GIF vs. Video

GIF vs. Video: When Should You Use What?

Table of Contents

Whether scrolling through social media, conversing with friends, or browsing your favorite websites, you’ve most likely come across two common types of content: GIF and Video. These colorful chunks of visual delight have the power to leave us entertained, amused, and even informed.

Moreover, were you aware that Messenger app users send tens of millions of GIFs every day? GIFs have gained immense popularity as a file format thanks to their ability to convey richer stories and messages than static images while remaining silent.

Besides, it’s important to mention that a GIF differs from a video; it’s an animated sequence of images. There’s much more to it, which we’ll discuss in this blog. We’ll examine what a GIF and a video are and their differences to make you understand when using each of them is ideal.

What Is a GIF?

what is gif or jif
source: thesun

Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is a sort of file widely used today. It’s favored because it allows people to store short, silent videos or clips that can convey more information than a static image.

How Are GIFs Created?

To create a GIF, an image sequence is taken from a video and compressed into a GIF file format. This compression involves using a fixed number of frames from the original video. On the other hand, GIF videos are made by taking video files and using video conversion software to extract the desired video clips, converting them into GIF files.

One interesting thing to note is that GIFs are categorized as photo files rather than video files, which has played a significant role in the format’s development and evolution. Converting videos into GIFs using video conversion software can also free up considerable space on your hard drive. Moreover, GIFs can be converted back into MP4 files if needed.

History of GIFs

The term Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) was initially developed by CompuServe staff in 1987. The purpose was to enable computers to display color images without excessive bandwidth. Steve Wilhite, the team leader, created the very first GIF. Over time, GIFs have evolved, and today, they are created from video files using conversion software.

Characteristics and Features

GIFs are typically raster file formats designed for simple graphics, mainly for online use. Each GIF can support up to 256 indexed colors and uses up to 8 bits per pixel. Combining images or frames can create rudimentary animations using GIF files.

Uses of GIFs

GIF image files are commonly employed on the web to display graphics and logos. Thanks to their capacity for simple animations, they have also become a favorite file type for memes on social media platforms. So, the next time you see a funny meme or a captivating GIF, you’ll know a bit more about the fascinating world of GIFs and their history.

What Is a Video?

The term “video” has become a commonplace word in multimedia production and refers to a medium that involves the recording or broadcasting of moving visual images accompanied by an audio component. Videos can be stored in digital formats or on videocassettes.

Definition and Overview of Videos

A video refers to any visual media work featuring moving visuals, whether recorded and saved digitally or on physical videocassettes. This medium can include audio, but its moving images fundamentally define it.

Today, video media typically refers to computer files that contain video content in various digital formats. This term can also encompass physical formats like DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and VHS cassettes, in contrast to audio media. Moreover, various video formats exist, including web streaming, high definition (HD), standard definition (SD), and specific codec examples.

Popular Video Formats and Their Differences

Different video formats cater to various consumer needs, but a few formats excel due to their specialized design. Among the most popular and widely used video formats are AVI and MP4.

  • WebM:A76 video format with the “.webm” file extension; WebM is open and free. Developed for online video sharing, it defines the structure of a file container, including video and audio formats. WebM is favored for multimedia content online and optimizes online streaming through compression standards.
  • MP4: MPEG-4 Part 14, commonly known as MP4, is the most widely used video format. It is compatible with most devices and is Apple’s preferred format. MP4 employs MPEG-4 encoding to store text, audio, and video files, offering quality with smaller file sizes.
  • MOV: MOV (QuickTime Movie) files can be large and are known for high-quality video, audio, and effects. They use MPEG-4 encoding and are playable with QuickTime Player. Both Facebook and YouTube support MOV files.
  • WMW: WMV (Windows Media Viewer) files have large file sizes and high-quality video. Microsoft developed WMV for Windows Media Player. While YouTube supports WMV, Apple users must download Windows Media Player to view these videos.
  • AVI: AVI (Audio Video Interleave) is compatible with all web browsers on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs. Developed by Microsoft, it offers the best quality and the largest file sizes. YouTube supports AVI, making it suitable for watching TV.
  • AVCHD: Advanced Video Coding High Definition (AVCHD) is a high-definition video coding program designed for Sony and Panasonic digital camcorders. It compresses videos for storage without sacrificing quality.
  • HTML or WebM: These codecs are ideal for embedding videos on websites, as they are small in size, ensuring smooth streaming and quick loading.
  • MPEG-2: MPEG-2 and an H.262 codec are suitable for burning videos onto DVDs.

