Creating (better) animated GIFs with Google+ autoawesome

Even though most people probably do not have fond memories of the animated gif era in web publishing, these little animated pictures have made a kind of comeback over the last year and often they are more interesting than than the flood of cartoon animations in the 90s. You can find a wide range of animations from the usual cat pictures to more artistic and instructional uses. Google, for example, has started to use animated GIFs as kind of mini tutorials for their services when they introduce new features.

The use of animated images in schools and education might be somewhat limited, however there certainly are applications ranging from capturing moments at field trips to visualizing experiments. Creating animated GIFs with Google+ is incredibly easy: take five or more pictures in a row and upload them to Google+ (or have auto-upload do that for you). Autoawesome then combines the pictures, straightens and aligns them (as long as there isn't too much shaking involved) and automatically creates the animated GIF. With a little bit of planning it is not hard to create looping animations either.

This picture of an "Eternal Flame" in Russia was taken without a tripod and has not undergone any further editing. 

There is at present no editing on Google+. Therefore if the result is not the desired one you have to download the GIF file and edit them in Photoshop or GIMP. Here are some tips for quick improvements: 
  1. Delete pictures that make the animation less smooth 
  2. Crop the picture to focus on the important part of the animation
  3. Select and copy&paste parts of the image that are not supposed to move (you apply the paste to every single picture of the animation). This again creates a "calmer" animation with more focus. 
  4. Copy the images in reverse order to create a looping animation. 
For experienced users these edits are only a matter of a few minutes. Steps 1-3 were applied to the following picture: the animation was reduced to only 3 images, the background was stabilized (flicker, movement) by copying and pasting the same background to all three images and finally the image was cropped to enlarge the birds relatively to the rest of the picture.

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