Animated GIFs: The Birth of a Medium | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

GIFs were established as a free and sort of like usable part of the web. GIFS are great because its a low barrier entry, anyone can play around, and it’s fun. The animated GIF for us was just a photograph that can move and existed forever. This is a photograph that is still alive and so we were already thinking beyond the limitations of the file name. An animated GIF is an image that’s been encoded using the
graphics interchange format, where it has multiple frames encoded into a single image
file and a web browser or other piece of software will play those images back in animated sequence automatically. The original GIF specification came out in 1987. Early example of GIFs that you see are flames, like flames are very
popular, and the waving american flag is all over the place. Most notoriously is the
under construction GIF. But then by the time you get to like ’95/ ’96,
you get the release of the Netscape browser and these web browsers that can automatically animate them and all of a sudden
you see this new spike in popularity. But, following that, there’s a sudden division
between the web 1.0 of the seventies and eighties and nineties and
then web 2.0 of like the two thousands moving forward. So the idea of using GIFs becomes way less fashionable. But, around 2007/2008 popularity is swinging back up. People then start to realize that you can use gifs for tons of different things. Like now that we’re in 2011/ 2012, there’s more GIFs online but you also have way more places to put them; things like
reddit and tumblr, wordpress. Even like twitter to a certain degree. So you’re seeing
actually this like post modern GIFs. And the tools for GIF creation are
becoming more widespread. GIFs can be anything but what unites the GIFs is that they’re short and they are something that most tumblr users
can create themselves. People are sharing more and I think tumblr definitely has a part of that. Humans really like repetition, we feel comfortable with it. And sometimes just, the longer you watch something, the funnier it gets or it’ll actually change meanings. You have the glitch art, you have pixel art, TV, movies, and you have stuff that you can’t
even really categorize. I think it’s mostly young
people driving the form, definitely, because it enhances their online persona. Just being
able to make some of those, makes you so cool. It’s uncharted
territory right now and I think really anything has the
possibility, the potential to be an art form but certainly, around animated GIFs, we’ve seen a transformation. We’ve seen them go from just people taking tv shows. We’ve seen people making
original stuff with them. Mashups between videogames and movie
characters and even tumblr memes. I think there’s other new art forms waiting to be discovered in there that we just haven’t figured out yet. So we were doing fashion editorials and that’s all at magazines and things like that and the fashion world really didn’t latch on to the internet, so we wanted to push that. It makes sense that the web is there, why
put a still picture online. The image can now move. So instead of making
still pictures you would make animated pictures and they would just go on,
infinitely, forever. Everyone always describes our work as creepy. What’s creepy about it? But our work
is very playful. So, I mean, I think the two biggest inspirations is, one, the web. We work off of memes and memes are in our work. That they’re just a kid making something
funny with their friends and tossing it up online. That’s where the best memes come from, you know. It’s accidents. But besides that, video games. It lends itself to like video game culture, like playing a game and, you know, blowing people up on the moon and slaying dragons and things like that. It’s just this idea that you could be anything and- you can become anyone, yeah -go anywhere.
I mean, these are possible in games. We get bored really really quick and it’s
always about doing the next thing and technology and it used to be that art was in museums on walls and now, all of a sudden, with this thing of the web and art on screens, all of a sudden, you go to to the MOMA and there’s a screen with art on it. So, we just want to be there. I think there’s opportunities with this kind of hybrid medium to show people something
they’ve never seen before, to have these moments that can just exist forever. It’s just like this little magical warp of time. We can live within a moment within that moment, like to dream of something and then create it in a camera and share it with people and let them dream with you, just for a moment. It allows a moment
to live on and there’s something kind of fascinating about that. Whatever that one thing is that is alive is what your eye’s gonna go to. It sets the emotional impact of what the cinemagraph will be. It’s a big creative decision for us, like what moment to focus on. We have a cinemagraph called “Anna Sees Everything.” She’s watching this show and it’s kind of like a little portrait of her. This is what she does for a living. So like watching the footage of Bill Cunningham, he didn’t take a picture of every model that walks by. When he likes them and he likes it and he shoots it and when he doesn’t, he doesn’t and he doesn’t even think about it. So like we get to learn something in watching somebody for hours on end while we work on it. We understand them. It’s so voyeuristic. You look but then you feel like you should look away but then you can watch it and so then you can watch it some more and it’s like “ohh.” The simplicity of it, I feel, is really beautiful and we see it as an evolution of photography. If you think of all the ways that photography
is displayed these are areas that we want to go into. There’s the parts of it that are alive and you can choose to engage in depth into the art or you can choose to just glance at it and it’s there as if it’s a photograph. And, essentially something you’ve never seen before. Who is for people whom like they think in GIFs, or like they almost speak in GIFs and I think once you get to that point, yeah, sure, it’s art. The idea of art has changed. And we’ve always seen what we could get away with. It’s fun. When we started making these we were calling them animated GIFs but it was so much more than that. It’s just
too new and I love being a part of this at a time when we’re just figuring it out. We should say “gif”. It’s not a “gif” it’s a “jif”. It’s a “jif”. “Jif” is how I learned it first. The founder of the
format of “jif”, the compuserve guy- This is ancient internet history here. -he said, “choosy
developers choose jif” like the peanut butter. We can talk about why you should say “gif” because it doesn’t sound like peanut butter. Let’s find this guy. My understanding is that
this guy prefers “jif”. So you gotta represent, for
the creator. I say we gotta go with the inventor of the format. Giraffics. Everyone says “gif”. It’s “jif”.


