Create Cinemagraphs like a Pro with Cinemagram

The Internet, and especially social media, has seen an influx of pretty spectacular animated gifs recently, called cinemagraphs. In a cinemagraph, the majority of the image is frozen while a section is animated. Imagine a still skyline with a fluttering flag being the only thing in motion, or an outdoor scene but the only thing that moves are a tree’s leaves. It’s a striking effect, but from a layperson’s perspective with little design experience, it seems almost impossible to capture.

Developer Factyle wanted to make that cinemagraph effect a little bit easier for all of us. Enter Cinemagram, which can record short bursts of video or will use your own videos to create those same cool, awesome, spooky and haunting images. Can it really be that easy? We’ll take a look at Cinemagram to see if creating cinemagraphs is really something anyone can do or if it’s best left to the pros.

Capture the Moment

Making a cinemagraph does seem to start off simply enough. What’s tough is getting it to look good. To begin, tap the colorful Capture button at the bottom of the screen. You can record a few seconds of video or use the icon to the left to choose something from your library. The clip can’t be too long though, and Cinemagram will chop it down if you run over.

A cinemagraph I created, in case you haven't run across these.

A cinemagraph I created, in case you haven’t run across these.

To choose which part of the video you use, highlight the section you want. Getting just the right clip can be a bit hairy, but tapping the Play icon allows you to preview your selection. Tapping save will move you on to next step, and you’re locked in — at least for now.

Here’s where the Cinemagram magic happens. Cinemagraphs are effectively paused videos with a cutout allowing a piece of the action to keep going. In the Draw Mask screen, you create that cutout. Trace the area you want to move in final the cinemagraph. That area becomes grayed out. Anything not colored over in gray will be 100-percent frozen in the end product.

Creating a video and using the draw mask feature to select the animation

Creating a video and using the draw mask feature to select the animation

If you need to get precise with your mask, you can pinch out to zoom in. If you release the image and wait just a second, you can pan around and draw on different sections of the zoomed in cinemagraph. Select All will mask the entire cinemagraph, causing the whole video to essentially become an animated gif. Clear erases anything you’ve drawn on the image, and Undo undoes.

Finishing Touches

Tapping Next gets you to the Colorize filters. If you’ve ever used Instagram, you’re on firm footing here, though there aren’t as many filters as you may expect. Still, there’s plenty to choose from, and colorizing or even rendering your cinemagraph in black and white really adds the finishing touch, creating a more surreal look than the raw colors of the original video.

Choosing a color filter and previewing the final cinemagraph animation.

Choosing a color filter and previewing the final cinemagraph animation.

When you get to the final preview screen, there’s still one more option: you have to choose how your cinemagraph repeats. Your first choice is to have your cinemagraph run endlessly in a loop, from start to finish. Much more often, Cinemagram users employ the Reverse function, which causes the cinemagraph to play front to back once, then reverse and play back to front, and then start all over again. It gives a smoother look to the finished product, with no jump as the end cuts back to the beginning. If you’re just not happy with your cinemagraph, though, you can delete it in this screen, or back up to the previous options.

Tapping done will begin saving your new cinemagraph. You can add a title and tags, and choose to share it to social media as well as in the Cinemagram stream. Your cinemagraph will immediately appear on your profile, but you can still delete your cinemagraph at any time.

The final version of my cinemagraph.

The final version of my cinemagraph.

What Else is There to See Around Here?

Though creating cinemagraphs is obviously where it’s at, there’s some other cool things you can do in the app. Tapping the thumbs up icon at the bottom of the screen for popular cinemagraphs gets you a scrollable list of the top cinemagraphs over the last few days. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and people are really putting the app to work making some great graphics.

Some of the images are a lot simpler though, and are just really cool to look at. And then some of them are plain weird, for instance leaving various body part frozen while others walk around on their own. What’s apparent from browsing through these over several days however, is that users are putting a fair amount of effort into using a good tool to create really great effects. Looking at the Cinemagram stream, I couldn’t help but be moved to try harder at my own images.

The stream of popular cinemagraphs and my public Cinemagram profile.

The stream of popular cinemagraphs and my public Cinemagram profile.

If you do see something you just can’t look away from, there are a few ways you can let the other user know. First is tapping the thumbs up directly underneath the cinemagraph to “like” it. You can also comment by tapping the speech bubble. Or, if you’re feeling saucy, you can respond with your own cinemagraph. I have yet to see this in the wild, but it’d be fun to get a series of cinemagraphs playing off of each other.

If you want to share an animation with all of your friends not using Cinemagram, tapping the ellipsis brings up the sharing menu. You can post your own cinemagraph or anyone else’s to the usual social media suspects, but you can also text it or copy the link to open it in a browser or email it. Since you can’t save cinemagraphs to your iPhone directly, getting a link is probably the next best thing.

Surprisingly Easy

What you will find in Cinemagram is a dead simple tool for creating cinemagraphs. With very little effort or skill on your part, you’ll be fashioning amazing images in no time. After a little practice and some planning to set up your shot, you’ll be impressed with the animations you come up with. And it’s all down to the ingenuity and simplicity of Cinemagram.

I was thoroughly impressed with the ease with which I was able to create cinemagraphs. It’s a technique with its foundation is fashion photography, but Cinemagram has found a way to make it work for even the photography novice. Cinemagram is just a great app for creating interesting graphics for people of all skill levels.


An easy-to-use tool to create astounding cinemagraph images