Video Essentials

What Is Motion Design and How Can You Use It? Video 101

The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

Motion design is everywhere! You can see it in TV shows, movie credits, and of course right here on Vimeo. But what is motion design? How do you define motion design? Well read on my friends, as we jump into this new world…

In basic terms, the art of motion design is taking graphic design and putting it into motion. Graphic design on its own takes imagery and uses it to convey a message, but adding motion can help emphasize that message with energy and complexity. On top of that, motion design can not only convey a message, but it can also be the message. Confused? Not for long! Here at Vimeo, we feel you just can’t beat video when it comes to explaining tricky concepts, so let’s turn to a video by the Motion Plus Design Center to kick things off.

By now you may be asking yourself, “But what about animated films, hand-drawn or computer animated?” To be honest, the line between animation and motion design has always been blurry. Traditional animation generally creates characters who tell the story and express themselves. Motion design tends to use graphics to move the plot along instead, and tends to more abstract or symbol based than animation with a central protagonist.

There are a myriad of uses for motion design (a.k.a. motion graphics) but they are usually used to enhance a story, or to make sometimes boring or complicated facts more energetic and obvious to the audience. For example, take a look at the video Jeff O’Neal made about a bloke named Chet.

Now imagine the video without any graphics. It would be significantly less engaging, right?

If you want to create motion graphics for your production, you have to keep several things in mind. Timing and duration is critical for the motion designer to always keep an eye on. Just as in video production, flashing an image on screen too quickly can be jarring and may not get the message across. Conversely, leaving a graphic up for too long can cause the audience to lose interest. Keeping your movement organic is also very important (and I don’t mean keeping your movements pesticide-free). Think about driving a car very fast when it comes to a complete stop. When you stop, the car doesn’t instantly go from full speed to a standstill. Coming to that stop should be gradual. The same idea applies when beginning a movement. A car doesn’t instantly take off, it gradually works its way up to full speed. The more objects match our expectations of movement the more convincing and engaging your audience will find them.

One of the biggest trends right now in motion design is kinetic typography or info graphics. By taking stylized text and adding motion to it, you can give life, personality, and symbolism to text in some very dramatic ways. I could explain what kinetic typography is, but the best way to describe it is by watching it.

Notice how everything moves “organically”, treating each graphic as if it were a physical object in the real world? As mentioned previously, the quality of the motion will have a big impact on the feel motion graphics can elicit from a viewer. Additionally, tempo also plays a critical role in emphasizing certain points and punctuating transitions. There’s a lot going on in that video so I’d recommend watching it over a few times to note the various techniques and decisions made to convey the video’s message.

If you’re curious and want to dive further into the world of motion graphics, I recommend checking out Henning Rogge and his class’ video on the the basics of motion design. It does a great job of giving detailed examples of motion design theory to help you appreciate how this powerful visual form can help your thoughts and stories comes to life.

That’s all for now, stay posted to Vimeo Video School for upcoming lessons focusing on actual motion design technique and application. Until then stay curious my friends!

Ready for more? Learn how to use a lighting bounce or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.


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