Adding a file icon to an Animated GIF

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In a thread Metadata and icons not appearing on GIF files in Photoshop CS6 it was said Photoshop doesn't support including metadata and file icons in animated GIFs. However, its really necessary in cases, when multiple animated GIFs are created with the same 1st frame, which is typical for Motion Detection packages. In such scenario, all anim GIFs in Windows Explorer will look indistinguishable, unless file managers can generate different icons for each. The problem and possible solutions were discussed in Add a file icon to an Animated GIF community forum topic.

Further, many surveillance packages generate just a series of images for each motion detection, and then Photoshop (commandline) can be used to auto generate anim GIFs from each such series, and add a file icon to each GIF, as such small files are ideal as attachments to security email notifications, thus complementing large security videos. This would allow to introduce Photoshop to vast and fast growing video surveillance market.

GIF Standard supports Extension Blocks altering how GIF playback algorithm works. This one was introduced by Mozilla to support loopback (see more), and then adapted by browser and app GIF decoders. Adobe can add similar Extension Block instructing the GIF code to start playback from the 2nd frame, while 1st one will be used by File Managers to generate file icon. That's the purpose of Extension Blocks - to enrich animated GIFs. It shouldn't break playback in browsers and apps, but in any case they will gradually adapt the enhanced file format just like they did with playing Flash, since it was requested by users and made perfect sense.

In particular, Graphic Control Extension Block is allowed to be placed before the 1st or any frame, and in its currently Reserved or Disposal Method unused field 4 (see  GIF Standard) can indicate the frame must be omitted at playback. Of course, it would require minor correction in GIF Decoder code to recognize that mark. Is that a tragedy impossible to overcome - certainly NOT, its normal routing of day-to-day software development. Since Extension Blocks are ignored by any package except GIF Decoders, the 1st frame will be as always used by File Managers as the GIF file icon. If a select GIF Decoder doesn't recognize the mark - that Extension Block will be ignored as most Decoders do now, and the GIF will play all frames as usually.

Can you try this approach instead of outright denial of the problem and suggested solution? This would allow more and more GIF Decoders to adapt, starting with the decoder used by Photoshop itself. While GIF is an old format, its gradual replacement with new formats like GIFV is not widespread, and for smaller files is not rational, so popularity of animated GIFs was ever growing over last years, as more people were getting involved in "creative cloud" activities, and animated GIF presented ideally simple and easily accessible medium for that.
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Sam Bulka

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Posted 2 years ago

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