Sometimes you need to show someone a great clip, how to beat a raid, a cheeky smoke grenade, or just a creative solution to a problem. A gaming GIF is perfect for that — and here’s an easy way (and a more advanced way) of bringing that to life.
I had a good instance of this the other day when playing Counter-Strike. A friend was asking if someone could throw a particular smoke grenade, but nobody knew how to throw it. Someone could load up a video on a second screen, but there’s no videos showing just one smoke. They’re usually 15 or 20 in a row, and sometimes you just want to see a few seconds on loop so you can get the precise positioning and aiming.
So what’s the best solution for this? The easiest answer is a free-to-use tool called, rather refreshingly, gifs. If you don’t mind a small watermark in the bottom right of the screen, it’s free to use, and works with any major video service, Twitch included.
How to easily make gaming GIFs from any video
Firstly, you’ll want to grab the video in question. The front page of gifs has a dialog box where you can insert URLs, or drag and drop files:
A neat trick you can also use with YouTube videos is to replace the first part of your YouTube URL with gifs.com, although this only worked with YouTube.
Once you’ve dropped the video URL in, the page will take a few seconds to process the video. Once it’s done that, you’ll see a window like this that gives you start and end times and some basic video editing features.
From there you’ll be able to customise the length of the GIF, apply sound or not, and apply a NSFW tag if necessary. How long the GIF takes to make depends generally on how long the video is — free accounts also won’t have access to higher quality GIF settings.
Still, if you’re just looking to make something quickly, this is more than sufficient. Once made, you’ll get a second screen containing an “optimised link”, a direct link to the original created GIF, embed options, and the ability to download the GIF in a small size, full size, or as an MP4 file.
Gotta love big deagle shots, especially at such a clutch moment in a match.
It’s worth noting that a lot of GIF services and websites have no problems playing MP4s as GIFs these days, even though they’re obviously very different file extensions. Which gets me into my next point …
A more advanced way to make gaming GIFs
If you want more control over your clip, including the ability to insert stuff into the footage you have, then your best shot will always be Adobe Photoshop. This gives you more control not just over the visual quality, but whether you want it exported as an MP4 or GIF, and more tools for controlling the overall size including the final frame rate.
You generally want to apply some restrictions to the final product, otherwise the final GIF/MP4 will be so large that it’ll take forever for people to view. Social media platforms often apply pretty restrictive limits — it’s 5MB on Twitter for photos, 15MB for GIFs. Dedicated hosting services like Gfycat are often more forgiving with different sizes and dimensions, too.
First, you’ll want to take some MP4 footage of your game and then open it in Photoshop. At the bottom you’ll see a video layer, which you can scrub through as if you were watching a normal video.
Right clicking on the video layer will let you set start and end points for your desired GIF or video. Once you’ve got the clip section you want, it’s worth lowering the frame rate because that’ll make the next steps process much faster. You can do that by clicking on the small three lines at the top right of the timeline, which brings up this box:
From there you can click Set Timeline Frame Rate and then adjust as needed. The video layer will visibly adjust afterwards, as the length of what you’re editing is now shorter (due to the reduction in frames).
If you want to export as a traditional GIF file, simply navigate to File -> Export -> Save for Web (Legacy) and then you’ll be presented with this menu. It takes a while to load, depending on how big your video is, the length of the clip you’ve selected and whatever your previous settings were.
For reference, I’ve used a clip of Cruelty Squad just because I had some footage on file.
In the top right you can see different settings, with the image size, lossy, colours, and dither percentage generally having the most impact on the final output. Photoshop also processes this stage of the GIF based on the size of the video coming in. So if you’re working with a 1080p video, it’ll initially appear as a 1080p GIF here — but you can, and should, reduce the image size to 1280×720 or lower.
Every adjustment you make in this step causes Photoshop to re-process the whole clip, so working with smaller dimensions makes your life a lot easier in the end. You also can’t adjust the frame rate here, but you can preview it in the window (hit the play button on the right-hand side) to see if it’s sufficient.
Alternatively, you can skip this step and export your selected clip as a MP4. MP4 files generally compress better than GIFs in terms of quality, and most platforms will accept MP4 files just fine. You’re not making a traditional GIF, per se, but your intended audience won’t care.
Head to your timeline and click the small three lines again, but this time, select Render Video. You’ll get this box:
From here it’ll automatically select your “Work Area” — that’s the in and out points you selected on the timeline previously. You can also adjust the resolution and frame rate here, so if you didn’t want to mess with those settings before, you can adjust them down here. Note that there’s no preview options, although generally anything you export will be relatively short (a few seconds to maybe 30) so it won’t take long for you to see your final output.
Exporting as MP4 generally results in much cleaner looking clips for about the same filesize. There’s a range of platforms, but I use Gfycat a lot which has no trouble processing MP4s at all. Here’s some examples of GIFs I’ve made for stories with this method.
I generally prefer the MP4 method because you don’t have to sacrifice frame rate quite as much, which often results in a cleaner, more enjoyable clip.
So those are two ways to get your gaming GIFs together — an easy way, and a more complicated way if you want a bit more control. Go forth and share!