Can an animated GIF be as personal as a family video?
That’s precisely the question Giphy hopes to answer with the latest update to its standalone app, Giphy Cam, out today. Whereas the first iteration was more for trading non-sequitur GIFs of pizza and cat animations with friends, the new Giphy Cam aims to become a more useful tool for capturing—and sharing—life’s important moments.
While many of us see GIFs as lighthearted online entertainment, the medium has the potential to offer more than just memes, Giphy director of brand strategy Julie Logan tells Fast Company. In only a few frames, GIFs can unlock a whole range of emotion. “It’s like a quick glance between friends, but you know instantly what the other one is saying,” she says.
That shared visual language is what makes GIFs so universal, and is the cornerstone of Giphy Cam’s newest features. The first version of Giphy Cam mainly encouraged users to take selfies, says Giphy director of design Ralph Bishop. But with this update, Giphy wants to flip users’ attention outward, by putting as much emphasis on the rear-facing camera as on the front-facing one—and that starts with the introduction of several major new features.
The app update gives users the ability to pull directly from their camera roll. Previously, GIFs had to be shot natively in the app, but now any existing media content on a smartphone can be turned into a GIF—solving a common user complaint about missing GIF-able moments if they couldn’t catch them in Giphy Cam. Users will have the option of taking a picture or video first and adding overlays later. They can also trim video clips down for shorter and smaller files. “We want people to go deep in their camera roll,” Bishop says. “It’s a gateway to content.”
Addressing users’ desire to play with more than one filter, frame, or animation, Giphy has also introduced a post-editing step, which makes it possible to add a second overlay before saving a GIF. Users will also be able to add text captions to their final animations.
But don’t mistake fun new features—namely text—as a play against other apps such as Snapchat. While Snapchat has its roots in tap-and-it’s-gone snapshots, Giphy Cam predicates its uniqueness in the longevity of GIFs. “Snapchat is a social network,” says Jess Gilliam, Giphy’s studio creative director. “We’re more of a utility.”
Giphy will continue to refine the app in small but important ways. This update, for instance, includes crisper shooting quality, an improved “burst mode” for less jerky GIFs, and a reorganized front page for a more user-friendly experience. And the coming months will likely see more new features and animations, and perhaps even a long-awaited zoom function.
For now, the goal is to make GIFs accessible to everyone by making Giphy Cam 2.0 the go-to tool for content creators, from journalists on the scene of news to guests at a wedding.
“Anyone can take a picture at a wedding,” Gilliam says. “But with GIFs, you get the movement. They’re about sharing the feeling, the moment.”