How to make gifs from video

I recently shot a few short videos of birds and wanted to turn them into gifs to share on social media.

I discovered there are a plethora of apps and websites that do this, but they usually add a watermark to the resulting file and none provided the level of control I wanted over the conversion.

Instead, I found I could quite easily convert video to gif using a couple of free, open source applications. This way, I was able to create these sort of animated images:

Great Crested Grebe

Here are the steps I took to turn video into gif.

Software required

These are instructions for those using a Mac. If you don’t already have them, you will need to download and install:

Converting video to gif

1. Trim the video

First, you may need to shorten the video so you only have the section that you want to become a gif. To do this:

  • Open your video file in VLC and select Playback > Record
  • Play your video file, starting and stopping at where you want the gif to start to end
  • Go to the Movies folder, where the new video clip will be saved with the filename “vlc-record-[date]-[duration]-[original filename]-.MP4”

You can also use apps like iMovie to trim the video. You need to make sure the resulting file is an MP4.

2. Convert clip into individual frames

Now you have the correct length clip saved as an MP4 file, you need to convert the video into individual static frames. To do this:

  • Create a new “Frames” folder in the Movies folder (if the Frames folder already exists, make sure it is empty)
  • In VLC, choose Preferences > Show All
  • Under Video, click on Filter then find “Scene video filter” and tick box
  • Expand filters and choose Scene filter
  • Set image height/width and add path to the Frames folder. Adjust frame ratio as required
  • In VLC, playback the new short video clip
  • Go to Frames folder and individual frame images will be there (if the frames have not been saved, try closing and reopening VLC and it should work)

Make sure you then:
Go into VLC > Preferences, click Show All, go to Video > Filter and untick the “Scene video filter” box.

If you miss this last step, VLC will continue to save frames for every video you play and fill up your storage very rapidly!

3. Convert your new frames into gif

Now you have a series of individual frames saved by VLC, you can convert these into an animated gif using GIMP. To do this:

  • Open GIMP.
  • Select File > Open as layers… and select your frames
  • Select Filter > Animation > Optimize
  • Select File > Export As…
  • Choose Gif, click Export
  • In the pop-up that appears, tick the “as Animation” box and then click Export

You should now have an animated gif that you can share on social media and the web. Congratulations!

Animated gif of a snipe
Snipe