5 Key Things Marketers Need to Know About Facebook Cinemagraphs

By Caitlin Greenwood February 27th, 2015

Facebook boasts 1.3 billion users, drives roughly 25 percent of traffic online, and offers a never-ending stream of updates from everyone you left behind from high school. But the one thing Facebook has been missing? GIFs, whose absence has irritated users and advertisers alike.

Advertisers have lost out on serious opportunities on everything from creating real-time content (think live GIFs of the Oscars, the Super Bowl, etc.) to making ads more dynamic. And as a user, sometime you just need a Beyoncé GIF to make your point.

Lucky for everyone, cinemagraphs, static images with a few animated features that render as a GIF file, make great use Facebook’s video auto-play feature and give content creators a new weapon in their arsenal. Developed by artists Jaime Beck and Kevin Burg, cinemagraphs have been around since 2011 but are just now picking up steam as advertisers clamor to make good use of the technology. But before you fire up your cinemagraph engines, let’s hammer down what value these captivating images may bring to your brand.

1. They Invoke Glamour

From the dramatic name to its current use cases (e.g., New York Fashion Week), we’re seeing cinemagraphs as a glamorous, contemporary extension of editorial spreads. Even if you’re not looking to capture the runway or catch a model posing in some sky high footwear, these cinemagraphs require serious art direction to be executed well.

MTV’s House of Style hosts Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls shine in a cinemagraph showcasing the two leaning seductively against a wall while microphones sway at their side. In another cinemagraph, a pair of Christian Louboutin heels glisten a bright sapphire blue.

These images are chic and poignant, and they invite viewers to participate in an active fantasy regarding the brands they represent. That daydream adds an element of sophistication that no normal GIF can touch.

2. They’re All About Subtlety

What’s so striking about cinemagraphs is the surprise movement from only one area of the frame. Unlike a standard GIF, which is effectively a short video on loop, cinemagraphs depict static imagery with only a few animated details, what Burg and Beck call “isolated movement.” The result is an image that’s hard to pull away from.

3. They Bring Audiences In

Cinemagraphs depict tiny details that make the viewer feel intimately involved with the image. As model Coco Rocha looks out over a New York balcony, the only visible motion is the wind. You feel the cold New York spring air when you see the flit and flounce of the wind in Rocha’s hair.

Similarly, you can live the experience of sailing in an early cinemagraph project for Puma.

So what’s the catch?

4. They’re Time-Intensive

These cinemagraphs don’t just appear overnight. When asked about the process in 2011 for Mashable, Burg explained:

We shoot on both still and video equipment and use Adobe After Effects and Photoshop for editing. Jamie and I are highly collaborative throughout the whole process, while still promoting each other’s strengths. Shooting resembles both a photo and video shoot.

The final product requires weeks of work and editing. A cinemagraph is created through filming video, getting the video file into editing software, exporting the frames, and then using Photoshop or another photo editing program to create a GIF. And while software designed just to create cinemagraphs has popped up, this is not the project for interns to tackle.

5. They Tell a Story

Like all visual mediums, the best cinemagraphs tell a story. For instance, Dogfish Head Brewery partnered with Burg and Beck’s production house, Anne Street Studio, in 2011 for a New York Times story that covered the brewery’s notable beers. The result is a beautiful array of cinemagraphs that actively show the brewing process and showcase Dogfish Head’s brand story.

“If you think of all the ways that photography is displayed, [this technology] is the area that I want to go into,” Burg explained in a 2012 PBS video. He isn’t alone. Cinemagraphs are poised to make a big impact for content marketers hoping to reinvigorate Facebook audiences and get back on the right side of Facebook’s algorithm.

Image by Chanel
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