GifCam is my favorite software to create GIF movies. Licecap is a similarly light and portable app, only it doesn’t come with as many handy options. Both GifCam and Licecap are free. Unlike GifCam, Licecap works on Macs.
GifCam works on Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP. According to the developer there will never be a Mac version: “no plan for iOS, it is not even possible, iOS doesn’t allow apps to capture the home screen or other apps, only Apple could make an app like this”.
If more control over the quality of the GIF is desired Photoshop can be used, or a dedicated GIF movie maker like Easy GIF Animator. But GifCam works great for most GIF movie projects.
GifCam is portable and doesn’t need to be installed, running from a 1.5 megabyte self-contained executable.
GifCam can record anything on your screen, from an MSPaint painting to typed text to video to video games.
One of the features I like best is the ability to open GIFs and edit them. Click the drop down arrow beside Rec and select Open. Windows XP doesn’t natively support “split button,” so right click on the Rec button to access the menu.
1. Download GifCam here. As of this writing, the latest version is 3.1.
2. Unzip the GifCam zip file, and double-click the GifCam executable.
3. Position GifCam over the content to record. Place the cursor over the edges of GifCam to resize. The resulting GIF file will have whatever dimensions chosen during this step. It’s important to keep the GIF dimensions small (less than 300×300) if sharing online, otherwise the file will be difficult to view for those with slow internet connections.
4. The cursor can be captured by clicking the drop down arrow beside Rec and selecting Capture Cursor. Play the video clip so that it begins a second or two before and after the desired content — the extraneous frames can be deleted afterwards. Click the Rec button to begin capture. Click the Stop button when finished capturing. If intending to share the GIF movie online it’s best to capture no more than 3-4 seconds of content, otherwise the file will be difficult to view for those with slow internet connections. Click the drop down arrow to the right of the Save button. GifCam has 6 color reduction formats: Quantize, Nearest, 256 Colors, 20 Colors, Grayscale, and Monochrome. Quantize is the best option in most cases. Additional save options include saving to AVI and saving without the Green Screen effect by clicking Shift+Save. You can also export to AVI. Click Save and give the capture a name. Click Save again.
Don’t close GifCam just yet. There are some features to be explored, and that can be done using the clip we already created.
The following GIF has been saved using the Quantize setting. It’s 167 frames and 5.56 megabytes:
This is a bit too large. Some frames can be deleted, such as the dissolve at the beginning and the end. GifCam has a convenient editing tool, which allows deletion of frames, among other handy features.
Click the Edit button:
Up pops the editing box (on the right, above). Click the scrollbar at the bottom of the editing window and scroll to the frame on which the GIF movie will begin:
Because of the scattered green dots I’m having difficulty seeing where the dissolve ends. So I will right click on one of the frames and turn off Show Green Screen. (Incidentally, Green Screen is a very useful feature which cuts down on the file size by only redrawing pixels which change between frames. However, GIFs can be saved without the Green Screen effect by clicking Shift+Save.):
The result is that the green dots disappear, and now the frames can be clearly seen:
I’ll now right click on the frame that precedes the frame I want for the beginning of the GIF movie. I’ll click Delete From This Frame To Start:
If you want to shave off frames from the end of the capture just follow the process above, but scroll to the frame which follows the frame you want as the end of the GIF movie, then right click and select Delete From This Frame To End. If you have only a few frames to delete then the Delete This Frame option would work as well.
Shaving off frames from the beginning and end of my GIF movie decreased the file size from 5.56 megabytes to 2.27 megabytes.
Incidentally, as long as you don’t close the GifCam window after capturing, you can experiment with all the different options by selecting the Preview feature:
This is what the GIF movie will look like after being processed through the 6 color reduction formats:
Quantize (69 frames, 2.27 megabytes):
Nearest (69 frames, 2.06 megabytes):
256 Colors (69 frames, 1.39 megabytes):
20 Colors (69 frames, 1.15 megabytes):
Grayscale (69 frames, 2.53 megabytes):
Monochrome (69 frames, 173 kilobytes):
To cut down on space even more, the Delete Even Frames feature comes in handy. In the editor, right click and select Delete Even Frames:
The 69 frames have been shaved down to 34 frames. The resulting GIF movie looks pretty good, if a bit choppy. You can resolve the choppiness by experimenting with the delay settings.
This is what the GIF movie will look like after even frames have been deleted, and processed through the 6 color reduction formats:
Quantize (34 frames, 1.18 megabytes):
Nearest (34 frames, 1.06 megabytes):
256 Colors (34 frames, 748 kilobyte):
20 Colors (34 frames, 620 kilobyte):
Grayscale (34 frames, 1.36 megabytes):
Monochrome (34 frames, 95.8 kilobyte):
So the size is cut in half, and the quality is still pretty good.
We’re now going to explore the Add Text feature.
Open the editor. Determine which frames will get text. At the top of each frame will be seen Frame: and Delay:, followed by the particular frame number and the delay rate.
The Twin Peaks GIF movie has 69 frames. I will add the text Saw This, and I’ll insert the text at Frame 0 and have it end at Frame 20. Right click on the frame at which the text should begin and click Add Text:
Up will pop the Add Text window:
Place the cursor over the part that reads To Frame. Left clicking on that area, use a mouse or touchpad to scroll leftward or rightward until the number following To Frame correlates to the frame number on which the text should end:
Begin typing the desired text. Be careful here: text is not alterable after exiting the Add Text window. The text typed will replace the default Type to add Text in the window.
After typing, place the cursor over the text and move it to a desired location.
You can format the text. Place the cursor on the text and right click.
The Twin Peaks GIF frames are pretty dark. So I’ll give the text a yellow shadow. I’ll also change the font to Magneto, italicize it, and decrease the size to 12:
Exit the Add Text editor by clicking the X on the upper right hand corner and save the GIF.
The text begins on the first frame and disappears after the 20th frame.
In the editor right click on any frame and select Resize:
Up will pop the Resize window:
Place your cursor over Percent 100%. Left clicking on that area, use your mouse or touchpad to scroll righward to increase the size or leftward to decrease the size. You cannot increase the size of individual frames. The resizing will effect all frames. Exit the Resize window by clicking the X in the upper right hand corner. Save the file.
This is the size increased 150%:
This increased the size of the GIF movie to 5.51 megabytes. The Resize feature is more useful when decreasing the dimensions of the GIF. It’s generally not very useful to resize, since you’ll be capturing at the desired resolution. Be aware that once resized, you can’t go back to the size at which you captured. You would have to junk the GIF and capture again.
The Yoyo effect reverses frames.
GIF movie without Yoyo effect:
GIF movie with Yoyo effect:
Frames Per Second
GIFs can be recorded at 3 different fps settings: 10, 16, 33.
Quantize (10 fps, 2.98 megabytes):
Quantize (16 fps, 5.14 megabytes):
Quantize (33 fps, 8.26 megabytes):
The more frames, the higher the quality. Again, you can achieve even higher quality by disabling the Green Screen effect while saving, by clicking Shift+Save.
The size can be decreased by using a different color reduction setting and by deleting even frames.
Draw Green Screen
The last feature I’m going to cover is the Draw Green Screen tool. After capturing open up the editor, right click on the frame and select Draw Green Screen:
Using the mouse or touchpad, draw something on the frame:
I drew the word “cruel” on the first frame. Then I exited the editor and saved the GIF using the Quantize reduction. Here’s the result.
So that wraps up the GifCam tutorial.
According to the developer, future editions of GifCam will support:
- apng export
- automatic uploads to social and image sharing networks
- cropping and rotating
- copying frames to clipboard
- CTRL+V to paste text