You know those tiny animated pictures we come across every so often on the interweb – the ones that show us about two seconds of moving imagery and then repeat it over and over on an endless loop? Well, they’re called GIFs, and until just a few days ago, I had basically written them off as cheap, online parlor tricks. Gimmicks, if you will.
Then I came across this:
Looks like a video clip, doesn’t it? Well, guess what – it’s a GIF! Specifically, it’s a type of GIF known as a “cinemagraph,” a term coined by the image’s creators.
The moment I realized what I was looking at in the above image, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. I mean, how often do we see artists breathe new life into outdated forms of web-based media?
The artists in this case are Jamie Beck (a New York-based photographer) and Kevin Burg (a web designer and graphic artist), who describe their work to Fast Company as “something more than a photo but less than a video.” Apparently, they “wanted to tell more of a story than a single still frame photograph but didn’t want the high maintenance aspect of a video.” It appears they’ve succeeded in delivering a happy medium.
While mimicking movement in still life isn’t exactly a low-maintenance task (the effect can take hours or even days to achieve using editing software), the duo have managed to pull it off with flying colors. In doing so, they’ve simultaneously raised the bar for GIF creators everywhere.
You can view their many fascinating, collaborative works in full detail at their Cinemagraph site, but here are a few quick standouts:
Of course, the cinemagraph represents more than just the evolution of the common GIF. It’s an inherently more artful approach to the creation of still imagery for the web – or should I say “not-so-still” imagery?
Personally, when I look at these kinds of images, I can’t help but think of the animated front-page headlines on the newspapers in the Harry Potter films or the ultramodern concepts on display in the promotional video for Corning specialty glass.
An interesting question would be whether there’s a practical place for cinemagraphs in the arena of modern marketing. Then again, that question may have already been answered, as just this year, Beck and Burg partnered with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery to document the process of creating a new, organic, “strawberry-and-honey-flavored” beer for the company’s growing line of specialty brews. The team used the same technique in capturing the beer-making process, this time with the goal of promoting the Dogfish Head brand.
The results are mouthwatering to say the least:
They may not be reinventing the wheel, but if nothing else, cinemagraphs are a reminder that if there’s still artistic merit in GIFs, maybe there’s hope for the internet yet. Maybe this is the beginning of a more refined era of the web as we know it.
It goes without saying that it’s increasingly difficult for brands to reach out to web-savvy consumers. Perhaps the cinemagraph is just the kind of presentational technique needed to boost brand awareness.
One thing is certain: GIFs are finally growing up. Let’s just hope that there will always be a place for JCVD among them:
What do you think? Is this the evolution of the GIF? Is this the beginning of refined web-based media? Let us know what you think in the comments below.