Motion Graphics

Motion Graphics

“You’re awfully quiet lately” a friend of mine asked me the other day. True, have not been writing anything for a long time. 

I did the Tour de Ski early January and was scheduled to do the EC of skating, but Kiira got an injury in her leg and that was the end of that. Thus: I was left with three weeks to fill in January. Which was a very welcomed pause actually as the Feb-March is going to kill me (first Biathlon WC in Czech and then cross-country WC in Italy) and after that an intensive teaching period coming up in Lahti (LAMK with Aalto University).

One thing which has been on my list for a long time is digging deep into After Effects and I spent a good portion of my days in January in front of and AE Apprentice. Now that I am back on the road… I don’t know do I classify as a nerd or what… but this is what I do: i.e. continue to spend quite a lot of time in front of the computer, trying to learn new things. 

Being stuck in a hotelroom is actually a very good environment, as there are very little distrac­tions. Presently I am in Czech Republic in a small village covering the biathlon WC compe­tions (which are taking place mainly at nights) and I have spent long hours each day learning the program further.

I was very impressed during our MediaStorm workshop in New York when I saw the work Joe Fuller was doing. And then yesterday, as I was ploughing thru some AE exercises, I noticed MediaStorm published the “Angola” piece we saw in December during its post process stage — as well as the showreel of (mainly, I guess?) Joe’s work (the opening of this post). 

Impressive in many respects, but see for yourself. Perso­nally, when I saw these in NY in December, it was definitely a major boost for me to dig more deeply into motion graphics/design and AE.

Orinally I got into learning AE after seeing this piece below by Greg Solen­ström. Shot with only one camera and two lenses — and consisting totally of still images. Still amazes me the way he accomplished this…

Jay Z — “Hello Brooklyn” from Greg Solen­ström on Vimeo.

Definitely great sources of inspi­ration and something to aim for.

6 Replies to “Motion Graphics”

  1. I’ve only viewed “Hello Brooklyn”, but felt compelled to post an immediate reaction.
    I gotta say I thought this was awful — really awful. I can’t see how it could inspire and be elevated to an artistic goal.
    The large block font lyrics gyrating, swooping, conti­nuously grabbing all the attention — any attempt to visually register anything from the photos was futile. I could hardly keep up with the chore of reading all the lyrics — and they demanded a reading — impos­sible to ignore. I could understand the spoken lyrics well enough. I liked the song and music. So what was the purpose of oblite­rating the photos and any impact they might have by creating these monstrously plain and ugly graphic letters? The best way to enjoy this show I believe is to shut your eyes and enjoy the music. This is my reaction after viewing it once. I’ll view it again and maybe I’ll remember some photo­graphic imagery that was worthwhile. I just wish the creater would simply eliminate the written lyrics, and the maybe he’ll have a show worth watching.

    1. Fair enough -

      now go and see the others. And you maybe understand my point. It’s using the still image, audio, graphics and text in a creative way to convey a message — whatever that is.

      I work as a journalist — a visual journalist to be precise. And I look at our media (here in the North Pole i.e. Finland): the common idea of visual story­telling in 2013 is taking a pdf grab of a printed newspaper page and present that on an iPad…

      The concept of “high end” to many or our legacy print is to take a uncut video of a cellphone and present that as a “multi­media” story­telling. Don’t know should I laugh or cry…

      I make no artistic judge­ments on “Brooklyn” piece… but it is definitely awesome way of using vanishing point and AE-animation. One hell of a piece. Now: take another example, this one from Cuba.

      Music video, right? Or kick ass visual journa­listic story­telling? This is how our media should look like — instead of the 500 characters plus a subpar photos the majority of our web media consists at the moment.

      No, see beyond the obvious: I am not saying that media should be a music video. But that piece paints — at least to my mind — a very vivid image of Cuba. 

      Now: take this thought further and see the opening sequence of Angola. This is what I’d call impressive, high end, visual story­telling — something which stays with you. This is how you should tell a story if you want to make a lasting impact on your viewer. 

      Joe (and the the whole production team) has done amazing job with this one. Big hand.

