Video previews is a new term and some people find it confusing. In this post we will try to clarify the differences between a video preview and an animated GIF, and explain why at Vid.Watch, though we support both video and GIF formats, we highly recommend using only video previews.
A bit of history.
GIFs were originally developed as lossless image format for low-resolution, limited colorspace images. At the time, color screens were very limited in their abilities, and processors were not capable of playing back multimedia. Animation was added to GIFs to allow various images (frames) in the file to be painted with time delays, to create moving pictures – which usually meant simple animations rather than video content. Animated gifs can be set to play this sequence of frames multiple of times. It can define a smaller rectangle to be rescanned instead of the whole image, and browsers or other displays that do not support animated GIFs typically show only the first frame.
The size and color quality that result when converting videos to animated GIFs can vary significantly depending on the input video and the compression choices made by the converting software. A big factor reducing image quality in GIFs is the need to reduce the colorspace; some video frames suffer more than others when their colorspace is reduced. Moreover, GIF color palettes can be reused between frames, which further reduces the colorspace usable in encoding each frame, or replaced at the cost of increasing the file size. Converting video to animated GIF requires clever choices of when to replace the color palettes. Either way, a series of frame images that vary in their color table into a composite animation tends to yield larger files at lower quality; a video trailer that picks a variety of highlight frames from movie is one of the hardest use-cases for GIF size optimization.
A video preview is a short muted video clip that is automatically created to highlight the story of a the original video. A while ago it was common to create these short clips manually, but with the amount of video uploads websites need to maintain on a daily basis, it just doesn’t make sense.
When we started to plan and develop Vid.Watch, around two years ago, previews were not yet a common video experience as it is today, and animated GIFs were everywhere. On websites and social networks, in digital advertising, GIFs were used to promote video content and for marketing. The main reasons for their abundance were the simplicity of inserting animations in existing elements, and their near-universal support by devices and browsers. But today, video support has become ubiquitous, and dedicated preview players can easily be integrated to put them everywhere, making animated GIF an anachronism. .
Let’s talk numbers.
While a high-quality short clip of 3-6 seconds in AGIF weighs at least 2MB, MP4 or WEBM files with the same content weighs around 3%-6% of its animated GIF size all while maintaining higher visual quality than the animation. These days, when you’re aiming to promote multiple videos on your website, it would be a nuisance for your users (and for your CDN bill) to download and play multiple files, each weighing several megabytes.
Below you can see a 9-second video clip that was automatically generated by Vid.Watch from the Sony BRAVIA 4K HDR TV on Youtube. Our video clip weighs 182KB.
Now let’s look at the following high-quality animated gif that was converted from the short video clip above; Both have the same content and same length, however – the animated gif below weighs 2.9MB.
Are you saying we should stop using animated GIFs?
Of course not! Animated gifs have their pros. Their near-universal support means they can be easily integrated through your marketing channels, they can be easily created and are supported by most of the platforms, applications and tools you’re probably using. They can even be played by most e-mail readers. But for digital video content in the web, the “NEW animated GIFs” – “video previews” are your way to better performance.
If you’re still confused about whether you should be playing videos or displaying animated GIFs on your website; if you want to start playing automated or non-automated animated GIFs to promote your video content, or if you already do it manually and you have some questions about the differences between animated GIF, MP4 and WEBM, just email us at [email protected] and our team will be more than happy to help you.