  1. What's hilarious is that it really is pronounced Jif, as in the peanut butter. I didn't even know till I googled it. Try clicking on the first link that comes up, or if want to google it should be olsenhome [dot] com [slash] gif

    Everyone always assumes that it is supposed to be pronounced the way it is written.

  2. bleh, should have been 'if you don't want to google'. I need sleep. (I wrote that as sheep the first time)

  3. hrm, since people probably won't go visit the site i linked, I'll just paste this in here:

    The pronunciation of "GIF" is specified in the GIF specification to be "jif", as in "jiffy", rather then "gif", which most people seem to prefer. This does seem strange because the "G" is from the word "Graphics" and not "Jraphics".

  4. I wish I'd seen your posts before I made the same point, I would have backed you up. I posted a reference link which hopefully will render all argument moot if they bother to read it.

    I guess since they think it's G as in glaze they never actually Googled it, I was the same till I watched this. I'm thoroughly surprised that it is G as in giraffe, but then again I've been pronouncing PNG as P-N-G for most of my life when it apparently is pronounced Ping.

    Never would have thought otherwise.

  5. You Fail:
    1. I don't give fucks away for nothing.
    2. This was not worth giving a fuck.
    3. I've used up most of my fucks; and, I have very few to share or especially give away.
    4. In essence, I really don't give a fiddler's fuck or a rat's ass fuck.
    5. Now prove that I give a fuck.
    6. Your biggest fail was that there were many people giving fucks before I commented; so, even if I had of given a fuck, I would not have been in the first fuck giving place to give a fucking fuck to fuckers like you.

  6. i luv how hipsters comment on a culture that is so cult like they're shedding light to how people are suppose to feel or utilize them. its not gonna happen.

  7. I hate hipsters because they try to find deep meaning in shit that has no deep meaning. Stop trying to make some bullshit up about this "art". Its just an animated gif, fuck off already.

  8. @PhoenixCanDo hh n nnhvv dccikmnvvccccvvvfdrdxfc hh.njkkkkknnnnnnnnnvvhbvhhhhuyuiiiihhnjkjghhhvhbbvbbbbbn nn kjjkkkkkijgug

  9. this is like taking a sip of pepsi, warm pepsi, this is just the tip of the bad part of the iceberg, try showing the actual faces of the internet rather then… this…

  10. Only hipsters (IE Mac users) pronounce it, INCORRECTLY, as "GIF". The proper pronunciation, AS STATED BY THE CREATOR OF THE FORMAT, is "JIF".

