To find out, Moviefone turned to two connoisseurs, Michael Wandling (graphic design student and two-year GIF-making veteran) and Manissa Gunadi (the original author of the Fey/Poehler image set), to aid us in our investigation of this newfound pop art phenomenon. The takeaway? There's a whole community of folks who curate TV shows and awards presentations in the name of immortalizing the most laugh-worthy moments in a few frames. And you'd best believe these prolific GIF-makers will be setting their eagle eyes on the 84th annual Academy Awards come February 26!
How did you get into GIF-making? Manissa: I've actually been around for years -- I made my account back in October 2008, but for the first two years I only used Tumblr as a "sharing" site; I only reblogged the things I liked and didn't really post any of my "own" content. In 2010, I really got into some TV shows and I followed more and more TV blogs, which resulted in a plethora of TV GIFs and graphics on my dashboard. Then I thought to myself, "Hey, maybe I can do that too." And so I finally explored PhotoShop, and the rest was history.
So is there a well-known GIF-making community online? Are you guys all friends? Michael: There's a few communities, and blog services; there's usually a bunch of people who always like make a lot of the GIFs. There's Tumblr -- which is really big -- and then there's Reddit and most of the social media blogs like that.
So the people posting stuff to their pages on Tumblr and Reddit just put it up there and it goes viral because everyone else sees it and thinks it's really cool? Michael: Yeah...I think a lot of people post for the instant gratification of the GIFs, and to see things happen right away. I think now, we're so streamlined that we don't even want to watch a video online any more. So the GIFs are already moving and you just kind of watch those.
Are there any infamous online GIF-makers who you guys follow, who always gets the GIF first or makes the funniest stuff? Michael: I know there's this one guy, his Tumblr name is Imperial Bedrooms and he just watches every episode of every show every week, and tries to put a few GIFs up from there.
How do you make something to viral -- do you just post it to Tumblr or Reddit and hope people like it? Michael: Pretty much. I think Tumblr is [one of] the fastest-growing online communities right now. And when you're watching an episode you can kind of tell -- I kind of watch TV now in GIF-vision. So I already know what parts will be easy to put into a GIF; what parts I thought were hilarious that you could make a really quick snapshot of.
Manissa: You can't really make something go viral intentionally. It's hard to make something go viral -- it's all in the hands of the Internet. I never post anything to gain popularity anyway, I just post whatever I think is funny. If it goes viral, then I consider it the icing on the cake.
So how do you recognize when something is GIF-worthy? Michael: Well, it can't be anything really long or drawn-out. I kinda see things in frames. Because you only get so many frames to make a GIF. Normally you can get up to maybe like 30 frames.
Manissa: I make GIFs because I like looking at funny things over and over again. The best thing about GIFs is that it's animated, so you can actually record a moment, and I'd much rather stare at a GIF than have to watch the video or something. So I'd say something is GIF-worthy if I think I will want to look at it again.
This seems like a new form of modern artwork, in a way, but it's sometimes very difficult to trace a GIF back to their maker -- folks will often steal the GIF and embed it into their sites without credit. How do you guys feel about the act of not crediting a GIF-maker? How do you ensure that you get credit? Michael: With Tumblr you can put yourself as a source link. With some things it'll link back to you -- if you click the photo, it'll link back to you. You can just set up one photo or add multiple photos, and then it turns into a photo set. Which -- if you click on them, it won't link them back. So you kinda have to keep going, keep looking at all the source links on the bottom and trail back to whoever it is; a lot of time, it gets lost in translation there. And people will just download them on to their computer and then re-upload them again. Which is kind of frowned upon in the Tumblr community.
How long exactly does it take to make an animated GIF? Manissa: 5 -10 minutes.
Michael: I like to stylize mine, so I'll play with different color settings and I'll add text in so you have little subtitles so you know what they're saying, and that can get up to like a half an hour. Or sometimes they've taken me a lot longer because I'll hand-create each scene. I'll add animation and stuff that isn't provided from the TV clips. So then it's kind of like doing a flipbook, so you have to hand-draw each page. Some of them can take up to a few hours if you're really dedicated to them.
Have you made a really popular or super-viral GIF? Michael: One GIF that I made that went pretty viral...is the "Marcel the Shell" GIF, from the YouTube videos. You can download the YouTube clips, I just made it into a GIF set.
Manissa, was the Fey/Poehler Golden Globes creation your most popular GIF? How many total shares did it get? Manissa: It has more than 31,000 notes. My most popular GIF, however, is a GIF of a scene of Seth Meyers talking about Kim Kardashian on "Saturday Night Live." 76,000 notes -- crazy, I know.
You made that Fey/Poehler GIF within minutes of the moment - how do you make a GIF so quickly during a live broadcast? Manissa: There's actually a funny story behind that GIF. I am a huge Fey/Poehler fan, and I was hoping that either one of them would win. I knew that they both would deliver a funny and memorable acceptance speech, so I recorded the entire presentation process of that category. Then suddenly Tina photobombed Amy and I told my friend, "Wow, OK, that needs to be GIF'd!" Et voila. I guess I was just lucky, because no one knew Tina would do something like that, and my original intention was just to record the acceptance speech of whoever won. Neither of them won, but at least that photobomb happened.
A friend of mine told me there are apps now that you can use to make animated GIFs - is that true? Michael: Oh yeah -- I know there's this one website called GIFSoup.com. You can just upload whatever clip you want and then it'll just turn it into a GIF really quick.
So you use PhotoShop to make these GIFs - is this something anyone can do, or does it require at least a moderate level of computer and Internet savviness? Michael: I'd say it's a little bit more advanced.
In the two years since you started creating and posting GIFs to Tumblr, have you see the GIF community grow, say, five times bigger? Ten times bigger? Michael: I'd say something like five times bigger. Tumblr is a gateway drug. Once you're hooked on a social media site -- once you put anything online, you can see every notification you get from anyone who either favorites it or re-blogs it onto their site. Sometimes if you just put up a clip, in less than 30 minutes you'll get over 2,000 re-blogs. It really shows how fast the Internet is now and the instant gratification. It's all right there.
Will you be watching/GIF-ing this year's Oscars? If so, what GIF-worthy moment are you most looking forward to? Manissa: I think I'll be watching, yeah, even though I consider myself more of a TV girl. I do love George Clooney, though, so I think I'll tune in and hope he wins. As for GIF-ing, I don't know -- I guess we'll have to wait until someone does something funny or remarkable!