Using Animated GIFs for Universal Video Delivery

Most of us who design & build elearning materials have probably worked with video at some point. Typically working with video involves making a decision on what video format you will use for the final output. This decision is based on things such as what hardware/software your audience will be using, what kind of speeds are they connected at, etc.  For example, if anyone in your target audience will be viewing on an iPad/iPhone then flash is immediately ruled out as an option. And that is only one of many scenarios you’ll need to grapple with.

What if I told you there was a video option that plays on virtually any device with no plugins of any kind required and even plays automatically INSIDE emails and Microsoft Office documents? I’d like to introduce you to consider….the “’lowly’ animated gif.

In certain situations, particularly when the recording is short, an animated GIF might make more sense than some other video formats. As a general rule, animated gifs load quickly, work on virtually any device and you don’t have to hit play to watch them. (As you can see in the example below.)

I use animated gifs for including screencast videos directly within emails and people love that they don’t have to launch any new windows or separate applications to see the video. What other video format will play anywhere from IE6 to iOS 5 and not blink an eye?

How It Works

Animated gif are very simply a collection of still images played in succession the same way you would see with a flipbook.



I use Camtasia to capture and produce my animated gifs. I like that I can do everything from the capture and editing to the final output in the same tool. For me the editing it the most important part since you want these to be pretty lean and lightweight files. Free 30 day trial available |


Screencast-o-matic is a popular web-based screencasting tool that lets you create movies of your computer screen right inside the browser without requiring any software. It runs as a Java applet and can therefore record movies of any Windows, Mac or Linux machine.  |

Do you use animated gifs for anything? What has worked well for you?


I’m not sure why or how but the example above is actually a .jpg.  I *THINK* WordPress may have changed it from a .gif. Below is an animated .gif. Does it make any difference?

Published by Mike Taylor

Born with a life-long passion for learning, I have the great fortune to work at the intersection of learning, design, technology & collaboration.

7 thoughts on “Using Animated GIFs for Universal Video Delivery

  1. Hey Mike,

    It’s not playing for me on Safari:(

    I love animated GIFs when used for purpose – as art (as loops these can be done beautifully) or for low color static bitmaps.

    On a related note, I hate that the new “standards” argument has caused our selection considerations to devolve. This new fangled argument has set us back a decade or so to some relatively inefficient formats. It’s a little silly:) I’m not OK with technology advances that reduce sensible choices.

    For video, I think an MP4 would get it on most platforms. Split target the video tag and fall-back (or sideways) to a Flash based player.


  2. Ah, she’s working for me now. Would be interesting to see a comparison between this and other formats (resolution, quality, file size). 345k is a little on the big size for something without audio at this resolution:)

    I can see where this might be a great addition to some tutorial sequences (really short action cues).


  3. Yes, there is a rather limited number of scenarios for when this makes sense as the file size will grow pretty significantly if you ever try to do “regular” videos in this format. It’s definitely for the more short & sweet variety than anything else and I don’t think audio is even an option.


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