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This is an amazing walkthrough. Thank you so much for the step by step and what you used. I've been looking for something like this exactly, especially since I'm all self taught and am kinda stuck with a proper pipeline/workflow.
Collin Harris showed how to make beautiful animated promotional material directly from game-engine.
So without further ado:
Step One: Capture Footage
Using Fraps, OBS, Quicktime or any screen recording sofware of your choosing, record the footage that you want to use for your GIF. I would personally recommend Fraps just due to its ease of use. For this tutorial I will be using Fraps.
Open up Fraps and head over to the Movies tab.
The only settings we’re going to focus on here is making sure our Video Capture Settings are set to Full-size and 60 fps. We’re setting this up so there is as little compression as possible. Every time we compress our video or images the quality of the GIF will decline.
Take note of the Video Capture Hotkey. This is going to be the key you press to start your recording. Feel free to change it to whatever key is most comfortable.
Now open the scene you want to record. Make sure Fraps is open. You’ll see a yellow number in the corner of your screen if you are successful. The Yellow numbers represent how many frames per second Fraps is recording.
Once this is set up and you see your yellow numbers, make sure Unreal Engine is your selected window, and hit f10 (or whatever your Video Capture Hotkey is set to).
Once you have done this, those yellow numbers will turn red. This means Fraps is currently recording. Now that Fraps is recording, play your scene and show off your game! Keep in mind that the longer your video is, the bigger the video will be, and the more compressed and poopy your GIF will look at the end.
Ok cool, now we’ve got our footage! Now on to Step Two!
Step Two: Importing Your Footage to Photoshop
Now that you have your video footage, its time to take that and turn it into a series of pictures. So lets open up Photoshop. Once you’re in Photoshop, navigate over to Video Frames to Layers. In Photoshop CC it is located in File > Import > Video Frames to Layers, but depending on your version it might be in a different menu.
With that selected, an open file dialogue will pop up. Navigate to the directory where you saved your footage (this is set up in Fraps). The default directory which Fraps stores footage is in C:\Fraps\Movies. Now select your footage and hit Open.
Once you’ve done this, a dialogue will pop up. This is the secret sauce of this whole process! So pay attention, because this can get a little tricky!
You’re going to see some options. Range To Import is what we are going to set first. We’re going to set it down to Selected Range Only. Why is this? Because we don’t want to import our entire video, that would take forever! We only want the good stuff!
Next, lets set a limit to how Photoshop imports our frames. The “Limit to Every __ Frames” option is essentially us telling Photoshop how many frames we want to ignore. Lets set this to 2 for now.
Here is one way to think about this option. Each  here is a frame of our video, and each “x” is a frame we tell Photoshop to skip. We set Fraps to record in 60 frames per second. So likewise, 60 frames of our video will equal 1 second of time. If we didn’t set any limit here we would output 60 total images per second. By setting a limit, we are telling Photoshop to only import one image from every number of frames.
With this in mind, the more frames we tell Photoshop to skip the faster and choppier the GIF will be. You will probably never want to go outside of a range from 2 to 5.
Once you have set that up, its time to mark in and out what you want to import. Using the sliders under the video preview, select only the range of video that you want to make into a GIF. With your sliders set up the way you want them, hit “Ok”
Step Three: Editing Your GIF
So now that you’ve imported your video into frames, you’ll have something that looks like this:
(if you dont see the timeline on the bottom, make sure to enable it by going to Window > Timeline)
Photoshop took all the frames from your recorded footage, and converted it into a Frame Timeline! How nice of them!
Congratulations! You technically made a GIF! Buuuuut….. It’s probably not going to run very well. Chances are the video you imported was pretty big. So lets do some cosmetic work here and resize your image to a manageable size and crop out all of the non-game stuff.
Step Four: Exporting Your GIF
Once you’ve got everything set up exactly how you want it, its time to turn these frames into a GIF. Head over to your File Menu > Export > Save for Web (Legacy), and select that.
Once you’ve selected “Save for Web (Legacy” you’ll see a window pop up. This is your export menu, and contains all the settings for your GIF. The settings you’re going to want to pay attention to are on the right. Make sure your exporting as a GIF, you are exporting with 256 colors, and that you’re setting the GIF to loop Forever.
With that done, its time to pay attention to that little number on the bottom left. That’s how big your GIF will be using the current export settings. The important file sizes to keep in mind here are Facebook and Twitter.
- Facebook’s GIF size limit is 8mb
- Twitter’s GIF size limit is 15mb
If you want your GIF to animate correctly on these sites, your finished GIF needs to be below the required size. You will want to tweak your GIF and your GIF’s export settings to get under these size limits while still maintaining a decent looking end result.
The primary methods you can use to optimize your GIF are by resizing the image, and removing frames. You can adjust the export size through the “Image Size” options in the export menu. Keep going smaller until you get to your target file size. Also, keep in mind that Twitter resizes all images to be 500px wide, and Facebook resizes all images to be 475px. If you’re making a GIF to share on these social networks, exporting a GIF any bigger then 500px wide is unnecessary.
But lets say that you’re already as small as you can go, and you’re still over that magical 8mb file size. Its time to start cutting frames. The more frames your GIF has, the bigger it will be. You can select frames in your timeline and delete them using the delete button.
And that’s that! Once you’ve tweaked your GIF to your liking, hit the “Save” button in the “Save for Web” export menu, and voilà! You’re GIF is done and ready to be shared!
Epilogue: Sharing Your .GIF
Now that you have your .GIF file, you’re going to want to share it. The two social networks that I’m going to focus on today are Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook does not natively support animated gifs. So that means that if you try to upload your .gif file through Facebook, it will only display a static image. The method of getting around this is simply to upload your .gif to an image hosting site like Giphy1 and Imgur. Once you’ve uploaded your .gif, just paste the URL into Facebook and the preview will animate correctly.
Twitter is pretty awesome about how they handle .gifs. Its plug and play. Just upload your .gif like you would upload an image and it automatically works!
Epilogue Pt. 2: Comparing Photoshop to GIF recorders
I decided to do a little side by side comparing the method described in this article against a popular GIF recording program Gifcam. I used both Gifcam and Photoshop on the same scene. As you can see below, Gifcam is fantastic for quick snippets, but falls a little flat once you start requiring faster movement or a wider pallet. Photoshop can take a bit longer to get set up, but because of its optimization settings exports out a much higher quality image.
Keeping that in mind, the Gifcam picture took me like 5 seconds to capture and upload, while the Photoshop picture took me around 2-3 minutes of tweaking before uploading. It all depends on what you’re looking to achieve with your GIF.