Video to GIF Animation

Video to GIF Animation

Animated GIFs. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re pretty much everywhere you look these days – getting social media shares & going viral.

Now, it’s been quite a while since we’ve let our Creative Cloud subscription run out, but if memory serves, Adobe Premiere (or was it After-Effects?) had the capability of outputting video content to GIF animation. Be that as it may, there are, in fact, more cost-effective (i.e. cheaper) alternatives available.

If you’re looking to produce your own GIFs on a budget, what follows is a fairly straightforward procedure that will allow you to convert your video content to animated GIF using nothing but free/open source tools.

So, let’s say you’ve got a super-awesome video clip that you want to share with your friends and followers as an animated GIF. Aside from renewing that pricey subscription with Adobe, what are the options?

Well, there are a number of free online tools available that will allow you to simply upload your video and convert it to animated GIF format. Quick and easy, and the output quality is surprisingly good. (We’ve checked off the ones we’ve used to date, and, as far as we can tell, they all work pretty much as advertised)…

As good as these tools are, one should take into account that you may run into a few limitations (e.g. animation length, upload size etc., depending on the platform you choose). As well, if the video content is something you’ve actually put some time and effort into producing, one might be a little suspicious as to what happens to it after uploading – is it now their property? Will it be used somewhere without attribution?

But whatever – if you’d prefer to avoid worrying about all this, or you’re simply interested in taking a more D.I.Y. approach…

Step 1: Output an Image Sequence

The first order of business would be to break up your video into individual frames. Blender (free download) comes with an excellent video sequencer module that does the job admirably.

  1. In Blender Video Sequencer, click Add > Movie (located near the bottom of your screen), then select the video file you want to use.
  2. Next, under Render Presets, adjust the X and Y values to match the resolution of your source video — Blender’s default is 1280 x 720, and if you attempt to load something like an SD (720 x 480) video, it’ll end up looking all stretched and weird.
  3. Under Output, select the folder where you’d like the image sequence files to be saved, and change the format to PNG, JPEG or whatever you prefer (PNG works best for us).
  4. Finally, click the Animation button to start the rendering process. When it’s done, you’ll have a folder full of numbered image files that can be imported into your image editor as an image sequence.

Helpful Hint: Depending on the length of your source video, this process will generate A LOT of image sequence files. You’ll probably want to create a new destination folder and set it up so that Blender outputs the frames to that directory – otherwise you’ll likely end up with a million-and-six PNGs or JPG files cluttering up your disk. Maybe goes without saying, but it has been known to happen…

Step 2: Creating The GIF

Next, you’ll need to re-assemble the image sequence and output it as an animated GIF. GIMP (free download) is probably your best option here – with it you can stitch your image sequence back together and optimize/output it as an animated GIF.

  1. First, in GIMP, go to File > Open As Layers, then navigate to the folder containing the image sequence files we created earlier with Blender, then select them all.
  2. Next, go to Filters > Animation > Optimize (for GIF). This could take a while, depending on how many image files you’re working with.
  3. Once the optimization is completed, go to File > Export As, enter a filename and select GIF as the output format.
  4. In the Export Image as GIF box, check As animation and make whatever changes you require to the export options.
  5. Finally, hit the Export button, and GIMP will re-constitute your image sequence into an animated GIF.

Again, this could take a while depending on how many image sequence files you’re attempting to process. Smaller animations (fewer files, smaller images) will go a lot quicker.

In the following example, we’ve converted an old SD video clip to GIF using the procedure described above.

Video to GIF animation

Worth mentioning, if you need to re-size the images or add a GIMP filter or two, you might want to consider using the BIMP plug-in (free download) to batch process your image sequence files — HUGE time-saver!

SO, the upshot here is that although commercially available software (e.g. Adobe products) may be easier and slightly less complicated to work with, it is possible to utilize a combination of free/open-source tools to achieve comparable results — all it takes is a little bit of time and effort to learn how to get it done – for free!

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