51: .mov to .gif – a lesson

If you read Picomac or have a podcast application with good shownote support, you probably noticed the animated GIF in yesterday's post. As much as the rest of that post was about applying simple tools, that file only got created after unsuccessfully trying several overly complex approaches.

To my credit, I remembered that I could create a basic screen capture video just with OS X's included QuickTime Player app, even though its current incarnation as part of QuickTime X has limited features compared to previous versions. It even allows for selecting a region of the screen (so you didn't have to see the mess on my desktop) and trimming the file (so you didn't have to see me moving the mouse to start and stop the recording). At that point, I had a .mov file. I would have been happy to include it directly in the post, but Squarespace only allows video embeds from services like YouTube and Vimeo.

"Fine," I thought, "I'll just make a GIF of it! That'll be easiest!" A quick search revealed that my best bet would be a dedicated app like GifBrewery, but in a fit of stinginess, I didn't feel like putting down a few dollars on an app to create a single image file. My next move was "There must be some way to do it on the command line," and StackExchange did not disappoint. I wasn't even intimidated by ffmpeg -i in.mov -s 600x400 -pix_fmt rgb24 -r 10 -f gif - | gifsicle --optimize=3 --delay=3, but it required some command line tools that I didn't have. Three failed homebrew installs later, I realized that somehow I lost my copy of the Xcode command line tools — perhaps during a recent OS install.

It was all becoming too complicated. Higher up the StackExchange thread, someone had suggested the site online-convert.com. A comment backed it up, saying "Works like a charm, free and they don't collect your email address." My little window-resizing movie contained no personal information and I wanted to post the resulting GIF publicly anyway. It was worth a shot; at worst, I'd wind up with a useless file. As it happened, whoever runs that site and was willing to provide me a few spare CPU cycles did a great job. The file met my needs and went into the post.

And so, as I opined on what it means to be a power user, I learned a lesson. Sometimes the power user move is letting someone else do the work for you.