How to convert any video file to an animated GIF

Have you ever wanted to convert a clip from a video file into a GIF image?, say for use as an animated Avatar image or for publishing on a website, etc.

This post will present a relatively quick and easy method to convert any video file to GIF at the press of a button, without having to export your video into individual image frames first and without a lot of mucking around.

If you just want to convert a segment (or segments) or a larger video file, this article will begin by describing how to do that as well. Lastly, we will use all freeware software installed locally, without using any web apps.

To begin with, we are assuming that you have a video file that you would like to convert to an animated GIF image.

Convert video to GIF

 


Freeware tools used (Windows only):

  • Windows Live Movie Maker: to clip your video. It will take any format as input.
  • iWisoft Free Video Converter (if this sounds like a strange pick, I understand, but this obscure tool does a better job converting to GIF that any other video converter I found).

Before you start: since most GIFs are short snippets and not what you would consider full-fledged videos, we assume that you need to clip a short segment (or segments) of your video first that you want to convert to GIF. If your video is already clipped and you want to convert it to GIF in it’s entirety, skip to STEP 6; otherwise start with Step 1.

Note on clipping: GIFs are by nature should be small and compact, in order to be easily distributable and light when used in websites and the like. Therefore, CLIP YOUR VIDEO into a little snippet before converting it to GIF. If you don’t, you will end up with a very large and somewhat useless GIF (that is much larger than the source video).  We have successfully converted a 5 minute 49 meg music video to a 144 meg GIF that played fine in Internet Explorer, as well as a 20 minute 175 meg video into 1.11 GIG GIF (that incidentally no browser or GIF player would play). What I am trying to say here is: make your GIFs as small as possible; clip your source video first.


Step 1: We will use Windows Live Movie Maker, a free video editor from Microsoft, to clip the segments you want from the larger video. Download it from this page. Note that the installer downloaded might include other Windows Live components; make sure to select Movie Maker and not anything else (unless you want them, of course). Install and run


Step 2: add your video into Windows Live Movie Maker (click on the ‘Add Videos and Photos’ button in the ribbon).

Windows Live Movie Maker open video


Step 3: in the ‘Edit’ tab. Next, decide on how many segments of the video you want, then move the slider beneath the video and use the ‘Split’ tool in the ribbon to cut the video into however many initial segments that you want (you will later refine these segments using the ‘set start point’ and ‘set end point tools’).

In the screenshot below I cut the original video into three segments. Each segment appears as a thumbnail in the right sidebar.

Windows Live Movie Maker 3 part split


Step 4: use the slider at bottom to isolate the segments you want within each part you created, and the ‘set start point’ and ‘set end point’ tools to hone in on the segments you want within each. Note that the slider under the video will move across all parts when you move it, so keep your eye on the thumbnails on the right to see where you are.

Windows Live Movie Maker start and end points

Note: this will create a single video with all the parts you isolated strung together. If you want to cut out different clips and convert to separate GIFs then that is even easier; just do each segment separately.


Step 5: lastly, save your movie.

From the ‘File’ Menu, go down to ‘Save Movie’ and then all the way up to ‘Recommended Setting, and save it under any name. Output format will be WMV; that’s perfectly fine.

export movie windows live movie maker


Step 6: download and install iWisoft Free Video Converter, then run it.

Note: the choice of this program is because it supports GIF creation across lot of options and up to a maximum resolution of 704×576. Format Factory also creates GIFs, but with a max resolution that is a lot smaller (which actually might not matter much because the higher the resolution the bigger the file size, and you want to keep GIFs small in general).


Step 7: load your WMV from step 5 (you can drag and drop it onto the interface) then select “Picture – GIF Animation Formats” from the profile dropdown menu.

Note: you get this profile via “Flash Video And Picture” then “Picture / GIF etc”. See the screenshot below.

iWisoft Sreenshot select GIF profile

Next, click the ‘settings’ button (next to the profile). In the screen that follows, choose the output resolution you want as well as the bitrate. A higher bitrate = smoother animation, but also a greater file size. Finally, click the big ‘Start’ button in the lower right to start the conversion process.

iWisoft Sreenshot settings

A note on bitrates: my suggestion, try a bitrate of 10 or 12 and see what file size you get, if it is too high you might think of redoing it using a smaller bitrate, if it is small enough you might redo using a higher bit rate.


That’s it,  you’re done. See the GIF we created from this YouTube video below.

My Movie mpg_3


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • http://cyber-d.blogspot.com Dario

    Or if you want it done within a minute with just one program: http://cyber-d.blogspot.com/2006/10/cyber-ds-mov2gif.html

    • Samer

      @ Dario: indeed that is a nice program. Thanks for sharing, but I must say I prefer to just run my video through a converter rather than have to hand pick each individual frame myself. I would still go with the video converter listed above.

      @ Webfork: GIF file sizes are very big. I must admit that I had never heard of APNG before, looking into it.

  • http://portablefreeware.com Webfork

    Thanks for the article.

    I like that GIF is supported by almost every computer out there with any graphics capability, but its an old standard and the file size can get pretty big. Anyone know of a way to make something more compressed than an animated GIF? There’s a few tools out there for creating an APNG file, but that’s not widely supported yet.

  • pisspott

    also you got to keep it small in dimensions (resizing height&width), colors and removing redundant pixels.
    a gif-optimizer would do that. there are plenty free for download and online :)
    freewaregenius seems to have no right answer yet..

  • http://portablefreeware.com Webfork

    Here’s a bit of my research on the APNG format: http://www.portablefreeware.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=45056#p45056

    Hope that helps.

  • lilian madraykin

    i dont know why but everytime i go to add the windows movie maker file(already edited) to wisoft
    the file isnt available, or it wont accept it anyway. im new at this could someone give an explanation or tell me how to get around it because i definately prefer this method over all other ones i tried, including mov2gif. its just more exact

  • TheBeatlesPkmnFan42

    I go to put my video into the converter and it says it can’t add it. What do I do?

  • Pingback: Q&A: Animating Your Own GIF - NYTimes.com

  • Chrissy

    I edited the video and followed this exactly, but when I go to put it into the converter it says that it can’t add it. Help please?

  • Jake

    I too had this problem and was able to resolve it by making the video just a bit large. It seems if the video is too small it will not add.

  • mongo

    All I get is “video could not be added”