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Ywwak

I'm writing a thesis about motion graphics, some input would be appreciated!

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Hey all! I've been a long time reader of this great community had I've learned a lot throughout my years.

 

I'm currently in the middle of writing a thesis and preparing for my final project.
My thesis is about Motion Graphics as a medium and what drives it forward.

 

Here's a snippet about the idea that I'm going for.

"Motion Graphics as medium has grown or gone forward, mostly thanks to new technology - be it faster computers that can handle more complicated compositions, newer versions of software, or plugins and scripts that help create new effects that we have not seen before. Though, once something has been made/explained/used in a certain way, we'll start seeing it everywhere in one form or another. Eventually arriving to present day where we can know everything that is about to happen in a video from its thumbnail. For an example, the community saw a lot of more "experimental and new" things in 2010 & 11 - than we see today. How or where can motion graphics grow when the stream of new technology is slowing down?"

Keeping that in mind, here are some questions that I would like to ask.

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What are your views on the current state of Motion Graphics? (What are some factors that made it the way that it is today and why? Is it in a good state? Is there enough variety?)

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Do designers care about the content that they're animating? Or is it mosltly about getting the smoothest and the most eye popping animation possible? (Should we as designers think about things that are a bit more meaningful and go past motion blur and reflections? Is it even our place? Or is this whole medium only about animating the smoothest scene? Why?)

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When comparing motion graphics to printed matter, motion graphics is largely dominated by commercial work. Rarely we see something made for non profit, for cultural enhancement, or even thought provoking. The small amount of work that does stand out and carries some kind of a message still gives the feel that the content wasn't as important than, for an extremely simple example, making a really well animated overly complex chart of numbers, or getting from one scene to another through an overly animated reveal. What are your views on this?

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What would make designers start doing more truly experimental work and step out of the vector based easy eased metaphorical box?

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Throughout the years that I've been in the Motion Graphics scene, I've come to an understanding that there's a very strict notion of what is wrong and what is right. A very simple example - flat speed is wrong and thus bad, eased speed is right and thus good. But if we take other mediums - like print or music - then the rules are much more relaxed and can be bent according to need.

Why are Motion Graphics so strict?

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I think the tutorial community is largely responsible for what we see being produced today. What are some ways the tutorial community would have to change in order to inspire designers to learn instead to copy?

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Any last thoughts on the subject of the future of Motion Graphics?

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If anyone does take the time to answer these then It would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Edited by Ywwak

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What are your views on the current state of Motion Graphics?


I think things are great, though pay is not. Easier access to the technology and software required means that there are a lot of newcomers willing to underbid on stuff, which is great when it's paired with clients who care more about their budget than quality. That said, easier access to technology also means you have a lot of people bringing new ideas to the table. In short: the market is oversaturated, but people are cranking out interesting and original work. So...I guess the state is pretty good?


Do designers care about the content that they're animating? Or is it mosltly about getting the smoothest and the most eye popping animation possible?


I don't think designers identify with every cause and client, but I hope people are taking pride in their work. There's definitely been stuff that I've buried the moment I finished working on it, but I like taking ownership over the projects I work on. Even if I'm not thrilled about the content, I'd still like to be proud of the execution.


When comparing motion graphics to printed matter, motion graphics is largely dominated by commercial work. Rarely we see something made for non profit, for cultural enhancement, or even thought provoking. The small amount of work that does stand out and carries some kind of a message still gives the feel that the content wasn't as important than, for an extremely simple example, making a really well animated overly complex chart of numbers, or getting from one scene to another through an overly animated reveal. What are your views on this?


I disagree completely. There are many, many people out there doing passion projects and working on stuff they find both important and meaningful. There's a lot of motion-masturbation out there, but that doesn't mean people aren't doing meaningful work. There's a ton of it out there.


What would make designers start doing more truly experimental work and step out of the vector based easy eased metaphorical box?


Time, money, and clients willing to bring you on as a collaborator and not just a "vendor".


Throughout the years that I've been in the Motion Graphics scene, I've come to an understanding that there's a very strict notion of what is wrong and what is right. A very simple example - flat speed is wrong and thus bad, eased speed is right and thus good. But if we take other mediums - like print or music - then the rules are much more relaxed and can be bent according to need. Why are Motion Graphics so strict?


