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Definition

cinemagraph

A cinemagraph is an image that combines still photography with active video to create a picture that contains a small moving element while the rest is frozen. The motion plays in a short, continuous loop, highlighting a moment from the original video and then combining it with the still photograph.

Cinemagraphs are similar to animated GIFs; both incorporate video loops. However, GIFs are presented in a low-quality file format while the format of a cinemagraph changes based on how it is being displayed.

Since its introduction in 2011, cinemagraphs have become increasingly popular amongst advertisers and artists. It offers new ways to capture the audience's attention and presents the opportunity for a fuller exploration of an image, highlighting details that otherwise may have been missed.

How to create a cinemagraph

The creation of a cinemagraph requires three essential elements: a video recording device -- such as a smartphone or camcorder, a tripod to hold the camera and a location where there are no other movements than the one being focused on. When recording, the video file must be in either MOV or AVI format.

The best quality cinemagraphs utilize 4K and 6K video. Exporting a high-quality video ensures the caliber is maintained throughout the creation process. As stated before, cinemagraphs can be exported in various file formats. The H.264 file format and the new video codec H.265 are some of the more common file types used.

The recorded video does not have to be long; only about 3 to 10 seconds will be used for the loop in the cinemagraph. Therefore, recording around 10 to 20 seconds of video will create more than enough content to choose from. Once the video clip is captured, it can be edited.

Editing software, such as Photoshop, is the key to creating a cinemagraph from a captured video. While editing, the video is combined with an unmoving frame. The desired part of the image in which motion can be seen in selected and the type of loop is chosen. Other small adjustments can also be made to the image as the designer sees fit -- such as altering color, cropping or speeding up the video in the loop -- however, the actual creation of the cinemagraph only consists of masking the video as a still photo and choosing the loop.

Mobile apps -- such as Flixel, Pictoreo, Echograph and Kinotopic -- have been developed to specifically help create and edit cinemagraphs. These apps make editing the video simple by allowing users to highlight the part of the clip that they want to animate and taking care of the rest. Filters can also be applied to alter the image.

Benefits of cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs are offering advertisers new ways to capture their audience's attention. The juxtaposition of movement against a static image is more captivating than the complete stillness of a photo or action of a video. Companies and organizations have started using cinemagraphs for various types of marketing content, including:

Artists are also finding benefits in using cinemagraphs. The new digital art form enables artists to broaden the possibilities of their art and utilize different elements of an image. Cinemagraphs can be manipulated and used to test the audience's perception. The ability to highlight subtle movements and elements provides increased possibilities for artists to explore with their work.

History of cinemagraphs

The first cinemagraph was composed in 2011 by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, two fashion photographers; the term was coined by the two men in March of the same year. Beck and Burg wanted to capture unique living moments in their fashion photography. The first cinemagraphs were created in the GIF format since they were intended for sharing online.

Since then, the digital art form has been adopted by a wide range of professionals -- including businesses, marketers, advertisers, designers, photographers and artists -- as well as individuals looking to experiment and add excitement to their personal photos. Cinemagraphs can be seen online, on TV, on billboards and across social media.

This was last updated in August 2019

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