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Media study: Motion graphics

  • University of Zagreb Faculty of Graphic Arts


The article examines the interplay of design, technology and interactivity shaping the production of motion graphics. It combines the perspectives on media technology and systems with an awareness of the creative process, the audience and the trends shaping content. Motion graphics is used as a means of expression for millions of people, a fact which, with all its advantages and limitations compared to static design, ensures it a place in recent history as no other means of creative expression or communication has had. Such a change in the relationship user/audience-producer/designer will surely result in another great change in the structure of digital space. Using the interpretative method of media analysis, the paper explores the genre, narrative and technological features of motion graphics.
Media Study: Motion Graphics
Niksa Babic, Jesenka Pibernik, Nikola Mrvac
Faculty of Graphic Arts, University of Zagreb, Getaldiceva 2, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
Abstract –The article examines the interplay of design, technology and interactivity shaping the production of
motion graphics. It combines the perspectives on media technology and systems with an awareness of the
creative process, the audience and the trends shaping content. Motion graphics is used as a means of expression
for millions of people, a fact which, with all its advantages and limitations compared to static design, ensures it
a place in recent history as no other means of creative expression or communication has had. Such a change in
the relationship user/audience–producer/designer will surely result in another great change in the structure of
digital space. Using the interpretative method of media analysis, the paper explores the genre, narrative and
technological features of motion graphics.
Keywords – Motion Graphics, Graphic Design, Digital Space
Technological advance with its accelerating
pace has brought changes in design because the
demand for graphic design on television, the
Internet, video games, interfaces for electronic
devices, and posters on cheap LCD screens and
interactive posters is more and more dominant [1].
All the enumerated applications represent a logical
evolution of static design in a manner like the
evolution of film after the invention of voice
recordings, TV after the invention of color TV or the
Internet after a dramatic increase in the number of
users of broadband connection. Regarding the
opportunities for using motion graphics in learning,
there is evidence that instructional animation is
superior to static pictures with respect to learning
outcome [2]. Growing demand by the public coupled
with a thirst for attention demanded by advertisers
will result in ever more attractive and sophisticated
Motion graphics nearly always contains
video, film, animation, photography, illustration,
typography and music. The dividing lines of these
forms are difficult to determine especially in
multimedia works, but we are free to say that a video
or film representing a mobile object, although it
represents the object in movement and represents it
graphically/visually, is not motion graphics unless it
is integrated with elements of design like letters,
shapes or lines, i.e. unless it uses elements of design
in order to communicate a message [3]. Animation
by itself is not motion graphics, but it becomes one
when combined with a significant use of lettering or
animated forms without a specific narrative element.
Therefore, it is necessary to determine the
parameters, which define motion graphics by genre
(distinct from similar forms of animation), explain
the role of interactive motion graphics as a new
medium, and the means and technology of its
One of its first motion graphics productions
was realized as an indirect experience, by a
combination of pictures (illustrations) and text. In
cognitive evaluation, the communication of an idea
is maybe the most important component which
motion graphics must fulfill; this is one of the
criteria, which conditioned its creation. Although it
is primarily the picture, which is the carrier of the
idea, while on-screen text ensures the understanding
of the transmitted content, typography also
participates in design as shown in Figs. 1. and 2. The
research has proven that in computer-based
multimedia learning environments, which offer a
potentially powerful venue for improving student
understanding, the modality principle states that it is
better to present words as auditory narration than as
visual on-screen text [4].
Today, interactive, computer-vision based
art installations are gaining popularity [5]. A good
example of such a digital space is the interactive
7x15 ft. poster that reflects the creative license
afforded by the new Adobe CS3 software package.
Using Flash Video Encoder and Exporter, the
system records the movements of passers-by by
camera and simultaneously, according to an in-built
software package, draws shapes and forms shown in
Fig. 3. Interactive media technologies have
transformed the mass media communication model,
to a model where an artifact communicates to each
viewer separately. This relationship is especially
prominent in 3D simulations and virtual experiences.
