Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Cinemagram App Sees Quick Growth for Artsy Animated Photos

As a smartphone owner, half the fun is finding a nifty new magical app to show off to your friends. One that nicely serves that purpose is the artsy animated photograph creation tool Cinemagram (iOS only for now, but coming to Android), which has quickly accumulated 1 million downloads since being released as a free app a couple of months ago.

Cinemagrams are created by taking a video, isolating a particular section within the shot, and looping movement while keeping the rest as a still photograph. On a touchscreen, you can do this editing with your finger within the Cinemagram app. The rest of the interface is basically just like Instagram — with overlay filters, social features, a popular page, etc.

Cinemagram uses the age-old Internet format of animated GIFs, so these creations play automatically on many Web pages and within the app.

There’s also an artistic aspect to the format, originating from two New York photographers named Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, who started creating and posting beautiful “cinemagraphs” on Tumblr a couple years ago.

Cinemagram doesn’t have a relationship with Beck and Burg. It’s also not the first app to try to offer “an Instagram for cinemagraphs” — but it’s one of the better ones I’ve played with so far.

Cinemagram comes from the small Montreal team that built the social news reader Smartr, which they’ve now shut down. I chatted with co-founder Temo Chalasani this morning, who’s out in California fundraising.

“People shake their heads as soon as they hear animated GIF, but we think they’re pretty cool,” Chalasani said. “Personally my favorite kind of Cinemagram is one in which the animation is subtle and surprising. But people are creating ones where it’s not subtle but still great.”

The standard starter Cinemagram, Chalasani said, tends to be new users winking their eyes or sticking their tongues out. But from there they can get pretty creative. See below:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik