Animated GIFs—we’ve all seen plenty of them. They’ve become the de facto standard for Internet memes and funny animations, but they’re also useful as alternatives to short video files—any modern browser (or in-app Web view) displays animated GIFs, so you don’t need to worry about which video formats a particular browser supports. In fact, some software vendors have taken to using animated GIFs instead of videos for short demos.
But how do you make good animated GIFs? The easiest method I’ve found is the $5 GIF Brewery (Mac App Store link). This nifty utility is simple to use, yet it offers a slew of useful features for creating your own animated images.
To create an animated GIF, first you open your source video in GIF Brewery. The app works with any video format supported by QuickTime on your particular Mac, which means it also works with formats supported by QuickTime plug-ins you’ve installed. GIF Brewery presents an editing window that looks much like what you’d see in any standard video-editing app. Buttons in the toolbar let you resize and crop the video to best fit the size you want for your final animated image.
If you don’t want to use the entire video in your animated GIF, you simply drag the playhead to where you want your animation to start, and then click Set Start. Drag the playhead to where you want the animation to end, and then click Set End. (The app offers many keyboard shortcuts for editing your clip.) You can preview the video at any time by clicking the Play button; however, oddly, instead of playing just your selection, GIF Brewery plays the entire video. In addition, according to the developer, OS X limits the in-app preview of your animated GIF to 10 frames per second. To view the GIF at full framerate, you need to export it (see below) and then open it in your browser.
Click the GIF Properties button in the toolbar, and you can tweak settings such as frame count, final-frame delay, and the color palette to be used; if you choose to reduce the number of colors to cut down on the size of the resulting GIF, you can enable dithering to improve image quality. You can also choose the type of loop—for example, Palindrome loops the resuting animation back and forth, rather than starting over at the beginning on each loop—and the number of loops. (GIF Brewery’s preferences window lets you configure default values for many of these settings.)
You can also easily add and edit one or more captions by clicking the Add Caption button. Options here include the opacity, font, and size of text, as well as the exact start and end points of each caption. The GIF Brewery documentation says that the Movie -> Show Grid option should display a grid to make it easier to align text, but I couldn’t get this feature to work.
GIF Brewery’s menus offer many other options for tweaking your clip. For example, you can perform common image-adjustment tasks such as applying blur, effect, halftone, sharpen, and stylize filters. You can also rotate and flip the video.
While editing your video, the effects of image filters are shown immediately, but your GIF Properties settings don’t change the preview—you don’t see how those settings affect the finished product until you actually export the video to an animated image.
Doing that is easy: When you’re ready to create your animated GIF, you just click the Create GIF button. GIF Brewery extracts the appropriate frames to make the animated image, and then shows you a preview of that animation. If you want to tweak anything, click Discard and continue editing. (GIF Brewery offers multiple levels of undo, so if you don’t like a particular effect or setting, you can remove or revert it.) If, on the other hand, you like what you see, click Save to create your animated GIF.
Alternatively, if you’ve made edits but you’re not ready to create your GIF—or if you just want to save your edited clip as a baseline for future animated GIFs—you can save the clip as a GIF Brewery file. The app also lets you export your animated GIF’s frames as individual .png images.
Of course, your animated GIF won’t be as smooth as the original video, but the end result can be quite good, and GIF Brewery is a snap to use.