Common Uses of Videos

Videos are powerful for establishing credibility and fostering a personal connection with your audience. They can convey a wealth of information efficiently by incorporating movement, sound, and text. In fact, a one-minute video is equivalent to 1.8 million words in communication.

Videos are especially effective for animated explainers, promotions, business tutorials, and other applications where visual communication is vital. However, keeping videos concise while conveying the core message is often recommended for optimal engagement.

The Main Differences Between GIFs and Videos

GIFs and Videos

GIF vs. video: what are the differences between them? Let’s have a look.

Content Delivery

GIFs deliver moving content by rapidly displaying a sequence of compressed images, setting them apart from video files. Conversely, videos offer a more comprehensive range of elements, including frame rate, audio channels, and pixel dimensions.

File Format and Technical Specifications

Despite their visual appeal, GIFs tend to have larger file sizes than other optimized video formats. This can make them less efficient for specific applications.

Visual Quality and Capabilities

GIFs combine multiple images into a single file, creating motion by displaying these images in quick succession, akin to a flipbook. Videos generally offer smoother motion and higher quality due to their higher frame rates and better encoding techniques.

File Size

GIFs are notorious for their large file sizes, often 5–10 times larger than an MP4 video with suitable encoding. It can result in slow loading times and a less-than-ideal user experience. Videos, in contrast, are more bandwidth-efficient.


Videos can include audio, adding an extra layer of richness to the content. GIFs, by default, do not support audio and are typically silent.

Looping Times

GIFs are often designed to loop, repeatedly playing the same sequence of images. Videos, on the other hand, are not inherently looped and can be of varying lengths.

Contextual Use and Communication Purposes

GIFs are popular for spreading memes on social networking sites due to their simplicity in creation and the ease with which they can be shared. Their color restrictions also help manage file sizes, potentially leading to quicker webpage loading times. Videos are a powerful medium for storytelling. They allow visuals, audio, and narrative to convey information, evoke emotions, and engage audiences.

In short, GIFs and videos have distinct characteristics and purposes, with animated GIFs suitable for memes and entertainment. In contrast, videos offer more versatility and higher quality, especially for longer and more complex content. Understanding these alterations can help you pick the suitable format for conveying information or entertaining online audiences.

When to Use a GIF?

Here’s when you should ideally use a GIF:

To Add Animation: GIFs are perfect for injecting animation or motion into your content. They can bring graphics, logos, or memes to life with simple animations that catch the viewer’s eye.

Highlighting Details: If you need to showcase a detailed feature or function of a product or concept, GIFs can effectively demonstrate it. The dynamic nature of GIFs allows you to focus attention on critical elements.

Social Media Engagement: GIFs are highly shareable and commonly used to create memes on social media platforms. They can quickly convey humor, reactions, or emotions, making them perfect for engaging with social media audiences.

Quick, Lightweight Content: GIFs are lightweight and load quickly, making them suitable for situations where you must rapidly convey a message, such as in emails or web pages.

When to Use a Video?

Here’s when you should ideally use a video:

Engaging Website Visitors: Videos on websites, including explainer videos, product demos, and banners, provide an immersive and engaging experience for visitors. They complement static content by delivering more interactive and visually appealing information.

Establishing Connections: Videos can leave a lasting impression on your audience. They allow you to establish emotional connections, convey complex information, and tell compelling stories.

Immediate Attention: When you need to capture your audience’s attention quickly, especially before they scroll away on social media or a webpage, videos are highly effective. They can convey a message or story in just a few seconds, making them more attention-grabbing than text-based content. Have a look at the popular video animation trends to implement on your website/social media.

In-Depth Explanations: Videos are a superior choice for topics requiring in-depth explanations or demonstrations. They can provide step-by-step guidance, show product functionality, or dive into complex subjects in a way that text or static images cannot.

Summing Up – Which One Should You Choose?

In summary, GIFs are great for adding simple animations, highlighting specific details, and engaging on social media. At the same time, videos excel in creating immersive experiences, establishing connections, capturing immediate attention, and providing in-depth information.

The choice between GIFs and videos should depend on your content goals, the level of engagement you want to achieve, and the complexity of the information you need to convey. Besides, if you need help with video animation or more, get in touch with a creative animation studio like Anideos.

Need help getting started?

Talk to a video strategist!

Let's Go
Hira Farooq

Hira Farooq

Hira Farooq is a creative content and copywriter with years of experience in the animation and tech industry. With a profound understanding, she expertly blends her creative competence with technical insights to craft content that engages the audience and converts them. Her commitment to excellence is evident in her work, making her an indispensable asset in the digital industry within these ever-evolving business landscapes.