Transparent Video: 5 Ways to Add Transparency to Videos

What is a Transparent Video?

A transparent video is a video object with background transparency. The object has colored pixels, while the rest of the video pixels are either colorless or transparent. It is different from traditional video elements that display all video components in colored pixels.

Transparent video is a video editing effect, which you can use to stack objects and create dynamic effects on websites. It enables you to create engaging and fun experiences for your audience.

There are various ways to create transparent videos, depending on your use case and objectives. GIFs are ranked amongst the oldest yet popular methods, while relatively recent techniques include WebM or HEVC with alpha channels.

In this article:

Use Cases of Transparent Video

You can use transparent videos to create dynamic effects on your website. Since the video’s background is invisible, you can stack videos to create interesting visuals that grab your visitors’ attention. You can also customize the video’s behavior, colors, and design to suit your needs.

Transparent videos let you create fun experiences for active user engagement. There are various applications of this experience, which benefit many industries. Here are several examples:

  • Use JavaScript to pause or play based on specific user interactions.
  • Create a transparent-display ad that captures users’ attention.
  • Direct users to navigate to other product pages and interact with demos.
  • Require students to perform tasks on the website before proceeding with course materials.

5 Ways to Implement Transparent Video

1. GIF

The Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is a bitmap format introduced more than 30 years ago, in 1987. It lets you stack images and animate them, working similarly to a flipbook. While widely popular, GIF is outdated, has a limited color space, and grows in size when used for complex videos. It works for small and simple animated graphics but cannot sustain long, colorful video footage.

2. APNG

The Animated Portable Network Graphics (APNG) file format extends the PNG format, introducing 24-bit images and 8-bit transparency. It holds sequences of animated PNGs, working similarly to GIFs. An APNG file stores the initial frame as a regular PNG image, ensuring PNGs are backward compatible with applications supporting PNG files.

3. Loop Through PNGs

This technique involves looping multiple PNGs together with JavaScript to imitate video behavior. However, animating PNG requires using extensive system resources and relatively large data throughput, because you need to set up each video frame as a separate PNG image.

4. WebM With Alpha Transparency

WebM is a free video format introduced in 2010 by Google. It provides high-quality, small file sizes optimized for the small processors found in mobile devices. WebM started supporting alpha transparency channels in 2013. It works in various browsers, including Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Edge. It offers limited support that does not include transparency for Safari on macOS Big Sur (2020) and later versions.

5. HEVC With Alpha

High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is a video compression standard, also known as MPEG-H Part 2 or H.265. It has evolved from the DVD format H.262, offering high quality for small file sizes, with HEVC designed to compress for mobile devices. In 2019, Apple introduced Alpha transparency for HEVC, offering support for Safari on iOS and macOS, as well as the Android browser.

How to Test Alpha Channels (Transparency) in Videos

Here are a few ways to check the transparency of existing videos.

Chrome Developer Tools

You can check the transparency of a WebM file using the Chrome app on Mac or Windows computers. You do this by dragging the file into Chrome. However, the background will show as black by default. Here’s how to fix this:

  1. Right-click on the video and choose Inspect to open Developer tools
  2. Go to the Elements tab, and choose the Styles tab
  3. Go to element.style and write: background:red
  4. If the video is transparent, you should see a red color underneath your content

Safari Developer Tools

You can test videos in Safari using the same method explained above for Chrome. The main difference is that you need to enable Developer Tools. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Go to Preferences, and choose Advanced
  2. Go to the menu bar and choose Show Develop
  3. Follow the same steps explained above for Chrome

iMovie

iMovie is a free software typically installed by default on Mac. You can also download it on the Mac App Store here. You can test your alpha channel in iMovie by following these steps:

  1. Go to the top left area and switch to the Backgrounds tab
  2. Choose a background, drag it to the timeline area, and then drag your video in
  3. You should be able to see the background behind your video

 

Automate Transparent Video with AI and Cloudinary

Cloudinary is a cloud-based image and video management platform that lets you automatically add a background to a video, even if it does not have a transparent channel! We do it by analyzing each frame of the video with AI algorithms.

All you need to do is upload a video to Cloudinary and use the make_transparent video transformation.

For example, if you want to deliver a video tutorial or product demo with a talking head overlaid on an engaging background. There is no need for a green-screen studio. Just find any solid colored wall or hang a sheet in a color that’s not too similar to the speaker’s face color or clothing, and then use make_transparent to remove the video background.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Sign up for a free Cloudinary plan
  2. Upload your video. It should look something like this:
  1. Here is how to replace the background with an image of an elephant, for a quick trip to Africa.
  1. Here is how to overlay the speaker on a background image of the galaxy, making him a bit smaller (40% of the base video width), and moving the transparent video overlay to the bottom right of the base video:
  1. You can even combine two effects – add a fade-out effect to the last two seconds of the overlay video:

If you need video transparency, Cloudinary has got you covered. Learn more about these and other cool video effects provided by Cloudinary, and make sure to sign up for a free plan today.