6 Tips on Creating Motion Graphics & Outshining the Competition

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

by: Trenton Massey, Director of Photography / Editor, Ambient Skies Productions

Motion Graphics… not a very popular term amongst average people, but to a film and video nerd like myself, it's very common. Just about every video project you see nowadays incorporates them. The art form itself seems to never die and is constantly evolving into new trends. What's even more uncommon is an average person discussing the origins of motion graphics… a subject that is still debated to this day.  Don't worry, this whole blog is not about that… we'll provide some tips later on for you MG enthusiasts to bite onto. 

A Brief History of Motion Graphics
Some say that the art form was invented in the 1920's by the experimental filmmakers of the time, others go as far as to say that it was created in the 1800's. The term itself was first used by a company called Motion Graphics Inc. that was founded by an animator in 1960… I have no idea why that last part was important.

What I used to notice when I was a kid watching old school Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns such as "For a Few Dollars More" or "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" was the use of old school motion graphics using a combination of optical effects, photos, and illustrations. Those title sequences still hold up today as badass, and offer a good point that I'll bring up later on…

Over time, especially in the 1960's, ad agencies and other industries started to really notice the effectiveness as a visual aid to any form of a soundtrack/dialogue. This inevitably led to the creation of a digital medium to create and design motion graphics using digital elements for post production services.These early computer systems and their programs were expensive and ate up a lot of precious time. Not to mention they were only available to high-tier filmmakers and television stations.

It wasn't until the early to mid 1990's that Adobe After Effects emerged and started offering a solution that was accessible on a consumer level… but it was very niche at the time. I used to remember dreaming about being able to use after effects and thats when everything was tape and super basic. Bahaha… the good old days. (slapping my knee)

Other programs started to slowly trickle into the digital compositing scene and before you knew it, once again you had competition brewing. As a beginner back in the early 2000's when the radical shift in the digital video world began, it was tough to know which program worked the best. Adobe and Apple have definitely proved themselves as far as being some of the leaders in Digital Video Compositing over the years and AE holds just as much value and authority in the video compositing community as it always has… if I was going to suggest a program that is the most compatible with any workflow, it would be Adobe After Effects.

Which leads me to some…
Tips to Use When Creating Motion Graphics:

1. Start at the Drawing Board
Never start a project blindfolded. It's always recommended to conceptualize with a pencil and paper or whatever medium you wish before you dive into trying to manifest it digitally. Breakdown what you want to achieve and fully illustrate every aspect of it. It will save you time in front of the computer trying to figure it out in the program. Conceptualizing beforehand helps keep consistency throughout the project, assuring your color schemes and designs are all aligned and congruent.

2. Choose a proper program
Between all of the available options for creating motion graphics these days, one might be using a program that is too advanced for what they are trying to accomplish. Figure out what you want to achieve and use the program that will allow you to maneuver quickly and effectively. If you are doing some basic motion graphics, there's no need to use a 3D program like Cinema 4D or 3DS Max. Stick with more simplified compositing programs like After Effects that offer quicker solutions to getting a 3D effect.

3. Use 2D elements
Sometimes you see motion graphics that include 3D elements for advanced projects. It can be costly and time consuming to  accomplish this with an average budget. You are going to be better served compiling a library of 2D elements to create your motion graphics with. They save time in rendering and allow you to be more creative and flexible.

4. Don't compromise style and mood: Construct what you can't find
Sometimes after you've gone to the drawing board and conceptualized the style and mood of a particular motion graphic sequence, while organizing your elements, you find that you do not possess everything you need to accomplish what you envisioned, so you consider compromising… Do not compromise. That's how you set yourself apart. If you can not find what you need, create it yourself or hire someone to. Always stay true to your initial vision, never rely on or force happy accidents… let those happen naturally.

5. Be Creative: Try a mixture of practical elements and digital elements
Earlier I mentioned Sergio Leone and his wondrous old school motion graphic title sequences that proved a good point… well that point was to be creative and always think outside of the box, as cliche as it sounds, it's true. Nobody was mixing colors, text, photos with motion and animation quite like Sergio at the time. They possessed a certain boldness and stood out from anything else seen in motion picture and television. Now-a-days, some of the most creative motion graphic sequences I see are mixing practical elements with Digital elements which opens up a whole new realm of possibility for originality.

6. You can never collect enough textures, photos, and stock elements
It's true… as long as you are creating motion graphics as part of your career, you will never collect enough textures, photos, and stock elements. It's just not possible with the ever changing world that we live in. We constantly need to keep up and improve so as technology improves, so does the quality of our imagery and elements, replacing or adding to the elements already assembled. Always stay on the look out!

I see the future of motion graphics becoming more user friendly through pre-sets that are more intuitive and flexible. The demand will be there on the average consumer level and pretty soon you'll have little kids who are editing their own little videos complete with state of the art looking motion graphics… we already kind of do. So get ready to step your game up all of you VFX masterminds out there because there might be a day when you're competing with a 13 year old in his mom's basement… Oh wait a minute, that's already happening.

image courtesy of Google

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