In short, science. We find certain things pleasing, other things annoying or jarring. If you're really, really good, you can use that to fuck with expectations and do some really cool stuff--but if you aren't, and you don't quite know what effect your design and animation is going to have on the viewer, you end up with something that your brain just hates. The rules in motion design are just as relaxed as print or music. Music's a great example, really: the notes you play have to make mathematical sense in the context of the notes around them, or your brain's going to hate it. If a piano is out of tune, it's maddening. But there are great composers who can use that to their advantage.


I think the tutorial community is largely responsible for what we see being produced today. What are some ways the tutorial community would have to change in order to inspire designers to learn instead to copy?


That's a really false dilemma. Obviously there are opinions about this abound, but I don't think there's anything wrong with learning through mimicry. Really, that's how we learn absolutely everything. I think it's important, though, that people understand how they're copying, and not just the blind steps. Instead of "click this, then click this, then click this", it needs to be "click this, which will do this." But most popular tutorials are good at that.

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Not to be a dick but I really don't think there any answers to such broad general questions.

 

Like for instance some motion designers don't give a shit about what they are animating, some are insanely passionate and then there are a million shades of grey in between.

 

There are strict rules in motion graphics, what really? Says who? There is the same body of received wisdom that is a starting point just like in any artistic discipline. I mean it's like saying there's lot's of rules in music or ballet, there's a tradition (albeit a brief one in motion graphics) that you can use as a springboard, or rebel against or ignore.

 

Sure technology is one of the things that drives motion graphics forward but that's true in any field, medicine, engineering, farming.... The interesting part is the bit that comes after. If you look on motionographer there is plenty of stop motion, cel animation etc . Right in there with all the fluid sims and other "high tech stuff".

 

I also think part of it is just semantics, at the end of the day motion graphics is just a style of animation. When I do more artistic stuff it gets called an animated short, when I do commercial work it gets called motion graphics. It's all the same thing to me but I definitely think that's the reason motion graphics gets seen as more slick and soulless just because of the way people classify things.

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What would make designers start doing more truly experimental work and step out of the vector based easy eased metaphorical box?

 

I'm assuming you're talking about that flat, abstract shape layer stuff that's everywhere at the moment. That's just the style that's hot right now, like kinetic typography or that abstract randomized poly 3D hoo-haa before it or symmetrical/kaleidoscopic crests with vector paint drips and 3D arrows before that. It'll go the way of the deer head soon enough and be replaced by some other shit that gets tutorialized to death and played out within three months but won't die for another year or two. Just the way it goes. But like Aaron said, a lot of that is client-driven. And depends on the designer. Some people will probably never break out of that.

 

R

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The current state is good in the sense that the limit is always being pushed forward, though in really small steps. We see great work and so on, but is it good for the people that are in it? Having 12+ hour work days, the popular notion of you having to be the best (not that its a bad thing, just extremely taxing on the person) having to always find motivation in order to stay competetive with younger and more eager animators. It seems that the industry is completely fine with its people burning out when they reach 30 according to the motion graphics census that took place a couple of years ago.

 

Though, I guess the thing that is bothering me the most is that motion graphics is so client driven, that is the norm. And most of us are just workers and not co-thinkers on the projects.

 

I'm also a graphic designer, and the way work is being done in that field, is completely different. I'm not just a guy who knows InDesign or illustrator, but a collaborator who can input and change the outcome of the project.

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I think before you come up with some of these premisses you really have to define what motion graphics actually is, which is really not such a simple matter. Just ask anyone in the industry how annoying it is to explain to the uninitiated exactly what it is that we do.

 

From what I gather, you seem to be limiting the industry to greyscale gorilla / Andrew Kramer / JR Canest / infographics categories of animations. While these are definitely popular styles, they're by no means the limits of the definition. By limiting your view of motion graphics to just a handful of styles, of course your going to think the industry is stagnant, but this is an issue of semantics, not reality.

 

What is motion graphics then? I think the easiest way to figure out what it is, is to compare it to all of those other industries that we skirt the edges of, and look for the differences.

 

What separates motion graphics from classical animation for example? Not much, especially with the growing popularity of smooth, hand drawn effects animations from studios like buck.

What separates us from a graphic designer? Well, this one at least is easy enough, we work with a time based medium. I guess we don't need to know a few technical skills like dealing with DPI, paper stocks, or using pantone, but the same core skills are at play.

