January 26, 2012

Animated GIF Minimum Frame Delay Browser Compatibility Study

Introduction

Motivated by frustration at the inconsistent experience related to viewing GIF-based works across different web browsers, this study seeks to examine the minimum supported frame delay values and quantify the discrepancies. Prior research on this topic can be found in humpy77’s deviantART journal entry from March 29, 2007 entitled, Frame Delay Times for Animated GIFs. However, over the past 5 years the environment has changed significantly and new research was needed. For those that wish to achieve the highest possible framerates or the best cross-browser compatibility, this comparative breakdown should prove to be a useful reference.

PLEASE NOTE : IN ORDER TO CORRECTLY VIEW THE COMPARISON IMAGES BELOW IT IS REQUIRED THAT YOU USE CHROME, FIREFOX, OR OPERA.






Chrome

2007 Status : Previous report does not include information on this browser.
2012 Status : Supports frame delays as low as 0.02 s, with anything below that being rounded up to 0.10 s.

Performance Δ : ? UNKNOWN 
Maximum Framerate : 50 fps



0.00 s 0.01 s 0.02 s 0.03 s



0.04 s 0.05 s 0.06 s 0.10 s







Firefox

2007 Status : Previous report states that frame delays below 0.02 s are rounded up to 0.10 s.
2012 Status : Supports frame delays as low as 0.02 s, with anything below that being rounded up to 0.10 s.

Performance Δ : → STEADY 
Maximum Framerate : 50 fps



0.00 s 0.01 s 0.02 s 0.03 s



0.04 s 0.05 s 0.06 s 0.10 s







Safari

2007 Status : Previous report states that frame delays below 0.03 s are rounded up to 0.03 s.
2012 Status : Supports frame delays as low as 0.06 s, with anything below being rounded up to 0.10 s.

Performance Δ : ↓ DECLINED 
Maximum Framerate : ~16 fps



0.00 s 0.01 s 0.02 s 0.03 s



0.04 s 0.05 s 0.06 s 0.10 s







Opera

2007 Status : Previous report states that frame delays below 0.10 s are rounded up to 0.10 s.
2012 Status : Supports frame delays as low as 0.02 s, with anything below that being rounded up to 0.10 s.

Performance Δ : ↑ IMPROVED 
Maximum Framerate : 50 fps



0.00 s 0.01 s 0.02 s 0.03 s



0.04 s 0.05 s 0.06 s 0.10 s







Internet Explorer

2007 Status : Previous report states that frame delays below 0.06 s are rounded up to 0.10 s.
2012 Status : Supports frame delays as low as 0.06 s, with anything below that being rounded up to 0.10 s.

Performance Δ : → STEADY
Maximum Framerate : ~16 fps



0.00 s 0.01 s 0.02 s 0.03 s



0.04 s 0.05 s 0.06 s 0.10 s







Conclusions

The first finding to note is that no modern browser surveyed supports frame delays below 0.02 seconds. Therefore, when creating an animated GIF, one should never use a frame delay below this threshold as it will be entirely ineffectual. Another interesting discovery is the presence of Safari as the only browser to have declined in performance related to animated GIF playback.

For those interested in creating and viewing smooth, fast animations the clear choices are Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.  These browsers all support a minimum frame delay of 0.02 seconds, resulting in an animated GIF running at 50 frames-per-second. However, this capability needs to be weighed against the issue of cross-compatibility.

With the decision of Safari and Internet Explorer to only support frame delays down to 0.06 seconds (rounding up to 0.10 seconds for anything below this), there is the possibility that the animation will be viewed significantly slower than intended. The GIF in question would be played back at a mere 10 frames-per-second, rather than the desired 50 frames-per-second. At just 20% of its true speed, this becomes a serious consideration for aesthetic impact.

You are invited to extend this research and offer critical feedback. I can be reached via email through this contact form or as @Nullsleep on Twitter.

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