You can now turn a short video into a smooth, looping GIF thanks to some nifty Microsoft software released a few days ago. VideoLoops analyses video patterns and breaks up frames to create a perfect looping image.
Catchily termed "automated video looping with progressive dynamism", the process is detailed in a paper by three Microsoft researchers — Zicheng Liao, Neel Joshi and Hugues Hoppe — from July 2013.
The video above explains the complicated technical processes taking place in the VideoLoops software to catch and create the perfect GIF. The software will work with any appropriate five-second video, and the researchers have tested it with hundreds of different videos with moderate success.
Basically, Microsoft Research's software detects regions within a video that are moving quickly across several frames, as well as regions moving slowly or not at all, and isolates them. The software then checks to find the best looping animation across all the frames for that region, does so for every region within the video and stitches them all together — the end result is a GIF that may have dozens of moving elements, all of which loop perfectly in their own region.
Microsoft's video stresses the software isn't perfect, though. It can't loop objects that move too far across the frame, and it occasionally gets stuck with intersecting regions. For a proof of concept, though, it's not bad at all.
The most beautiful and mesmerising GIFs are designed to loop perfectly, with no jarring jump between the moving image's start and finish. Tumblr, the blog community that seems to have an endless appetite for GIFs, will likely put Microsoft's VideoLoops to good use.