Cinemagraph: A still photograph in which an element is animated with a small amount of video. A blend of cinema and graph.
The first cinemagraph was created and named in 2011 by husband-and-wife photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, who work in New York City.
Photo: Cinemagraph via Reverie Of Love http://tumblr.com/xhr3lulkpp— Cinemagraph (@Cinemagraphical) July 20, 2011
The first tweet from the Cinemagraph account.
In February 2014 Burg and Beck were interviewed by Time magazine about their invention. “I think of it as a living photograph,” Burg told reporter Joseph Lin. “It’s a photograph that has a living moment inside of it.”
Lin asked the pair how they came up with the name:
Kevin Burg: We were just playing with Greek roots. We were researching how they came up with the term photography. [Editor’s note: the word photographis generally accepted to have derived from the Greek terms photos, meaning of light and graphō, meaning I write.]
Jamie Beck: We had to give it a name because we’d go to a photo shoot and people kept saying, Make one of those moving things. I was so tired of people saying “that moving thing,” so we came up with a name for it.
KB: And calling it a GIF didn’t seem to work either, because a GIF can mean so many things. This is a specific thing with its own criteria. Its own medium.
JB: The name cinemagraph went generic overnight. I tweeted what we named it and it went crazy from there.
KB: By the time we talked to the trademark office, they were like, this is a descriptive, generic term.1
(GIF is an acronym for Graphic Interchange Format; it supports both static and animated images. The format’s inventor, Steve Wilhite, has insisted since the late 1980s that the acronym is pronounced jif, with a soft g.)
Burg and Beck successfully registered the cinemagraphs.com domain in March 2011.2 In August 2012, a rival company, Toronto-based Flixel (“Magical tools for visual storytelling”) filed for U.S. trademark protection of Cinemagraph for computer software (in the words of the filing: “compositing the photographs or the video frames into a seamless loop of sequential frames in such a manner that motion in part of the subject between exposures is perceived as a repeating or continued motion, in contrast with the stillness of the rest of the image”).
The filing was published for opposition on February 3, 2013, and on December 9, 2014, the trademark registration was awarded to Flixel.3
Nevertheless, confusion persists about whether cinemagraph is a generic term. In recent posts, both AdWeek’s AdFreak blog and Flixel’s own blog used lower-case cinemagraph to describe the “first ever cinemagraph TV ad,” created by Flixel for Pizza Hut. Here’s a short video about the making of that ad:
1 “Descriptive” and “generic” are distinct categories in trademark law. Read more in my post on the five types of names.
2 Warning to entrepreneurs: Registering a URL does not give you legal protection for your company or product name.