What separates us from a VFX artist? I'd say in most cases nothing more than level of specialization to a specific task/piece of software.

What separates us from a film maker? Again, not much at all. Most self proclaimed "motion graphics" designers I know are relatively well skilled with a camera, composing a shot and telling a story.

 

Motion graphics is just a catchall term to describe people who don't fit the conventional titles of those 4 other already established fields (and I'm sure some people would argue many more as well) but share a hybrid skill-set with them.

We come up with concepts, we design style frames, we design interfaces, we animate with keyframes, we animate traditionally, we program animations, we composite, we do 3D, we shoot video, we edit video, we work in small teams and we work in large teams. Some of us do all of those things, most of us specialize in some and neglect others.

 

All of that said, the term is so vague that it's really impossible to criticize in the way that you're attempting to do. How can you criticize it for being commercial, when you seem to be excluding anything non-comercial from your definition? How can you call it uncaring when you seem to be ignoring all of the pieces produced for charities? (there are lots, hell, just look through the first few pages of motionographer and you'll find some) How can you call it lacking in creativity and not thought provoking when there are hundreds of thousands of people on vimeo creating beautiful short films and animations, not for profit.

 

If anything, I'd argue the antithesis to your thesis. We are living in a creative renaissance, and motion graphics is a huge part of it.

Edited by Spence

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I've been a lurker here for a while and recently signed up. I'm probably older than many of you (guessing the main demographic here is 24-32) and I come from a different part of the industry... so my perspective is a little different. I am experienced with the tech (I've used Apple and Adobe products for a long time including Premiere and AE) and I understand some of the business problems people face (spec work, commoditized product, etc). But at the same time motion graphics is something that's relatively new to me... maybe even more interesting (than other visual mediums). I have spent a lot of time the last year or two learning and observing as much as I can in places like this, and absorbing the techniques used in many reels and trailers. So take my opinion FWIW – sort of a “new guy” and “old hand” at the same time.

 

 

My first impression is that, for someone writing a thesis (i.e. someone looking to attain a M.A. or Ph.D. by submitting an analysis of a relevant topic in your field), you have a somewhat undefined theory. By that I mean the ideas you're asking about and positing are vague, only loosely connected, and based on assumptions in some cases. If your goal is to provide a vehicle from which your professor and others can really learn something about this topic you've studied, IMHO you should stop, sit down with your notes, and give a couple day's thought and brainstorming (with no distraction) to what you're trying to accomplish and why.

 

What is the overarching idea that you have come to believe as you observe this industry and the artists within it, why is that idea important looking toward, and how are you going to convince your professor(s) of the validity of that idea? You mention growth; growth can mean several things. Are you going to focus on the economics of the industry and what growth and "health" means in that context? Are you going to focus on the artistic growth (perhaps "evolution" is a better word) of the medium? While these two things could arguably be interconnected, they can also stand on their own as topics. I'd suggest narrowing your focus a bit more and really diving deep into that specific topic.

 

 

The Medium and The Market

I think like all digital mediums there is a general trend towards commoditization. While much of the software we use is both more complex and substantially more expensive than what we see in mediums like illustration or photography, the web -as a means of learning and distributing digital content- makes this trend somewhat unavoidable. Some examples include the availability of relatively cheap stock templates for AE and Motion, kids who will do spec work for nothing so they can get something on their reel, etc.

 

Commoditization of content reduces revenues across the board without an equivalent reduction in cost to make and market the content. But this trend is not as pervasive or as damaging (yet -- hard to say what will happen next) as what we see in the world of photography and stock video. So right here you have a topic that's narrow enough to explore if you want to (i.e. the economic forces shaping the motion graphics industry, what the trends point to, and whether that's a good or bad thing for specific groups of people). This would be a thesis more about data and trends, than art.

 

To take a different industry example, the photography industry has been completely overrun by the advent of cheap and rapidly improving technology (hardware, software and distribution), to the point that a large percentage of people who previously used the traditional photography business model (show your work, get hired, charge a day rate, shoot, print and deliver), are out of business or are going out of business. The only photographers whose jobs are "safe" are portrait shooters (wedding, family, corporate), experienced travel and assignment photographers, and a very few landscape photographers (who are masters at marketing as much as photographing).

