Comparing Cinemagraphs vs. Boomerangs

We sometimes hear people describe cinemagraphs as Boomerangs – the medium and app created by Instagram. It’s true: cinemagraphs and Boomerangs share a few common characteristics, and we can see how the two can be confused with one another. Both cinemagraphs and Boomerangs:

  • Contain a looping motion
  • Are considered to be short-form video content
  • Can auto-loop and auto-play
  • Can be created on mobile devices
  • Are often used on social media, including your Facebook Profile Video

But…there are a few key differences. Those differences explain why cinemagraphs and Boomerangs are created and used in ways unique to each medium. Let’s compare cinemagraphs vs. Boomerangs to see why that’s the case.

Cinemagraphs vs. Boomerangs

cinemagraph is a hybrid of photography and video. Starting as video footage shot on a tripod, a cinemagraph is framed like a photo, and then brought to life with a subtle hint of motion. When editing with Flixel Cinemagraph Pro for iOS, the motion is revealed through masking, and looped to appear like a living photo, frozen in time. You can either loop it from start to finish over and over again (a repeat loop) or from start to finish, then finish to start (a bounce loop).

Boomerang is a series of photos taken within one second, then sewn together in a video format similar to a GIF. Boomerangs are typically shot by hand, and have a lower frame rate than most cinemagraphs because they are created out of a series of images. The entire video then loops from start to finish, and finish to start. Sound familiar?

Bounce Loops in Cinemagraphs vs. Boomerangs

The bounce loop behaviour often leads viewers to believe that cinemagraphs and Boomerangs are very similar. In practice, the motion that is bouncing depends on the medium itself, and helps distinguish one from the other.

This is a cinemagraph that incorporates a bouncing loop in the background and the subjects frozen in the foreground.

When looking at cinemagraphs, only some elements from the video footage that you shoot will move continuously, not the entire scene. You also control the length of your motion, and how the motion will loop in the editing process. Since cinemagraphs need to be shot using a tripod, you can carefully think and execute what motion will bounce back and forth, while the rest of your shot is completely still. They’re easy to create on-the-go and share to social media with Flixel Cinemagraph Pro for iOS. The result is clean, sophisticated and mesmerizing because your eye is drawn to one particular element of the frame. Want to learn how to create your own cinemagraph, and even put it as your Facebook Profile Video? Find out here. 

This is an example of a Boomerang created with handheld footage. Everything, including the subject, the vehicles and the frame, bounce back and forth.

In a Boomerang, everything that moves, bounces. As you can see in the above example, both of our subjects, along with the vehicles and the frame itself move. Most Boomerangs are created handheld, on-the-go and must be shot in-app. As a result, you not only see your subject’s movement bouncing back and forth, but you also tend to see the shakiness and movement of your phone bounce. Boomerangs are a fun way to capture and share a spontaneous moment and express your personality, but are less refined in production and output.

When to Use Cinemagraphs vs. Boomerangs

Boomerangs and cinemagraphs are engaging storytelling mediums. Both Boomerangs and cinemagraphs can be created right on your mobile device and shared instantly on social media. In fact, both Boomerang and Flixel Cinemagraph Pro for iOS are featured apps in Facebook’s Profile Expression Kit, and can be used to share an interactive look into your life. They just communicate two different stories.

A Boomerang is a series of moments stitched together; they’re easy-to-consume, snackable content. They’re a fun and easy way to capture and share a spontaneous moment. As Instagram puts it, Boomerang is a “video app that lets you turn everyday moments into something fun and unexpected.”

A cinemagraph allows you to freeze a moment in time that can live infinitely with subtle motion; a true living photo that challenges your audience and you as a storyteller. Due to their mesmerizing effect on the viewer, the number one use case of cinemagraphs has been for brand advertisement. See how cinemagraphs are changing the face of advertising.

Though we use cinemagraphs in all aspects of our marketing strategy, we also use Boomerangs when we want to share a quick, fun piece of content. Both mediums have their strengths, and can help elevate your brand marketing.

Can A Boomerang be Turned into a Cinemagraph?

Theoretically, yes.

You must use a tripod to create a cinemagraph. You also need to carefully consider the motion component you want to bring to life, and show a contrast between the video and still photo elements. Don’t forget that Boomerangs naturally contain a bounce loop, so you’ll have to consider how that plays into your cinemagraph looping.

Any attempt at turning a Boomerang into a cinemagraph must be mindful of the above criteria so that when you bring the Boomerang into Flixel Cinemagraph Pro for iOS, it’s rooted in perfectly still footage with a component that can be masked to reveal the motion.

So practically, can a Boomerang be turned into a Cinemagraph? Let’s try it out.

Turning a Boomerang into a Cinemagraph

We headed outside of our office, and captured a classic jumping Boomerang using a Joby mobile tripod. As you can see, the frame of the Boomerang doesn’t shake like a handheld Boomerang. We have clear separation between our subjects, and separation between the movement in the foreground and background. The photos stitched together in this Boomerang resulted in a movement that uses the bounce looping well.

When we brought the Boomerang into Cinemagraph Pro, we were able to select a still frame of our subject to the left, and reveal the motion of the subject to the right that bounces perfectly, to create a cinemagraph out of this particular Boomerang. So, our answer: yes, it is possible to transform a Boomerang into a cinemagraph – but in most cases we do not recommend it.

There are many conditions that have to be in place in order to transform a Boomerang into a cinemagraph. Not every movement captured in a Boomerang can work for a cinemagraph. This is because the best cinemagraphs require movements that appear fluid, continuous and infinite. While two subjects moving are easier to isolate for a cinemagraph, you won’t achieve the same continuity with, for example, liquids in motion.

Successful cinemagraphs are also always based in a minimum of high definition video footage. Boomerangs are a series of photographs stitched together and must be shot in-app. You’ll achieve the best results if you shoot actual still video on a tripod. You will also have more flexibility with the video quality you can use for your stunning cinemagraph.


Now that you’ve learned about cinemagraphs vs. Boomerangs, check out how cinemagraphs compare to Apple Live Photos and GIFs.

(Marketing Specialist at Flixel)

Mehek crafts words, content, events and more for Flixel. She firmly believes that life is not life without a little spice, which is why she adds Sriracha to everything.


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