Review: Produce high-res GIFs with Echograph for iOS
In an eternal quest to become the next big thing in social media, many iOS developers have tried to do for video what Instagram has done for still photography. But this endeavor can get tiresome, and sometimes producing high-quality results trumps the desire to produce shareable content.
Echograph, a photography app for the iPad 2 and later, which allows you to create animated GIFs and MPEG 4 video from still photos, might seem like another Cinemagram (and in theory, it is), but Echograph distinguishes itself as a more professionally inclined program. Rather than touting social networking features, it's focused on providing the tools to make high-quality cinemagraphs—and for the most part, it does this very well.
The term "cinemagraph," coined by photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, refers to still shots that contain some moving elements. Usually, they’re published in GIF format, at a higher resolution than most viral GIFs that populate the Internet. (Echograph calls its GIFs "echographs," but they’re essentially the same thing.)
Echograph is at its most beautiful with hi-res video, like that shot from a DSLR. But you’ll definitely need to use a tripod when shooting. There is no anti-shake correction, so if you move even a little bit when filming your clip, your echograph will have an annoying and undesirable shakiness in certain areas. You can use video recorded from your iPad if you want, though that defeats the purpose of creating higher-quality results.
Once you’ve selected a video, you must clip it to five seconds or less, though the trimming function isn't that intuitive. When you slide the bar at the bottom of the screen to trim, Echograph never tells you the amount of time you're currently using. Instead, the bottom bar will tell you how far you've gone over the time limit, if you have. To reverse the flow of the video, tap the arrows at the bottom of the screen and switch on the reverse setting.
At the next screen, drag along the bar at the bottom and select the still image you want to use in your echograph. A blue tint will appear. You can paint over areas where you want movement to be shown, adjusting your brush size by using three fingers to create bigger or smaller brushes. Unhappy with an edit? Press the undo icon at the bottom of the screen or nix all edits by pressing the X icon. In order to go back to any level of the editing process, head to the top of the screen and tap the paintbrush icon, and select the step you want to return to. You can see a live preview your echograph by tapping the eye button, but be warned—when you turn on the live preview and touch the screen, you still add movement to the places that you touch.
You can export echographs to your computer via email, iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, and choose between two processing speeds: hi-def and lo-def. For me, even the hi-def exporting process was pretty quick. You can access both MP4 and GIF versions of your echograph from iTunes. When exported as a GIF, echographs assume a palpably grittier effect, but that's natural to the format. MP4 echographs are much crisper, but they won’t play with that fun looping effect. Take your pick.
Echograph is well-designed and user-friendly, though if you don’t own a DSLR or HD camcorder, it probably won’t differentiate itself much from other apps that do essentially the same thing. But if you have high-quality footage and would like to produce higher resolution effects, Echograph is a good choice. There’s no telling whether this type of moving image photography is a lasting art form or an Internet fad, but it certainly is fun. And for professional-looking results, this is the app to check out.