Lottie vs GIF: Which Animation File Format to Go For?
GIFs have been around for quite some time. In fact, you can find them online everywhere due to the rapid rise in the popularity of memes. GIFs appear on social media platforms, blogs, and webpages to convey a message through a moving image, and mostly in a humorous way. However, being dated means that GIFs do not tackle the latest problems of today’s animation world. On the other hand, Lottie is relatively new and offers many never-before-seen capabilities in an animation file format.
Regardless, GIFs are still surviving, and Lottie is still penetrating. Comparing the two file formats can help us determine which one to lean towards next time we have an animation to export and run on our website. So, here is a Lottie vs GIF post to help you understand how these two file formats fare against each other! Before diving into the actual comparison, let’s see how they appeared on the scene.
Lottie vs GIF: What are they?
Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)
GIFs were invented by a computer scientist named Steve Wilhite in 1987 while trying to solve the downloading problem in a technology company “CompuServe.” He was not only successful in saving space but also provided a coloured image exchange format.
GIFs quickly became common on the websites, and soon in 1995, people discovered that GIFs could play several images in a loop, giving an illusion of a video. This exploded in the meme community, making Facebook and Instagram accept the file formats as well.
Today, GIFs are immensely popular on Reddit, Buzzfeed, and Tumblr. They appear as a soundless video that loops automatically, and people are using them to create memes, online animations, and web logos.
Unlike GIFs, the Lottie file format is quite new, having been launched only in 2017.
Before Lottie, motion designers created their animations separately and handed them over to the developers. Having limited options meant that the developers either exported a poor-quality animation or coded it from scratch. Not only was this a tedious task, but it also compromised the quality and professionalism of the web pages.
Seeing the problem, the Bodymovin plugin was introduced to render animations at run-time in JSON file format. Engineers at Airbnb realized the immense potential of JSON animations, and they, with the lead animator Salih Abdul Kalim, introduced Lottie in 2017.
Today, Lottie carries implementation support of Windows, Andriod, IOS, QT, and Flutter. Websites prefer Lottie for their small size and preserved quality, and many Lottie animation-based platforms are emerging. One of them is Vidalgo, a community-curated specifically for animators, artists, and creators. Vidalgo is where artists can showcase their creativity, and beginners can customize animations. It is also an excellent place to find free animations, like gift cards for special occasions, greetings, animations that convey a message, and much more!
Lottie vs GIF: The Comparison
Lottie and GIFs are both web animation file formats. However, they differ in many ways. Let’s compare these two and see how:
|Lottie vs GIF||Lottie||GIF|
|True Color Representation||Shows true colours||Compromises colour quality|
|File Size||Very small, often <50Kb||Larger, often 5Mb for 5-sec GIF|
|FPS||Preserves frame rate at all cost||Might cause frame loss|
|Customizations||Many options available||Mostly built from scratch|
|Transparent Background||Blended edges||Jagged edges|
|Vectorization||Vectorized in space and time||Based on bitmaps|
|Adoptions||Emerging||Adopted by mainstream platforms|
|Interactivity||Possible with Lottie||Not possible with GIF|
True Color Representation
Being there for a while, GIFs use some outdated means of compression, for example, dithering. It is a method of reducing the colours in the images, normally seen in the 8-bit GIFs, by creating an illusion of a third colour being present. This can create artefacts and discrepancies in an otherwise smooth image.
Lottie, on the other hand, being a vector-based file format, faces no compression losses and hence, does not compromise on colour quality.
One of the most distinguishing features of Lottie might be its size. File sizes are important for any website owner, developer, and animator. Smaller file sizes mean faster downloading speeds and reduced storage requirements. This means that as a website owner, you can add multiple animations to your website without worrying too much about the loading time or the bought-space in your plan. However, your page-load speed can be greatly affected by a larger file size.
Lottie animations provide you with these benefits because their file size is often less than 50 Kb. This is smaller than even a compressed GIF or PNG. Where a 5-second long GIF reaches about 5 MB, a Lottie file rarely ever reaches this amount of space demand. Hence, the number of animations you can load on your social media or web page becomes extremely limited with GIFs.
When it comes to GIFs, you need to handle a trade-off between image quality and page loading speed. Compressed GIFs often mess up backgrounds due to their binary channel alpha support. It means that GIFs pixels can either be see-through or entirely opaque; there’s no in-between. However, if you use the uncompressed GIF file, you need to handle a huge storage demand.
Apart from this, scaling up a GIF makes it blurry and loses its quality. This is because GIFs animate by using frames and pixels, while Lottie is a vector-based animation format.
Lottie’s animation file format suffers from none of these problems. They can not only handle gradients of colours quite well but also retain their quality whether scaled up or down. This is because every time a Lottie animation is re-sized, the coding at the backhand recreates the animation at the native resolution of the screen. Hence, with Lottie files, you get web pages that can never give an unappealing, pixelated animation to its viewers.
Frames per second or FPS is a crucial concept in the field of animation. Lower frame rates cause the animations to lag, while higher frame rates demand very high hardware capacity. An animator chooses the desired frame rate upon creating the animation for the required degree of smoothness. Lottie preserves this frame rate at all costs. However, downloading and compressing GIFs might make them lose some frames. This can make a GIF file appear sluggish and unsmooth.
Lottie files are customizable at any point of their creation process and even after it. Users can tinker with an already exported JSON Lottie file to change its background colour, its running speed, or to edit its individual layers. GIFs, once created, tend to stay the same and have to be built from scratch.
Transparent or No Background
Often you require files that carry a transparent background. GIFs often show a jagged or sharp edge of the image when dealing with the alpha channel. However, Lottie tends to show smoother and more blended-in edges.
GIFs consists of bitmaps whereas Lottie files are vectors, making them a flexible format. GIFs, once created, are quite difficult to edit. Lottie files, on the other hand, are easier to edit and build from scratch as they appear like a programming language. For instance, GIFs have a fixed size, which means you can not modify them to fit a different interface. However, in Lottie files, you can modify the style attribute in the script to change their height and width easily.
When it comes to adoption and use, in the Lottie vs GIFs war, animated GIFs are a clear winner. You can find GIFs all over the internet. All the mainstream social media platforms, including Whatsapp and Facebook, support this file type.
However, Lottie files are still emerging yet some of the bigger platforms have successfully predicted their potential, for instance, WordPress offers a Lottie Plugin and Vidalgo offers a Lottie player to view and share Lottie files easily.
Lottie file format allows engaging and interactive animations. Being similar to an HTML script or a piece of code, Lottie files are easily editable to add different types of interactive behaviour. Users can find Lottie animations that move with the cursor, synch with scrolling or morph into something else when clicked. GIFs have no such property.
Lottie vs GIF: Conclusion
Lottie files perform better than GIFs in almost every aspect. They have proper documentation and a streamlined workflow, allowing anyone to create them. However, they are still in the process of being adopted. Many social media platforms have not yet adopted Lottie, for example, Whatsapp stickers support GIFs but not Lottie. Similarly, Instagram and Facebook run GIF files.
In such cases, GIFs might be the only option. However, Lottie is supported by IOS and android, and page-building sites carry plugins to run Lottie files easily. This is where Lottie files is clearly a better option.
So, do you agree? In today’s battle of Lottie vs GIF, Lottie won fair and square!
Looking to peruse more? Read this blog on why Lottie might be the best animation format.