Let’s try out APNG!

Here is a spontaneous idea I had yesterday: Let’s give APNG another chance!

Recently, Gfycat (based on WebM) and GIFV (based on MP4) want to provide an alternative for GIFs and promise higher image quality, smaller sizes and total excitement:) But wait – aren’t WebM and MP4 video formats? Jup. Despite their advantages they also come along with some aspects that are totally untypical in GIF culture:

  • You can pause, fast-forward or scan the video. But maybe the missing control over the animation is not only a limitation but an essential part of GIF culture…
  • The loop is enabled by the way the website embeds the file. If you safe a WebM or MP4 on your computer, you obviously get a video file. Without the loop!

Why use a GIF alternative anyway?

There are good reasons. GIF was great in the early days of the web. But it was outdated in the mid-90s already. The desire for better quality and lower file sizes is perfectly understandable. But thinking about the other impacts WebM and MP4 have, I think it would be nice to have a GIF alternative which is actually an image file.

There is no need for a new “burnallgifs” or “burnallwebms”, let’s avoid fundamentalism here. They are established and have their fanbase. WebMs are great for a very certain genre of “GIFs”: High Quality GIFs, which are often long, narrative, video-like pieces. And GIFs are just not capable to fulfill those aspects properly. But perhaps for a Reaction GIF, a funny and looped cat fight or cinemagrams APNG might be a promising alternative.

Why – of all the possibilities – use APNG?

  • PNG already convinced users to not use GIFs when it comes to still images
  • APNG gets very close to the behaviour of animated GIFs (with some improvements). Videos don’t.
  • It’s free software. That’s maybe not the most mind-blowing fact. But the developers of APNG did a very good job for the community for free. I’d like to honour that.
  • APNG already is supported by Firefox, Safari 8 and older versions of Opera. For Chrome there is an add-on. And IE users have other things to think about:)
  • And in those cases where PNG animation is not enabled, the first frame is always displayed as a fallback still image. You can even define a frame that’s only shown in this case and could contain some note like “This could be animated. Try opening it on Firefox/Safari. APNG is great <3”.

Why not MNG or WebP?

MNG has one main problem: Although it’s based on PNG, it’s a separate file format. That might be the reason why MNG support in browsers and in general is rather disappointing.

WebP is, just like WebM, developed by Google and therefore supported by Chrome. It’s nice to see that still new file formats pop up which allow animation, but the skill test results are not that convincing. But if you like WebP, you might want to have look at /webps at reddit, if you use Chrome or Opera.

Wait, why didn’t anybody use APNG before?

Well, my theory: It’s just that the APNG-content was missing. Therefore the userbase was missing. Therefore the APNG-content was missing. And so on.

OK, how do we start?

APNG should work on every social network, forum or whatever community site that allows PNG, because the file ending is also “.png”. If you want to create APNGs, you can for example use some of the following tools:

I admit: this is the crucial point right now. APNG creation is not that comfy as it is with GIF or Gfycat/GIFV. But for a start take a look around the web for already existing APNGs. Some sites provide APNG collections. Check out /apng on reddit or the apng tag on tumblr. And there are GIF artists experimenting with the format, for example davidope.

Ok, one last point: How do we call it, then? “GIF/APNG/WebM culture” is not quite handy.

This issue must/should remain unsolved at this point. And who am I to decide? GIF culture belongs to all of us and we will find ways to name it. Maybe we’ll still call it GIF (or “‘jif’ is the format. ‘gif’ is the culture“), maybe it’ll be “web animations” or “flickpics” (instead of Flip books) or whatever we can think of. I like the German word “Zappelbilder” (maybe something like “fidget pictures” in English), although it rather describes 90s-style GIFs.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s try out APNG!

  1. Hi Felix,

    mit Interesse habe ich Deinen Vortrag zum Thema GIF beim 31C3 verfolgt.

    Das APNG Format war mir bisher völlig unbekannt, wenn ich ehrlich bin – klingt aber sehr interessant.
    Bloß wie kann ich ein APNG erzeugen?

    Die vier aufgeführten Möglichkeiten sind ja nicht wirklich interessant.
    – APNG-edit geht nicht mit meinem “aktuellen” Firefox 34 für Mac OS,
    – gif to apng converter und Zamzar machen einen Umweg über GIF, dann hab ich ja wieder die GIF-Bildqualität…
    – apngasm im Terminal wirkt ja ziemlich abschreckend!

    Gibt es keine Möglichkeit mit Photoshop oder Graphicconverter aus Einzelbildern oder einer Animation ein APNG zu erzeugen?

    Beste Grüße

    Michael

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    1. Hallo Michael,

      Erst mal vielen Dank für dein Interesse.
      Und du hast völlig Recht, die unbequeme Erstellung von APNG ist einer der Knackpunkte, weshalb das Format so wenig verbreitet ist. Neben den oben gelisteten Möglichkeiten gibt es natürlich noch weitere. Die hab ich aber nicht alle getestet, deswegen wollt ich sie nicht einfach so verlinken.
      Für Gimp gäbe es beispielsweise noch ein Plugin. Bei Photoshop scheint es aber derzeit nicht so rosig auszusehen – aber natürlich gilt: Wenn sich viele Nutzer APNG-Unterstützung wünschen, dann wird es vielleicht dazu kommen, also schreib ihnen doch mal:)

      apngasm zu Nutzen basiert aber ohnehin größtenteils auf Photoshop oder Gimp. Im Prinzip musst du nur alle einzelnen Frames der Animation in PS vorbereiten und einzeln so abspeichern, dass sie als Sequenz benannt werden, also “frame01”, “frame02”, “frame03” und so weiter. Alles was du dann (nach der Installation von apngasm) noch in die Kommandozeile eingeben musst ist
      apngasm titeldesfertigenapng.png frame01.png
      Und fertig ist die Laube. Es gibt natürlich noch mehr optionale Einstellungen, die werden aber im Readme, das beim Download dabei ist, erklärt.

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      1. Ich hab im Appstore PNG Animator gefunden, kostet ‘nen knappen Euro und erzeugt ein ein APNG. Hab eben ein APNG erzeugt, läuft und loopt sauber.

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