Macworld - In an eternal quest to become the next big thing in social media, many iOS developers have tried to do for video what Instagram has done for still photography. But this endeavor can get tiresome, and sometimes the impulse to produce high-quality results trumps the desire to generate shareable content.
Echograph, a photography app for the iPad 2 and later, which allows you to create animated GIFs and MPEG 4 video, might seem like another Cinemagram (and in theory, it is), but Echograph distinguishes itself as a more professionally oriented program. Rather than touting its social networking features, it has focused on helping users create high-quality cinemagraphs. For the most part, it does this very well.
The term cinemagraph, coined by photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, refers to still shots that contain some moving elements. Usually, theyre published in GIF format, at a higher resolution than most viral GIFs that populate the Internet. Echograph calls its GIFs echographs, but theyre essentially the same thing.
Echograph is at its most beautiful with high-resolution video, shot from a DSLR or HD videocam. But youll definitely need to use a tripod when shooting. The program offers no anti-shake correction, so if you move even a little when filming your clip, your echograph will have an undesirable and annoying shakiness in certain spots. You create an echograph from video recorded from your iPad if you want, but that defeats the purpose of creating higher-quality results.
Once youve selected a video, you must clip it to five seconds or less. The trimming function isn't that intuitive. When you slide the bar at the bottom of the screen to cut your video, Echograph never tells you the amount of time you're currently using. Instead, the bottom bar tells you how far you've gone over the five-second time limitif you have. To reverse the flow of the video, tap the arrows at the bottom of the screen and switch on the reverse setting.
At the next screen, drag along the bottom bar and select the still image you want to use in your echograph. A blue tint will appear. You can paint over areas where you want movement to show, using three fingers to adjust your brush size bigger or smaller. Unhappy with an edit? Press the undo icon at the bottom of the screen or nix all edits by pressing the X icon. In order to go back to any level of the editing process, head to the top of the screen, tap the paintbrush icon, and select the step you want to return to. You can see a live preview of your echograph by tapping the eye button, but be warnedwhen you turn on the live preview and touch the screen, you still add movement to the places that you touch.
You can export echographs to your computer via email, iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, and choose between two processing speeds: hi-def and lo-def. For me, even the hi-def exporting process was pretty quick. You can access both MP4 and GIF versions of your echograph from iTunes. When exported as a GIF, echographs assume a palpably grittier effect, but that's natural to the format. MP4 echographs are much crisper, but they wont play with that fun looping effect. Take your pick.
Echograph is well-designed and user-friendly, though if you dont own a DSLR or HD camcorder, it probably wont be much different than other similar apps. However, if you have high-quality footage and would like to produce higher resolution effects, Echograph is a good choice. Theres no telling whether this type of video hybrid is a lasting art form or an Internet fad, but it certainly is fun and can produce compelling imagery. For professional-looking, high-resolution results, this is an app to check out.
Brie Hiramine is a Macworld editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter.
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