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echograph app reviewCinemagraphs blend selective animation and a static image to create a unique looping scene, popularised using Photoshop How To Make Your Own CinemaGraph In Photoshop CS5 How To Make Your Own CinemaGraph In Photoshop CS5 Cinemagraphs are small animated GIF files created from a movie, that capture a tiny moving section of that movie in a forever looping sequence. See the sample to the left if you have no idea... Read More to adapt famous film scenes into contemplative GIFs a few years ago. Since the concept is so promising, app developers have pounced on the idea after the original release of Cinemagram.

There’s now a new contender for the throne in the form of Echograph, an app which on first glance is remarkably similar. It’s new, and according to the attention it has received it’s noteworthy too, but can it topple Cinemagram, and how does it differ from other GIF authoring tools?

Looking Back 

Cinemagram was a long-awaited app when it finally arrived on the App Store. Initial versions were quite basic, allowing an animation of a few seconds with little in the way of image stabilisation or additional features. That’s changed a lot since I first reviewed Cinemagram back in May Cinemagr.am - Easily Create Cinemagraphs On Your iPhone For $1.99 Cinemagr.am - Easily Create Cinemagraphs On Your iPhone For $1.99 A cinemagraph is essentially the marriage of still photos and moving video, except only a portion of the scene is animated. Typical examples include a tree swaying in the breeze, water flowing from a tap... Read More of last year. Despite nobody I follow on the service having used it for a good period of time (I’d not even opened the app for probably 6 months), Cinemagram has come a long way.

To start with it was a paid app back then – costing a small fee of $1.99 for the privilege of creating great-looking animations using the world around you. Now it’s free, a side-effect of the many apps which attempted to bring cinemagraphs to the masses by undercutting the competition. It’s highly unlikely apps like Instagram, Flipboard Devour Online Content In Style With Flipboard for iPhone [iOS] Devour Online Content In Style With Flipboard for iPhone [iOS] When it launched in December 2010, Flipboard was an app that had Apple’s executives grinning from ear to ear. Designed exclusively for the iPad, it allowed users to consume their usual online content from an... Read More and the recently introduced Vine would have taken off quite in the same way with a nominal fee, which is probably what the developers were thinking.

echograph app review

Cinemagram has in fact added a bounty of new features, including Instagram-like filters, the ability to make shorts and control video speed. I can’t help but feel the addition of shorts detracts from the point of the app, and waters down the concept somewhat. Vine is a lot more capable if that’s what you want to do – and it’s bound to get some new features in a few months (fingers crossed).

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The more I play with Cinemagram, the less appeal I see in it. The Explore tab forces me to choose a hashtag, when I just want to see what’s popular. My friends have stopped using it. The quality of the movies has remained the same – in short, the app seems to have added more features at the expense of its primary function, and so there exists a gap for a simple, high-quality cinemagraph creator – and that’s where Echograph comes in.

Landscape Ahoy!

The first thing I noticed about Echograph was that it forced me into using the app in landscape mode only – despite locking my phone in portrait mode. Browsing, shooting and editing your cinemagraph is all done via landscape, with cinemagraphs taking on a traditional widescreen video format. There is no option to use portrait, unlike Cinemagram which now gives you a choice.

echograph app

This does make more of a difference than you first think. You have slightly more frame to play with, and resulting creations look more cinematic. Second of all, you now have to hold your phone in landscape mode, which I found didn’t do wonders for camera shake. These animations really do demand a steady hand, the more you move around the worse the resulting image looks as your animation warps back and forth. A tripod is recommended Better iPhone Video: Best Paid & DIY Accessories For Smooth, Steady Footage Better iPhone Video: Best Paid & DIY Accessories For Smooth, Steady Footage Nothing says "professional" like a smooth and steady shot, which is by far the iPhone’s greatest weakness when it comes to capturing decent footage. Luckily the smartphone’s popularity has spawned a vast number of accessories... Read More if you’re really going to use this app for anything other than a bit of fun.

echograph app

The extra space on-screen is great for applying a mask, and allows you to be more careful with the placement. The controls provided are also more pleasing, there’s no Instagram-like filters available but the workflow seems smoother. First you outline your animation range, then you choose your static frame (i.e. what displays outside of the mask) and finally the mask. As you’re applying the mask, your animation loops in the background, as you’re choosing your range there is an onion-skin effect for lining up your start and end points – these are great features. Once you’ve finished you’ve got the option of saving a high or low quality cinemagraph and sharing it via the usual social channels.

echograph app

Unfortunately despite the better workflow, a bigger frame and the high quality output you’re still likely to get better results from Cinemagram, rather than Echograph. This is down to one reason – image stabilization. Cinemagram’s image stabilization is unbeatable. It seems to smooth out some of the biggest jolts and most noticeable warps, whereas I’m not actually sure there’s any stabilisation included in Echograph.

echograph review

Good results in Echograph demand a tripod, or at the very least a stable surface and something to prop your iPhone on. If you were shooting cinemagraphs for use in a project then this would be expected, but mobile apps are meant to be accessible and fun, and the majority of people using this app will not be using a tripod.

There’s also no way to browse all incoming submissions to Echograph, no favouriting, no following – though the staff picks section highlights some incredible talent. Is it bad I assumed that they were all shot on tripods?

Finally – here is a finished, exported GIF in low-resolution:

echograph app review

The difference between this and the version seen in the app and via Echograph’s website is considerably different. When you share via Twitter, the app posts this:

You can view the “proper” low-res Echograph cinemagraph here.

Conclusion 

They’re both free apps, and both are worth the effort of downloading. Echograph has the foundations for what could be the evolution of the artform. Higher quality, larger frames, better controls, smoother workflow – with one snag: poor or no image stabilisation. If you value high quality then you can do no better than Echograph, just don’t forget your tripod and a mount.

If you’re messing around and value the ability to colour-grade, follow friends and don’t have steady hands then stick with Cinemagram for now.

What do you think of Echograph? Prefer Cinemagram? Let us know what you think, below.

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