The process of virtual experience is frequently
intertwined with involvement, presence and
pleasure. Virtual experience is defined as an
assembly of psychological, sensory, emotional and
cognitive dimensions, which play a major role when
public directly and indirectly interact with the
artwork. Form, space, composition, color, texture
and interactivity are the formal qualities that elicit
reactions from public and are commonly named
3.1. Interactivity
Some design studios work with a variety of
clients to invent and realize advanced online
experiences, create experimental interactive spaces,
and bring non-traditional methods to traditional
media. The installation shown in Fig. 3. utilises an
infrared camera based motion detection to allow
people to chase, shoo, capture and taunt the motion
graphics projected on the wall. It uses software
developed in house to detect presence and motion - a
light-weight alternative to processor intensive
motion trackers. It is ideally suited to spontaneous
interactions and can be quickly configured to work
with different installation configurations and lighting
The idea for this interactive installation is
probably inspired by action painting, a painting style
that was widespread from the 1940s until the early
1960s. Action painting, sometimes called "gestural
abstraction", is a style of painting in which paint is
spontaneously dribbled, splashed or smeared onto
the canvas, rather than being carefully applied. The
resulting work often emphasizes the physical act of
painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished
work or concern of its artist. The term was coined by
the American critic Harold Rosenberg in 1952 and
signaled a major shift in the aesthetic perspective of
New York School painters and critics. According to
Rosenberg the canvas was "an arena in which to
act". Rosenberg's redefinition of art as an act rather
than an object, as a process rather than a product,
was influential, and laid the foundation for a number
of major art movements.
The Times Square installation, transforms
pedestrians into artists trying to get exercise they
wouldn't otherwise dream of, in the hopes of
triggering one of Adobe's motion sensors. Using
some fairly sophisticated programming and tracking
hardware, peoples' movements are recorded and
translated into an animated mixed-media mural.
From left to right, the mural evolves from simplicity
to complexity as more elements are introduced. The
display grants the closest passerby control of a slider
button on the bottom that manipulates what's
projected based on their walking speed and
direction, producing different effects in the
animation. It also reacts incidentally to the crowd
around it, which should make the glorious pedestrian
congestion in that area even more awesome. [6].
Fig. 1. Saul Bass, The Man With The Golden Arm,
Otto Preminger, MGM, 1955
Fig. 2. Julien Vallee, Thèse sur la Typographie,
Paris, France, 2006
Fig. 3. Interactive wall, Brand New School for
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco,
Interactive Development: The Studio for Interactive
Media, 2008
While definitely slick, the implementation
of the idea actually seems somewhat limited, and
doesn't make full use of its potential - we can
imagine a 20x20 ft. projection of Microsoft Surface
that people could just walk up and draw on. If it
recorded every stroke made over the display, it could
turn into a really interesting mass art project.
3.2. Production methods
The production methods of motion graphic
depend mostly on the time within it is created.
Majority of designers are habituated to creating one
single composition - a single and unique frame, and
most of them find it difficult to produce a motion
graphics where a single composition can be kept for
only a short period of time and where all the parts in
the end must function as a unified whole [7].
Just like in static design it does not help if only a
part of the composition performs its function, so in
motion graphics it does not help if only a part (or
parts) is the carrier of the function, but the entire
whole (just like the film) must function as a
semantic whole. This requirement can run into
problems due to the ever more sophisticated
demands of contemporary public, saturated and
bombarded by interactive communication from all
sides. Another problem which can be linked to the
transition of motion graphics is the nature of the
media which have their own restricting elements. So,
for instance, a designer habituated to working with
textured plates will encounter unique problems in
the transition to digital space of mobile devices and
digital communication. Namely, if he wishes to
attain and keep the attention of the users he must
ensure a rapid transmission of the message which
means employing vector animation which is a far
cry from the textured surfaces as offered for
example by bitmap graphics.
It is no rarity that illustrators, after
transiting to the field of motion graphics which is
computer-generated, retain basic illustrational
concepts and add hand-drawn elements to complete
individual frames.
3.3. Production tools
Drawing, illustration and cartoon
The production of motion graphics depends
mostly on the time within which it is created. No
doubt, Saul Bass would have created the graphics for
the Man with the golden arm on a computer and that
he would need only several hours for the job instead
of several days (the execution itself, not the
germination of idea). In the second example we can
certainly speak about motion graphics created by a
Such a process, the process of production of
motion graphics with dominant illustration is
represented by the production of hand-drawn figures
which are digitally transferred in one of the vector
programmes where their contours are further cleaned
up and vectored. After that, the drawings are
individually transferred into a program which
controls the time component of the composition and
every element, like the background trolley, fire is
being animated individually and inserted into a
larger whole. After the finalization of the animation
of figures and other visual elements, the camera is
animated too. In this way we get the effect of
moving through space [8].
Cartoon, as the predecessor of motion
graphics created by illustration, is exactly what is
described above; motion graphics with key frames
chosen and presented so that the viewer can freely
follow the sequence of action.
The logical sequence of using illustration as
an element in motion graphics was the use of
photography because at the elementary level there is
no difference between the two except in the quantity
of details. The interim period is seen in the use of
rotoscopy, a technique of illustrating over
photographic/film frames on the filmstrip itself.
Video-based motion graphics are by definition
photo-realistic, while computer-based graphics can
have different grades of realism. Highly realistic
pictures, like videos, might have a disadvantage of
seductive details, which are usually included in
highly realistic pictures, more so than less realistic
computer-based graphics.
