Comparing GIF Creation Options

In February of 2017, I found my niche in the online #edtech world – and a new passion – creating #eduGIF’s.  In the time since then, I’ve been asked dozens, if not hundreds, of times how I create them.  Here I’ll dive into 1) a little background on what I do & why I use the tool I use and 2) other options to consider.

What I use & why I use it

I use Camtasia for my GIFs. Initially, this was because it was my screencasting tool of choice and it was natural to stick with it for GIF creation.  It’s not free – but it’s worth the price.  If you’re a Google Apps for Edu Certified Trainer, though, it’s free for you.

I am always evaluating and re-evaluating what I do to assure that it’s still the best practice.  When I re-evaluated my use of Camtasia for GIFs, I confirmed that I was doing the right thing.  Here’s a handful of reasons why:

  • Ability to speed up clips in the video.  90 seconds of video is pretty long for a GIF, but you can speed it up to 300% speed and, if it’s not moving too fast, walk away with a 30 second GIF.  I can also speed up certain parts of the screencast that can be glossed over more than other parts, like when I’m typing.
  • Cursor Effects. You can highlight the cursor, animate clicks and more.
  • Editing out Unnecessary Sections. Some GIF-creation tools let you edit out the beginning or end, while many don’t let you do any trimming at all.  Camtasia lets you edit out any sections that you want.  Editing out chunks here and there can reduce the length of your GIF and reduce the file size, both of which are important with GIFs.
  • Annotations, shapes & blurring.  Need to add an annotation? Camtasia can do it.  Need to add an arrow or a box to cover something up?  It does that too.  Need to blur out sensitive information?  Yup.  That too.  My favorite annotation are the animated arrows and circles that look like they’re actually being drawn on the screen.
  • Panning & Zooming. Without your voice to explain things, it’s important to be able to focus your viewer’s attention on what’s important. With Camtasia, you can smoothly zoom in and out and pan around the screen.
  • Modify output quality.  It’s important to have small file sizes for GIFs.  Since they run automatically, they can really be a challenge for viewers with lower connection qualities – so it’s best to go as low as you can without compromising quality.  Also, Twitter caps GIF-sizes at 5 MB.  When exporting in Camtasia, you can specify the dimensions and frame rate to get that perfect file size.  I normally use trial and error while aiming for 4.9 MB – just small enough without compromising quality.
The competition

Screencastify (Premium) – This is my preferred recommendation because it can be used on Chromebooks as well as Macs and PCs.  $2/month isn’t that steep either!  It sounds like they discount that price if you order multiple accounts for your school.  Plus, if you use Screencastify for regular screencasts you’ll enjoy the other Premium benefits (i.e., no watermark, longer videos, ability to trim, etc.)

Pros – Works on Chromebooks, Macs & PCs; cursor highlighting; automatically syncs to Google Drive; able to crop screen.  No time limit (from what I can tell). Their editor is in beta and I haven’t been able to – stay tuned to see if it offers more pros!

Cons – $2/month (free version does not export to GIF), not many features (no annotating, *trimming, zooming, panning).

Gyazo – A great, free, easy to use option.  If your GIF is not your main focus (i.e., a tool in your lesson or presentation), it’s good enough.

Pros – Free and easy to use.  Allows you to select the portion of the screen that you’d like to use.

Cons – Only on Mac or PC, not Chromebooks.  Only 7 seconds per GIF, unless you pay. No features other than what you see on your screen (no cursor highlighting, annotating, trimming, zooming, panning).

Note: There’s a Chrome extension available, but don’t be fooled – it’s a screenshot extension only, NOT a GIF-creation option.

Giphy Capture – Free Mac software for creating GIFs

Pros – Free.  Uncomplicated.  Can trim beginning and end off of the GIF.  Can select the screen area you want to “record.”  Can add simple captions.

Cons – Only on Mac. Not many features (no cursor highlighting, zooming, panning, can’t do mid-video trimming).  It has a 30-second time limit, which isn’t too bad, but is worse than Camtasia for sure.

GIFit A Chrome extension that offers a nice hack for someone who has a screencasting option (i.e., Screencast-o-matic or Screencastify Free) that they like, but is missing GIF functionality.  Here’s how it works: upload your screencast to YouTube, then use the extension to convert part of the screencast into a GIF.

Pros – Free, works on Chromebooks (as well as Macs & PCs), easy-to-use tool for making parts of YouTube videos into GIFs

Cons – Extra steps make it inconvenient.  If the segment you’re using is long, the quality can be pretty bad.

Snagit A good alternative to Camtasia, from the same company.  If you’d like a good tool, but don’t want to pay the Camtasia price tag, this is a good choice.

Pros – Decent editing features.  Can select a portion of video to record.  Can add captions.  Can do some trimming.

Cons – $29.95.  Doesn’t work on Chromebooks.  Missing a handful of features that I love in Camtasia (cursor highlighting, changing clip speed to speed up a long capture, no zooming or panning)

Chrome Capture A Chrome extension with limited functionality.

Pros – Free and works on Chromebooks (as well as Macs & PCs)

Cons – It doesn’t let you actually demonstrate anything. You are unable to click. You could only type or scroll. Great for turning a segment of an existing video into a GIF, but that’s about it.

Did I miss one? Is something inaccurate here? Has one of the tool’s features changed?  Let me know – JakeMillerTech@gmail.com or @JakeMillerTech.

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Jake Miller

Jake is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is the Lead Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in Ohio's Orange City Schools. In the past he taught STEM, Science & Math in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio, where he was also a leader in the district's Technology Leadership Team and a co-advisor for the middle school's STEM Club. He has been an educator since 2003. His Bachelor's Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master's Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He has enjoyed providing more than 100 professional development opportunities at conferences and school districts across the state of Ohio. He is very involved in Twitter (@JakeMillerTech) and provides regular pointers for educators with his #GAFETip tweets.