What is a cinemagraph?
A cinemagraph is a combination of a still image and a video, where most of the scene is stationary, while a section moves on a continuous loop. With the rise of GIFs (looping image files), cinemagraphs have gained popularity online, especially on social media platforms and e-commerce websites. “Still images have impact and the content can be quickly consumed. When you watch a video, people take more time to understand that content,” artist and cinemagraph creator Lindsay Adler notes. Cinemagraphs are a cross between the two formats and can represent the best of both, with a smaller file size than a classic video.
Web audiences see thousands of images every day and are constantly bombarded with advertising. As an artist or brand, “you have to find new ways to grab people’s attention,” explains Adler. “With that little bit of motion, cinemagraphs catch your eye and hold your attention longer. You think, ‘Wait, is this a still image? Is this video?’” In an Instagram feed, anything that stops people from scrolling is something brands and advertisers are going to investigate — cinemagraphs are unexpected. For that reason, they’re becoming popular on Instagram, especially in the form of ads.
“You have to find new ways to grab people’s attention. With that little bit of motion, cinemagraphs catch your eye and hold your attention longer. You think, ‘Wait, is this a still image? Is this video?’”
Exploring the possibilities of cinemagraphs.
There are two main forms of cinemagraphs, a bounce loop and a repeat loop. A bounce loop plays from the beginning of the clip to the end, and then plays in reverse from the end to the beginning. This ensures an endless, seamless loop. This style is more suited to subtle movements, like shifting fabric or hair blowing in the wind — bounce loops don’t work for everything. If you have a car driving through your scene, don’t use a bounce loop. The car will appear to drive by and then go back through your frame in reverse.
A repeat loop plays from beginning to end, and then starts at the beginning again. To make it seamless, the first and last frame of your video must be identical. If a car drives through the scene, make sure you start filming with it out of the frame, and don’t stop recording until it leaves the frame. “You just have to know what you’re planning so that you capture the right thing,” notes Adler.
Cinemagraphs can be illustrated and animated as well. These animated gifs from Rebecca Mock highlight what’s possible with simple animated loops. Whether the entire scene or just a subtle element is animated, a little motion can turn your illustration into something unexpected