There are a number of methods by which
motion graphics produced predominantly by
photography are created, starting with stop-motion
where motion graphics are generated by
photography in the literal sense, by shooting every
single movement (change) to the shooting by video
camera and using video as a photographic element.
We had to wait quite long to have this kind of
motion graphics, because it required a large memory
capacity and computing power.
Whether we are dealing with a line of
photographic shots or a digital video, the entry into
the computer remains the same, and after it is
entered into the software which processes this type
of material, it behaves like a film, video or
animation. The process requires a large volume of
working memory (frequently also the volume of
patience on the part of the operator) of the computer
because of the number of colors, resolution required
for professional use and high-quality sound.
In motion graphics typography becomes a
kinetic typography, an on-screen text which moves
or undergoes transformation in time and space in
some way. In most cases a word does not look like
the idea it implies. The word posses a sound (when
spoken) and physical existence (when seen). When
the word is read, a mental image is created.
Such typography brings with it elements of
communication (emotions and expressions), which
until now were the exclusive domain of film and
video (primarily concerned with image
reproduction). The capability of transmitting
emotion, complex character features and the
possibility of a better visual streamlining of attention
adds to the innately powerful communicational
features of the text. It is important in the context of
typographical sequences of moving type to possess
an understanding of how we interpret the words we
Today it is almost impossible to enumerate
all the tools, which designers can use to produce
motion graphics, because their only limitation is
their own creativity.
Physical tools necessary for motion
graphics design are a sufficiently powerful computer
equipped with multi core processors, a large volume
of working memory and graphics cards (often two)
also with increased working memory and a recent
chipset. For a more pleasant working environment it
is desirable to have several screens linked to one
computer. The entry of data is done by linking
peripheral devices like the digital video camera,
scanner or photographic camera to the computer and
transmission of data using one of the standards like
USB or Firewire.
Possibly the most important tool is the set
of software which has been developed exponentially
over the last decade. Today the production of 3D
figures and animations is done by Maya or 3D
Studio Max, additional effects by Adobe After
Effects or Apple Final Cut Pro, editing by Adobe
Premiere, the production of vector animations by
Adobe Flash, pre-production of bitmap graphics by
Adobe Photoshop. These are just the examples of the
most frequently used programmes. Their full number
is much greater and grows by the day, especially
with the strengthening of the open-source
The explosion of computing power enabled
a new kind of graphics, graphics which contain
picture and text, which change over time. The
biggest change is seen in typography because by
means of kinetic typography we alter the text with
the features of a film. For example it is now possible
to transmit the tone of voice, character features and
emotional states by means of transforming the
typographic features in time.
The advantages of motion graphics have
been recognized for several decades, but it still lacks
the rich history such as those of the typography and
film. However, this lack of history will not stop the
blending of this discipline into virtual and digital
space (it already occupies a segment of it), television
and film applications. The only factor which
currently prevents a full takeover of digital space is
the lack of a simple interface, which could enable
the (current) audience to create the content
according to their need. Once this is achieved, the
general public will be able to design its e-mail
messages by using typography that transmits
emotion in a much fuller and more efficient way
than the punctuation marks or emoticons used today.
Apart from having the possibility of
transmitting a large quantity of information, motion
graphics has provided something entirely new in the
digital space. It offers to the public a different type
of interaction than "ordinary", static graphics. In
some cases the audience itself determines the looks
and other features of motion graphics, thus
switching the focus of attention and changing the
means of communication.
[1] A. Kierzkowski, S. McQuade, R. Waitman,
Zeisser M.: Marketing to the Digital Consumer,
The McKinsey Quaterly, No. 3, 1996, pp. 4-21
[2] T. N. Höffler, D. Leutner, Instructional
Animation Versus Static Pictures: A Meta-
Analysis, Learning and Instruction, Vol. 17,
No. 6, December 2007, pp. 722-738
[3] M. Woolman, Motion Design: Moving Graphics
for Television, Music, Video, Cinema and
Digital Interfaces, RotoVision, Hove, 2004
[4] R. E. Mayer, R. Moreno, Aids to computer-
based multimedia learning, Learning and
Instruction, Vol. 12, No. 1, February 2002, pp.
