Cinemagraph Or How To Capture A Moment

Ever heard of cinemagraph? According to the pioneers Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, it’s the perfect mix between photo and video. More precisely, a cinemagraph captures an animated moment in a static photograph. Using the same technique as an animated GIF, this approach is more refined and artistic than the previous. Most cinemagraphs rely on a still-life photo or portrait to add some (sometimes just a single one) slightly animated elements.

cinemagraph | waving reeds

It is therefore not a technical challenge but rather an artistic exercise that adds realism to the dimension of the work and a second level of reflection and appreciation. A proper cinemagraph needs to play in a fluid loop. That is to say that the animated part will have to unfold completely and then be repeated infinitely so that the loop is as fluid as possible, unlike most animated GIF.

Difference Between A Conventional Animated GIF And A Cinemagraph

Two popular trends and two types of animation: how to distinguish cinemagraph from animated GIF? Here are the main clues:

  • A cinemagraph isolates a motion while the rest of the picture is static, unlike a conventional GIF usually looping a simple short video clip.
  • A successful cinemagraph starts with a beautiful photo. So, the same artistic criteria apply (choice of subject, composition, lighting, etc.).
  • At first glance, the loop of a cinemagraph should not jump to the eye. It is this short moment when one wonders if one is looking at a photo or a video that is the key to a successful cinemagraph.

It is also worth noting that several cinemagraphs are composed of clips taken from films and / or productions which are then looped, as illustrated in the following example:

cinemagraph | marilyn monroe
Now That You Understand The Concept, How To Create One?

Any camera with the ability to shoot video can be used. A smart phone can also do the trick.

  1. Use an adapter to stabilize / attach to a tripod. The device must be completely stable in order to obtain a video sequence to be looped.
  1. The choice of a suitable subject for the movement is also advised. i.e. if you were filming a vinyl record that spins on a turntable, the entire composition would remain unchanged while the center of the disc would rotate on itself.
  1. Next you will need video editing software. There are several options such as Adobe Premiere or Adobe After Effects, to name a few. It is also possible to use Photoshop’s Timeline. The principle is substantially the same in all editing software. So, if you have some experience, even limited, you will surely know how to deal with this. Shortly before the publication of this article, I discovered the Flixel application which allows you to create cinemagraphs from your cell phone. The results remain variable, but this is another available tool.

Let’s Get Technical!

3a. In the Timeline, place a copy of the video clip captured with your device. Then, create a copy and place it directly above the original.

cinemagraph3b. Shift the two copies so that they remain superimposed with a slight offset.

3c. Place key frames to reduce the opacity of the copy 2 video to show copy 1.

cinemagraph3d. Draw a static image of the clip that represents the entire final result and place it over the two clips. Add a mask to this image and reveal the part that will be animated (showing the animated clip beneath).

cinemagraphOnce you have achieved the desired effect, export it all in GIF and let the magic happen.

Commercial Uses And Marketing Potential

Although it is possible to use cinemagraphs for several situations and formats, both in websites and applications, social media presents the biggest opportunity. The main strength is being able to quickly attract users’ attention without being visually too loud. So it's all set for a Facebook or Instagram campaign.

Slight technical challenge: animated GIFs are not yet accepted in the advertising platform. Fortunately, you can easily convert them to mp4 to display the animation.

Here are some examples:


In the following example, the first cinemagraph starts at 10 seconds. It is brought to another level with the superimposition of different video sequences.

Jack Daniel's

There are hundreds of other examples. They can even be found among stock images on ShutterStock. So no matter if you plan to produce your own cinemagraph or get a ready-made concept, the solution that meets your needs awaits you!