 

Even photojournalists for newspapers are getting laid off left and right because editors think that "writers with iPhones" are an adequate substitute. To borrow a movie quote, this is pretty much "full retard" when you think about it, but also "the way it is". It's just far too easy now for even very modestly trained people, to create really high quality photos for whatever they need. Whether that will happen with motion graphics and animated content remains to be seen, but I don't think that it will. Not to the same degree.

 

 

The Process

Creating good 2.5D or 3D animation from scratch, is a substantially more complicated task, requiring more specialized knowledge, and a greater ability to track multiple variables and visual relationships over time, to create something useful. It's almost as analytical as it is creative IMHO. Others may not agree. I don't have any scientific proof but I suspect the number of people who can afford the required apps is much smaller for a start (C4D is well over $3000, over $4000 if you start adding must-have plugins -- not a very common thing and not something your average "digital hobbyist" will invest in as they do with all types of photography and "paint software"). Then of those people, how many can rapidly master the software so that they can start producing real content within a few months? Probably an order of magnitude smaller than the number of people in the world who can get a little training and some gear, and start making great still images.

 

As an art form and the natural barriers to that... I think it's somewhat unique in that to be good at it, you need to not only master the basic understanding of visual perception and motion design principles (color usage, directionality and speed usage, etc etc) but also you need to be analytical enough to master the software, which often puts hundreds of controls and variables in front of you at one time.

 

 

The Quality of the Art

I agree with what the others said: you can't generalize. There are many people doing amazingly creative and original work, and there are people copying other people, making "neat effects" to show to people. Their reasons for doing this (or not doing something you might perceive as "valuable") are just as varied. To get those answers the only way is to talk to artists... dozens of them. Get inside their head a little bit. There won't be any shortcut to finding those artistic trends and explaining them IMO, so be prepared for some footwork. :)

 

My personal view is that on some level, you have to start out making those shiny, "rigid body collision marbles" and the Particular fireworks, and the fake clouds and all that stuff... in order to go beyond, to the next level and start making things that are quite original and fun to look at over and over again. I think what happens is many people get "stuck" in the tutorial copying phase and can't apply those skills to larger lessons or projects. That goes back to the complexity I talked about earlier.

 

Lots of people can make swirly particles that frame a piece of text, or animated splines that make "digital spirographs" (I may have just given away my age!) and stuff that make for cool demos. Relatively few people can create something truly original or compelling with those technologies and others. Hope this helps some.

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Defining "Motion Graphics" ended up requiring more thought, attention and research then I expected when I attempted it. One could simply say “Graphics in Motion” and be done with it, but that wasn’t particularly satisfactory. Here’s what I wrote.


Before we begin producing Motion Graphics, it can be useful to define it. Defining the discipline proves maddeningly difficult: even top practitioners and artists produce in wildly different mediums, disciplines, and intents. Further muddying the waters can be that the various principles and techniques that collectively make up “Motion Graphics” can be applied to other design disciplines and larger projects.


Simply, motion graphics takes the approach of a graphic design practice and applies it to time-based media. Let’s further build on this definition with more concrete language.


First: time-based media is a term that describes any data that changes meaningfully with respect to time. Sometimes this can be known as streaming media, because of the streaming, forward moving nature of time. In our case, the data that is changing is the designed content. Music, animation, and movies are all examples of time-based media. Unlike other types of design (…for example a poster), in which the duration of engagement is open-ended, time-based media fixes the duration of engagement of the audience explicitly. This duration must be considered and intentionally designed by the motion graphics content creator.


Adding to time-based media, we attach the term pictorial. This term simply refers to the fact that motion graphics is a sequential series of pictures. Additionally, pictorial refers to the intent and usage of any photographic work. This helps differentiate the design usages of photography and cinematography from cinema. Essentially, images are treated as source footage to help communicate an idea, as opposed to “straight” photography.


Building upon that, we add communicative to our definition. This helps differentiate motion graphics, which for all practical purposes is computer animation in contemporary production, from the other concerns and disciplines of computer animation. Feature length and large budget animated films have a distinctly cinematic form with the telling of a story being of paramount importance. Motion graphics, like graphic design, focuses on visual communication and presentation.


String them together, and we arrive at our definition: communicative pictorial time-based media. A bit of a mouthful, but it helps the practitioner focus on what to study. While the disciplines and techniques of various other media and artistic disciplines will be helpful to motion graphics studies, the successful motion designer always has a focus on communication and adopts a design-centered approach and process.

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