[5] F. Solina at all,: “15 seconds of fame —
an interactive, computer-vision based art
installation”, Seventh International Conference
on Control, Automation, Robotics and Vision,
Singapore, 2002
[6] Brand New School, Interactive wall for Goodby,
Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco
[7] J. L. Lee, J. Forlizzi , S. E. Hudson, "The Kinetic
Typography Engine: An Extensible System for
Animating Expressive Text", Proceedings of the
15th annual ACM symposium on User interface
software and technology, Paris, France, 2002
[8] D. Greene, How Did They Do That? Motion
Graphics, Gloucester, MA: Rockport, 2003
... Literature on the principles and theories of motion graphics, however, is scarcely available, with only a few referenced books on the matter (e.g., Finke et al. 2012;Landa 2016), a few books on the design and practice of motion graphics (e.g., Krasner 2013;Crook and Beare 2015;Shaw 2016), a few academic papers (e.g., Lasseter 1987;Babic et al. 2008;Shir and Asadollahi 2014;Hsueh et al. 2016) and some recent student theses (e.g., Musselman 2013). Moreover, these principles come mostly from practical knowledge, as very little empirical research has been conducted on how motion graphics should be designed and presented to maximize understanding, retention, impact, and behavior change, as well as targeted to specific audiences. ...
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"15 seconds of fame" is an interactive art installation, which elevates the face of a randomly selected gallery visitor for 15 seconds into a "work of art". The installation was inspired by Andy Warhol's statement that "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes" as well as by the pop-art style of his works. The installation consists of a computer with a flat-panel monitor, a digital camera and a proprietary software that can detect human faces in images and graphically transform them. In this paper we present the technical background of the installation, in particular, how computer vision techniques were applied in this art installation.
A meta-analysis of 26 primary studies, yielding 76 pair-wise comparisons of dynamic and static visualizations, reveals a medium-sized overall advantage of instructional animations over static pictures. The mean weighted effect size on learning outcome is d=0.37 (95% CI 0.25–0.49). Moderator analyses indicate even more substantial effect sizes when the animation is representational rather than decorational (d=0.40, 95% CI 0.26–0.53), when the animation is highly realistic, e.g., video-based (d=0.76, 95% CI 0.39–1.13), and/or when procedural-motor knowledge is to be acquired (d=1.06, 95% CI 0.72–1.40). The results are in line with contemporary theories of cognitive load and multimedia learning, and they have practical implications for instructional design.
Computer-based multimedia learning environments — consisting of pictures (such as animation) and words (such as narration) — offer a potentially powerful venue for improving student understanding. How can we use words and pictures to help people understand how scientific systems work, such as how a lightning storm develops, how the human respiratory system operates, or how a bicycle tire pump works? This paper presents a cognitive theory of multimedia learning which draws on dual coding theory, cognitive load theory, and constructivist learning theory. Based on the theory, principles of instructional design for fostering multimedia learning are derived and tested. The multiple representation principle states that it is better to present an explanation in words and pictures than solely in words. The contiguity principle is that it is better to present corresponding words and pictures simultaneously rather than separately when giving a multimedia explanation. The coherence principle is that multimedia explanations are better understood when they include few rather than many extraneous words and sounds. The modality principle is that it is better to present words as auditory narration than as visual on-screen text. The redundancy principle is that it is better to present animation and narration than to present animation, narration, and on-screen text. By beginning with a cognitive theory of how learners process multimedia information, we have been able to conduct focused research that yields some preliminary principles of instructional design for multimedia messages.
Conference Paper
Kinetic typography --- text that uses movement or other temporal change --- has recently emerged as a new form of communication. As we hope to illustrate in this paper, kinetic typography can be seen as bringing some of the expressive power of film --- such as its ability to convey emotion, portray compelling characters, and visually direct attention --- to the strong communicative properties of text. Although kinetic typography offers substantial promise for expressive communications, it has not been widely exploited outside a few limited application areas (most notably in TV advertising). One of the reasons for this has been the lack of tools directly supporting it, and the accompanying difficulty in creating dynamic text. This paper presents a first step in remedying this situation --- an extensible and robust system for animating text in a wide variety of forms. By supporting an appropriate set of carefully factored abstractions, this engine provides a relatively small set of components that can be plugged together to create a wide range of different expressions. It provides new techniques for automating effects used in traditional cartoon animation, and provides specific support for typographic manipulations.
Motion Design: Moving Graphics for Television, Music, Video, Cinema and Digital Interfaces
  • M Woolman
M. Woolman, Motion Design: Moving Graphics for Television, Music, Video, Cinema and Digital Interfaces, RotoVision, Hove, 2004
How Did They Do That? Motion Graphics
  • D Greene
D. Greene, How Did They Do That? Motion Graphics, Gloucester, MA: Rockport, 2003
  • A Kierzkowski
  • S Mcquade
  • R Waitman
  • M Zeisser
A. Kierzkowski, S. McQuade, R. Waitman, Zeisser M.: Marketing to the Digital Consumer, The McKinsey Quaterly, No. 3, 1996, pp. 4-21