  11. I hear them say it both with a hard G and 'jif', which is funny because it's featured on a webpage about how 'gif' is SUPPOSED to be pronounced 'jif'. ( olsenhomeDOTcom/gif/ )

  12. CompuServe used to distribute a graphics display program called CompuShow. In the documentation for version 8.33 in the FAQ section, it states:
    The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), pronounced "JIF", was designed by CompuServe and the official specification released in June of 1987.
    There, straight from the inventors of the format.

  13. Well, that's great, but you didn't answer my question, dipshit.
    Where did the idea to pronounce it as a 'j' come from?

  14. It's pronounced like "jif". Period. The end. That's final. End of story.

    You disagree? Hey, I'm just quoting the inventors of the format. Here's the evidence:

    CompuServe used to distribute a graphics display program called CompuShow. In the documentation for version 8.33 in the FAQ section, it states:
    The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), pronounced "JIF", was designed by CompuServe and the official specification released in June of 1987.

    There, straight from the inventors of the format.

  15. The closest thing I can think of is the watchmen moving paint burlap sack. You could turn it into a tatto sleeve. hope that helps.

  16. This reminds me of the Skulltula debate with the Zelda series. I still can't understand how people insist on pronouncing it "Skull-tull-uh" instead of "Skull-chew-la." It's obviously a portmanteau of the words skull and tarantula, so the pronunciation should be obvious too. If I saw a hug hairy arthopod in my living room, I wouldn't say, "Look out for that taran-tull-uh!"

  17. Nitpicking, but there was no web 1.0 prior to the early 90's. TBL created hyper text transfer protocol in 89 and Marc Andressen made mosaic in 93. So the web doesn't go back that far.

  18. The guy with the mustache that says it's pronounced with a hard "G" is a willfully ignorant turd that doesn't understand what an initialism is. Yes, we all know what it stands for. Do you know how search engine queries work? Because that's all it takes to figure out how to pronounce it.

  19. Hi friends of PBS OffBooks, we would like to schedule a date projection of the documentary, do you have an email her we can write to you? Thnaks a lot!

  20. So your saying JIF are the initials for "Jraphics Interchange Format) ? DUH! thus it should be pronounced GIF ,with the G of Graphics ¿ No ? graphics,great,goof,GOD !

  21. Increases in internet speed probably helped gifs return in popularity again. It's novelty wore off in the beginning, but that was along with the internet being new too and everybody trying stuff out. Now that we've established standards like web design we're able to focus on more artistic or just more elaborate methods on conveying messages.

  22. That is so bizarre… between 15-20 years ago, I saw a documentary with one of the creators and he clearly called a gif vs jif. Now I need to find this video!!!

  23. Pronounce it GIF or JIF!

    It doesn't matter.

    Internet geeks know what you mean not matter
    which way you pronounce it.

    Anybody who corrects you for pronouncing it GIF and
    not JIF is just trying to prove that they are smart.

    Screw them!

    Pronounce it whichever way works for you.

    People who know web design or know of web design know
    what you mean whichever way you pronounce it!

    I prefer to say GIF

    But if you prefer JIF that is fine too!

    Rock on all you web animators out there!

    Rock On!

    Rock Hard!

  24. Gifs are super. Thanks for sharing – always fought I have a strange hobby – but we are thousends, we give simple fotos the live back so we are lifegif.ers from now on. Thanks for your short introduction.

  25. 2:22 "stuff you can't really categorize" – and there was the meme culture born. the new digital age culture.

  26. Gifs are what's left after  short sighted idiots killed Flash which was feature rich and made the internet a wonderfully colorful, artful experience.  It took a few years for bandwidth to catch up and now we can run flash movies with no problem but EVERY WEBPAGE LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME.  SO FUCKING BORING.  THE INTERNET IS FUCKING BORING NOW.  Some of you weren't even alive when this thing was rockin some seriously cool websites.

  27. ~>curl | strings | grep JIF
    % Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time % Time Current
    Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed
    100 37062 100 37062 0 0 69595 0 –:–:– –:–:– –:–:– 166k
    |s,Oh, incidentally, it'spronounced "JIF"

  28. Why does that bloke wearing the silly indoor hat,
    keep lapsing into swallowing his words, with an inflected 'macho'? deep growl??

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