Echograph: The return of low-bandwidth animations?

I remember the golden days of the Internet when bandwidth was at a premium, mostly because users were still stuck with using dial-up modems for access. Back then, the only way to share anything with any motion was with the animated Graphics Interchange Format (GIF). For those who don’t know, this was essentially a series of still graphics that were shown in quick succession to give the appearance of motion, much like film in a projector, or those flip books you probably had as kids.

But as bandwidth became more plentiful, and compression formulae became more efficient, the animated GIF gave way to Flash and even embedded digital video. The main reason GIFs were abandoned was probably because they took too much effort to make compared to what you got out of them.

iTunes is currently previewing an app called Echograph for iPad that will take video and help you convert it to an echograph, which is essentially an animated GIF. You chose the section of video that gets looped, and select the frame that will be the still. Then select just the area of the still that will be animated by painting it with your finger, leaving everything else static. It’s a lot easier that stitching together a series of still images, and give you more control of the process.

The finished product is ready to share, and takes up a lot less bandwidth than a video would.

You can use the app itself to convert videos already on your iPad. To import raw video from your device you might want to buy their kit, which is an adapter for a Compact Flash media card. If you take digital video, you probably already have a way to import it to your computers, but in case you don’t, here’s one that works directly with Echograph.

Government agencies have made use of GIF images, such as on this NASA page that includes animated GIFs of the solar eruptions in February. And this Federal Emergency Management Agency page on dam safety that includes a link to a GIF.

If an echograph makes it easier to put these kinds of moving images together, and make them more entertaining in the process, we might start seeing more of them on agency websites.

Maybe this signifies a call back to the days of Internet antiquity. Maybe I should dust off my old 56k V.92 modem out. Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Anyway, it’s a nifty way to express your creativity. Try it for yourself. And check out the video below on how an echograph works.


About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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