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The Gifs That Keep on Giving

Trends and Insight 617 Add to collection

Animators are using gifs as eye-catching shop windows and creative playgrounds, finds LBB’s Laura Swinton

The Gifs That Keep on Giving
At this point, gifs have more or less replaced words as the primary means of online communication and while, as writers, that ought to concern us… well… also: 


via GIPHY


But not only have gifs provided a rich avenue for social media sass. For creative people, they’ve become the perfect place for snack-sized creative experiments. Two years ago we spoke to the Sammy Rawal, the so-called King of Gifs, a director who has built a career on trippy, looping micro-films. In the world of animation, gifs have become a standardised part of the tool kit for animators and directors for sharing their talent and showcasing the range of their style. The medium doesn’t require the huge investment of time that, say, short films and spec ads do. And just a few years ago, animators had to rely on their still illustrations to populate their websites – which don’t allow them to show their understanding of movement.


Happy-Sad - Volstok explore the emotional rollercoaster of social media...

For Nerd Productions' directing duo Volstok – a.k.a. Thijs De Cloedt and Wouter Sel  - gifs have been a godsend. “Instead of having to build an entire portfolio around commissioned or personal work, gifs prove to be a very effective medium for artists' promotion. There's no client or deadline breathing down your neck, only opportunities waiting to be discovered,” they explain. “You can really get to know an animator's expertise, be it design, timing, comedy, animation or whatever. But above all, they are very entertaining and oh so satisfying to watch!”


New Balls Please by Design Lad at Jelly London

Sue Loughlin is an executive producer at Jelly London and she’s noticed that more animators have been using gifs as a calling card and personal marketing too. But they’re also really useful for illustrators hoping to make the leap into animation too.  “Anything moving is more eye catching than anything static. Animators (and illustrators too) are increasingly uploading gifs to social media,” says Sue. “For animators, a small gif can attract potential audiences to watch a longer or full length piece, and more and more illustrators are learning how to animate so they can create gifs from their static work.”

That idea of learning also applies to experienced animators as the short length allows them to focus on developing new techniques or perfecting methods. “I personally find them great exercises to explore new techniques and content,” says Nexus director Lucas Zanotto. “I find it's always good to have some parameters; in the case of a gif, it's its short length. The limited amount of seconds allows you to centralise the focus and complete the details in the content.”

And they’re more than just a ‘very, very short film’ – to create a gif that really lands, directors have to approach them with purpose.


Ball Toss - Volstok's simple story with a sting in the tail...

“Structure is crucial when making a gif. After all, you're creating a tiny story,” say Volstok. “There absolutely needs to be a motivation for the animation, or you could as well be watching a metronome tick. If it's not worth animating, don't. But if it is, make sure you reward the viewer with a visual treat, a surprise, a smile. It's a chance to be expressive, so think beyond the first idea that pops up into your head. We always look for an opportunity to show a change in emotion, add a small variation or a surprising detail that makes people's eyes twinkle.”

And, of course, there’s the loop. That hypnotic, irresistible loop. While it might be easy to be drawn into a loop as a viewer, creating a story or motion that loops seamlessly requires a lot of thought upfront and hard work.

“The infinite loop has such a charming effect,” says Lucas. “Personally, I find it very important that the content loops smoothly. It takes a lot of planning and thought up front to get the motion perfectly aligned with content that you hope people will identify quickly.”

Sue has noticed that animators are increasingly challenging themselves to push the possibilities of their loops, which are getting cleverer and more complex, and rich with meaning. Marketers, she reckons, should take note. 


Jelly's low-key loop, Escalator

“The looping nature is obviously important, some animators do very simple loops but they are getting cleverer with the content and starting to including elements that cause the gif to rise up from being just a simple looping image into something that communicates more, something with more meaning, a bit like a metaphor,” says Sue. “There is a lot of potential here for brands to communicate messages rather than just showing a simple moving image.”

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Genres: Animation

LBB Editorial, Sun, 03 Feb 2019 22:55:19 GMT