange Format mention!), though naturally I have a few additional thoughts to add. In particular, I think Dash and I differ on our thoughts about the future of animated GIFs:
What’s more important than where GIF has been is where it’s going. As noted above, Tumblr alone has seen a renaissance of the GIF format, amplified by the boundless creativity of image manipulators on communities like 4Chan and B3ta. Jamie Beck’s GIF animations on From Me To You have been a Tumblr phenomenon, showing how truly elegant the format can be. If we don’t, remember me and three frames demonstrate the power of film through the lens of GIF’s delightful constraints, the former with a mesmerizing fluidity and the latter with a jerky intensity. Even beyond the capture or transcoding of other video works into GIF format, artists are starting to work with GIF on its own terms. Earlier this year, the New York Times illustrated a story with an animated GIF for the first time ever (not counting stories that were about creating GIFs), showing that this uniquely expressive format is truly coming into its own as a mainstream animation format.
GIF reaches perhaps its inevitable apotheosis with Physical GIF. Greg Borenstein and Scott Wayne Indiana’s brilliant Kickstarter project promises to turn animated GIFs into actual zoetropes you can display on your desk or coffee table. I saw a prototype of the idea a few months ago, and it left a lasting smile on my face. Go support the project!
Two points: One, as I’ve mentioned previously, while Jamie Beck’s images have a blinking postcard type of appeal, the same question occurs to me while looking at them as did last night while watching Werner Herzog’s Forgotten Cave of Dreams in 3D: What does this effect add to the narrative that the image itself doesn’t already tell me? The answer is nothing. It’s just a cheap parlor trick.
Two, I think there’s some flaw of logic in naming something that isn’t a GIF as a GIF’s highest point of development. Personally, I only think we’ll see this when it becomes standard for web software to let users easily arrange GIFs side by side, in grids, and other such arrangements. Also, if load times were never an issue, I’m sure we’d see a lot more complicated GIFs.
Anyway, assuming the US government doesn’t ruin the world economy next week, I’m guessing faster Internet connections and better image management tools are in our future.