I was asked in an interview not long ago what I thought the future of Cinemagraphs will be. Just to recap for those who are new to cinemagraphs as it's still a slightly undefined term.
I describe a cinemagraph as a digital image which combines a still photo with elements of seamlessly repeating motion. Two key things make the format stand apart from other types of 'looping' video:
1.) The seamless loop, you don't notice when it starts or ends.
2.) Sections of the video are frozen like a still photo.
Cinemagraphs are delivered as a high resolution video for display on websites, social media through to HD & 4K TV's and even Billboards! My cover cinemagraph was displayed over Times Square in New York for Flixel Photos and looked incredible!
(The same cinemagraph above featured on a billboard over Times Square, New York)
So in answer to the question, what is the future for cinemagraphs? It has broad reaching possibilities simply because no matter what you call it the general format of combining still and motion can be transferred to a number of visual applications already looking to become a big part of the future such as Virtual Reality, 360 video, 3D. But rather than getting carried away with the far reaching sci-fi possibilities I'd rather get back to the basics of why Cinemagraphs actually have a future, a longevity regardless of how they're applied.
Technology aside, we as humans are captivated by the sensory-visual experience on some level. Some are affected by what they see more than others but there is no denying that an image has the power to move us in some way big or small. Still photography has more than survived as a medium for that reason, it has thrived and although SLR film cameras and now Digital SLR cameras are struggling against the arrival of mobile phone cameras (with the consumer market at least)... there are more photographs being taken now than ever!
In 2014, according to Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends report, people uploaded an average of 1.8 billion digital images to the internet every single day (and that's just what's uploaded!). That's 657 billion photos per year. Another way to think about it: Every two minutes, humans take more photos than ever existed in total 150 years ago.
Enter the motion image. Film or video has also got us captivated... whether it's the escape and magic of big budget films or the the few seconds capturing your child in the arms of her Great Grandmother for the first time. The trouble is most people are not very good at taking videos and would typically shoot very long clips, unedited and unusable in terms of easily sharing it over the internet with friends unless it was hugely compressed or simply huge in file size! So micro video has taken off... the technical limitations have brought about apps that capture only a few seconds of video and we've discovered that it can still transport us into the emotion of that moment and they become instantly shareable.
However video in many ways loses the magical element of a still photo because it requires no imagination on the part of a viewer. A cinemagraph in it's traditional sense has the ability to bridge the best between both worlds... retaining the magic and imagination of a still photo while elevating engagement and sparking our imagination further with subtle elements of motion. They can have a truly hypnotic affect, causing the viewer to stare at the image far longer than a traditional photo. Why is that? I believe it's because in viewing a cinemagraph we are allowing our imagination to unfold just a little bit more, allowing ourselves get lost in the moment.
Most important in my mind is that cinemagraphs are not a gimmick, they walk a very steady line between two timeless mediums and that will guide them securely into the future of art, advertising and entertainment. While Gifs, Boomerangs, Vines and other forms of micro-video have their place as a fun and entertaining format they ultimately lean towards a fad because a single image only has limited appeal. If you've ever watched the jumpy motion of a roughly looping Gif or Boomerang you'll know they give us a quick laugh but that's about it, they're like the catchy radio song which grows on you quick but wears thin just as fast compared to a timeless classic that stands the test of time.