Dear Tumblr Staff,
I would like to lodge a public complaint.
The restrictions on animated gifs are as follows. The file must be no wider than 500 pixels and no larger than 1 megabyte.
Myself and other animated gif creators are perfectly willing to follow these guidelines and make our gifs accordingly. (though 2 megabytes would be nice)
However, in the past year, making gifs that work on tumblr has become increasingly more difficult. We open up a new post, upload our work, and we are often met with this pink “error uploading image” message.
I’m not sure if you are aware, but making GIFs can be very difficult. It is a 25 year old format. It is fussy and old. It often requires a myriad of manual adjustments to each and every frame. Artists, creators, and animators on tumblr make some of these gifs from scratch. They can take a very long time. I, myself, have spent 6 hours on a 1 second gif.
Gifs are not limited to Doctor Who clips. For many they are an important tool for presenting their art. People like Sarah who does Ordinary Batman Adventures or Hobo Lunchbox who makes great animated video manipulations. I can’t tell you how much work it is to make these amazing gifs. Or how tedious working frame by frame can be. It is not fun work, though the result can be very satisfying.
Beyond the initial work making the gifs, there is often a much more painstaking process of optimizing these gifs to fit tumblr’s specifications. Cramming these works into 1 megabyte can add a significant amount of extra time to accomplish. Removing frames. Reducing colors. Reducing dimensions. Adding lossy. Lowering dither. Often you must use a great deal of trial and error to balance all of these techniques in order to make a gif fit the file size and have it not look like utter crap.
So I want you to try imagining something. Imagine spending hours manipulating each frame by hand, getting everything just right, then doing all of the optimizing to make the gif be 1 megabyte in size. Then you upload your finished, painstakingly made gif to tumblr… only to see “error uploading image.”
Seething rage is a phrase that comes to mind.
In the past year I have been in contact with tumblr support. I have talked to various people on tumblr staff. I have submitted images that cause this error. I have done everything in my power to nudge tumblr to fix this issue. I’ve been given assurances that it is being worked on every time. And lately, it seems worse than ever.
This is not just some silly issue of being unable to get that Adventure Time gif to work. This is restricting great artists from being able to show their work on a platform they love. I feel like this issue is a bigger priority than tumblr staff has made it. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.
That said, if you are a gif artist who has encountered this issue, there are a few things you can try.
First, drastic file size reduction. Sometimes as low as 250-300k. Your gif will probably be tiny and look like crap, but it will work. Another common issue seems to be with illustrated gifs with bright colors. Cartoons and animations especially. Some folks have found that desaturating your gif may help. Sometimes you must do both to get your gif to work. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, and that sucks.
So I humbly ask the tumblr staff to give this serious attention. Even if you cannot fix the issue right away, can you at least explain why these errors are happening? That way the people who make gifs can create them in a way that avoids the issues causing errors.
We are very tired of working our ass off to make a cool gif and then being unable to share it with our followers.