There are different ways to make animated gifs, you can extract frames from a video, put each frame on a different layer in photoshop, save for web making sure you clicked “animation” and selected gif as output. You can make an animation in flash and output it as an animated gif. ( a lot of animation progs allow you to output as a gif) you can google for a free gif animation program, I think there are a couple out there, you usually drop a sequence of stills in and it outputs it as an animated gif. Going back to photoshop, you can start with one still image, copy this to a new layer, make a change to it (maybe use warp tool or select something and move it’s position) copy this to another layer and make another change….etc, this is how I did my “Me playing guitar” profile gif ( save for web as animated gif as above) By being creative you can find ways of doing impressive animated gifs, for instance you might have a 3d animaton program that does not output as animated gif, but you can always output as avi and import this to flash and output as a gif from there, or import frames from the avi into photoshop onto different layers and save for web as animated gif. I think that the fantastic freeware graphics prog “Gimp” allows you to make animated gifs ( there is a version called Gimpshop as well which is intended for those who are used to working in photoshop). Xara XS is good too.
If you really want to see a load of animated gifs- check out my photo album on my myspace, I’ve got a load of animations on there that I use for my profile pics :
I’ll be glad to help if you have any questions.