How to Edit, Manipulate, and Create GIF Animations


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This document describes how to edit, manipulate, and create GIF animations. GIF animations are a standard format used on the Internet and can be viewed from a web browser. This makes them cross-platform and easily usable and accessible. This as opposed to e.g. AVI format animations which can only be viewed under Windows; QuickTime which requires special software and which sometimes works on PCs and sometimes doesn’t; and MPEG which also requires a special player and has a lower image quality. GIF animations consist of a series of 256 color images, concatenated into an animation file.

To edit and manipulate existing GIF animations I usually use the GIF Construction Set Professional from http://www.mindworkshop.com/alchemy/gifcon.html. This program has the following capabilities:

The Yahoo - Computer Animation directory has many links to sites that provide free GIF animations and animation tools.

But, when instead of working from existing animations you want to create an animation from scratch, you need to follow the steps.

I. The first step is to create the individual images to be animated.

Unfortunately, I can not tell you how to do this. You will have to find a way to create or capture your own images that you want to include in your animation.

II. Convert the individual graphics files to individual GIF files.

If your images are not in GIF format, e.g. they are in TIF format or another bitmap format, you may have to convert them to individual GIF files.

* On Unix workstations and Windows PCs that have ImageMagick (free) from http://www.imagemagick.org installed this can be done with the

mogrify -format gif *.tif

command. If mogrify gives an error message saying that it doesn't recognize the '-format' option, it most likely means that you have an old version of ImageMagick installed. I noticed that there are still quite a lot of five year old copies floating around. You will have to download the latest version and install it.

* Windows users who do not have ImageMagick or prefer to use a program with a graphical user interface should use IrfanView (free) or PaintShop Pro. Both of these programs have a format batch conversion option under the File - Batch Conversion menu command. Use that menu command to convert a group of files in one step, without having to read, convert, and save many files manually.

III. Create the GIF animation file from the individual GIF files.

* On Unix workstations and Windows PCs that have ImageMagick installed this can be done with the

convert -adjoin -delay 5 *.gif animation-name.gif

command. The file animation-name.gif can be viewed in a web browser. The "-delay 5" command sets the delay between the images to 5/100 second. This number can be changed to obtain the required playback speed. If convert gives an error message saying that it doesn't recognize the '-adjoin' option, it most likely means that you have an old version of ImageMagick installed. Also, some Unix systems now have a built in convert command to convert audio files. Make sure that you are using the ImageMagick convert command, and not the Unix convert command. If you don't get anywhere with Unix, just find a PC and use IrfanView and GIF Construction Set!

* Windows users who do not have ImageMagick or prefer to use a program with a graphical user interface should use the GIF Construction Set Professional. The Animation Wizard under the File menu will guide you through the steps.


Tips

* The GIF Construction Set Professional can also convert the GIF animations to AVI format and vice-versa.

* If your individual graphics files have many different colors, the number of colors will be reduced to 256. This may sometimes lead to color shifting. On the PC, IrfanView, Paintshop Pro, and the GIF Construction Set Professional all have settings on how to handle the color reduction. One may have to try various options to obtain the best results. If you work from TIF files created by Fluent, good results can often be obtained by first converting the files to 16 million color BMP files with IrfanView, and then creating the animation using the PhotoRealistic setting in the Gif Construction Set.

* GIF animations created with ImageMagic can suffer from a number of problems, such as color flickering, excessively large filesize, and others. If you run into problems like that, you are better of obtaining the GIF Construction Set or other video editing software and remaking your animations with those programs.



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Last Updated February 20, 2012 by André Bakker
© André Bakker 2000-2012