Comparing GIF Creation Options

**Originally posted in December 2017, edited in August 2018 and then editing again in October 2019 to reflect new options that have become available or that I have discovered.  Also in October 2019, I added the new table format below.**

In February of 2017, I found my niche in the online #edtech world – and a new passion – creating #eduGIFs.  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, 2) other options to consider and 3) my advice on what to use (feel free to skip to there).

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 ($169 for educators when I last checked) if you intend to make lots of high-quality videos or GIFs.

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 annotations 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 15 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 14.9 MB – just small enough without compromising quality.  Other platforms have different caps.  Hootsuite, for example, caps GIF sizes to 5 MB.  MailChimp, on the other hand, caps GIF sizes to 10 MB.  So, I typically aim for just under 10 MB, so that I can use the file on Twitter & in my MailChimp newsletter.
The competition

View the Spreadsheet in a different window here.

unsolicited advice:

That was a lot to read and what you probably really, really want is for me to just tell you what to do.  Well,  it’s not that simple, because everyone’s needs, available device, available funds and tech-savviness are different, but I can give you some advice that might help.

  • Mac or PC users willing to spend $ on a product and time on learning – Camtasia.
  • Mac or PC users willing to spend less $ and less time – Snagit.
  • Chromebook users looking for a free tool for screencast GIFs – Screencastify for sure.
  • Chromebook users who need to edit their screencasts before turning them into GIFs – You’re going to have to pay for this feature.  Screencastify, Nimbus & Screencast-o-matic’s paid plans are all relatively inexpensive, but I think Screencast-o-matic’s paid option wins this one due to its combination of lowest cost + more editing features.
  • Multi-device users (meaning cloud-based is a +) – same as above.
  • Mac User looking for a free basic tool – Giphy Capture.
  • Windows PC User looking for a free, hands down.
  • Chromebook User looking for a free tool for animation GIFs – Tall Tweets.
  • Making GIFs from #StopMotionSlides – Tall Tweets; Creator Studio if you’re willing to pay for it.

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

Published by

Jake Miller

Jake is the host of the Educational Duct Tape podcast, the #EduGIF Guy, a Tech Integration Coach, speaker, Former STEM, Math & Science Teacher, and a presenter.