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Cinema Graph- a return to the wonder of viewing a moving picture

1 March 2016
Michal Blumenfeld Sagi

The history of cinema began with the magic lantern. We, 21st Century moviegoers, are more than accustomed to the innovations featured in 3D and IMAX movies and can only imagine the excitement generated by magic lantern screenings (invented by Edward Muybridge in order to document the movement of a galloping horse's feet). One can either envy or pity the naiveté of those who ran out of the cinema during the screening of one of the first movies by the Lumière Brothers which featured a train entering its station, fearing that the train will run them over. Technology has galloped ahead since the days of horses and trains and nowadays multiple sharply edited movies chockfull of special effects are constantly fighting for our attention. It has become difficult to surprise, excite or even press play on a short video clip in an age which offers an inflation of video media. Well, then how can we explain people's fascination from the cinema graph?

The Cinema Graph is an amalgam of stills and video presented in a loop in .gif format with only one element in the picture moving repeatedly. The Cinema graph was invented in 2011 by two designers, namely Jamie Beck and Kevin Borg who as a married couple knew how to innovatively couple stills and video. The fact that only one or two element move in a Cinema Graph picture is reminiscent of the moving photographs in Harry Potter movies. The model in the picture is still while her hair flies in the wind, the woman on the brink of a fountain remain inanimate while the fountain water flows freely. This combination of elements, while seemingly simple enchants the viewer since it somehow recreates the initial charm experienced by viewers at the end of the 19th Century when exposed to the new and exciting art of cinema theatre.

Cinema Graph in User Experience

 Cinema Graph's charm is based, first and foremost, on the element of surprise. We are used to see still images and are accustomed to seeing moving images- yet the combination of the two generates interest due to it being unexpected. The human eye isn't used to identifying movement. In a quality picture we suddenly identify a movement; it is exciting since it is not what we expected. The combination of a still picture and a single moving element generates a certain tension in the photographs thus attracting more attention than a regular picture. This combination is intriguing, impressive and creates an esthetic and emotional experience since there is something mysterious to it. The single moving element attracts attention, which is always good for conveying messages. If indeed 'less is more' then the slight movement in the Cinema Graph is not only elegant and sophisticated but a more effective solution than a regular video clip. The time spent viewing a Cinema Graph is also shorter than a regular video, and does not even require pressing play thus enabling a user experience which is both more effective and more efficient. The selective motion isolates an element and enables to control the viewer's attention and focus it on the desired element.

The use of a Cinema Graph fits the latest trend in website design which tends to keep the visual "burden" at a minimum. It therefore suits websites which attempt to convey an elegant and sophisticated message. It is recommended to combine one item of Cinema Graph in an area you wish the viewers to focus their attention on. It is preferable to use only one element in order to retain the "clean" charm the Cinema Graph generates.

There are several applications suitable for both android and Iphone devices which allow simply and easily creating Cinema Graphs. Microsoft offers several programs, such as Cliplets, which enable creating Cinema Graphs.


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