      1. Go ahead and learn AfterEf­fects and motion graphics, but I think these should be used to serve the story being told, staying true to the subjects and the emotions and ideas connected to those subjects instead of showing off technical whiz-bang motion graphic theatrics that overs­hadow the people and their stories, diminishing them, insulting them. Be careful not to get trapped in the world of narcis­sistic techno mastur­batory post-production excess. Do you really think it’s cool to show photos of poor farmers working the land (and angry-looking women) with cheer­fully upbeat rhyth­mical Latin tunes blaring out? Does this soundtrack truly suit the subject? I don’t think it does. I think it’s on a different planet some or most of the time. On top of the ill-fitting music in some of the segments, an additional insult is the fast-cutting and wipes of the frames or individual elements within the frames, which give it all plastic super­ficial MTV energy. Not appropriate for the majority of the scenes in the Cuba extra­va­ganza. The soundtrack and graphical trickiness just overpower whatever heart and soul might have shone through in the photos. 

        Sorry. I think the Cuba music video is a good example of how not to use multi­media to tell a story. Think about my reaction and opinion when you teach your multi­media students. 

        I got sadly disap­pointed and a little bit angry when I watched the Cuba video. A little bit angry for the people portrayed. I read viewers’ comments about the Cuba video — all I read were extremely positive. This too I find a bit pathetic, because such positive feedback only encou­rages the video makers into thinking they put together a great show and story. Who are these viewers? How old are they; how sophis­ticated? Motion graphics have been around for a very long time and exten­sively used in TV commercials by profes­sionals with years of experience on very expensive equipment before cheap computers made it possible for any amateur to play with AE for free.

        Hello Brooklyn showed sophis­ticated technical work. I watched some of the “Making of” video. This might be a good demo to show what can be done with AE and could inspire creative work using these techniques. However, one would hope that the techniques are applied to suitable subjects and not overdone ridiculously.

        I could similarly criticize the use of text and motion graphics in the Angola video. As in the other videos, I don’t think it serves the subject very well. (And the subject is grave.) My reaction was mixed. But I’ll leave it for now.

        Have I been fair (however wordy and rambling)?

        1. Absolutely fair -

          and you do make a point which I agree with up to an extend — it’s just that I am maybe just focusing on the technical aspects of these more than the content.

          And I totally agree — technical mastur­bation should not trump the story — and maybe the brooklyn and the cuba pieces should be seen as more like show offs of technical possi­bi­lities (great as such) than in depth journa­listic pieces. But I see a sort of continuum here: brooklyn (high-tech vanishing point /AE showoff music video) to cuba (music video, yes, but with some journa­listic content) to Angola (same tools, but serious journalism). I might be wrong… and thus, I am really interested in hearing students’ reaction in class when I get there in a months time. Do they give me a finger or or something else — that remains to be seen.

          BUT: I insist that using motion graphics does add an interesting dimension to the story­telling options in the toolbox… should you need it — or want to — use it when you feel that particular piece would profit from it.

          Yes, motion graphics has been around for a long time — I quote you:
          “Motion graphics have been around for a very long time and exten­sively used in TV commercials by profes­sionals with years of experience on very expensive equipment before cheap computers made it possible for any amateur to play with AE for free.”

          I.e. are you saying that it should be left to “true” profes­sionals? Such as doing video should be left to networks? Or photo­graphy (in general terms) to the profes­sionals with expensive equipment?

          I beg to differ: these are all just means to tell a story. If you have more means at your disposal, you can maybe tell a story diffe­rently: sometimes use video, sometimes stills, sometimes animated info graphics, sometimes even add some motion graphics.… should you see it fit, a more efficient means to an end.

          If your toolbox is limited to one tool only… As much as I respect that — i.e. sticking to the vertical of your chosen field, and having superb mastery of that, it does limit you a bit. If nothing else, it makes you ignorant towards the other profes­sionals, their work and the efforts required.

          I am not saying that one should have this (or any other) technique in each and every piece one does. Most of the time something else (read: classic approach) works better. But: there are times when your story­telling might profit from the fact that you know something else than the one, single thing which you’ve done over and over again — which you have done for the past twenty or so years…

          I am strongly of the opinion that you should have the basic knowledge of all the possi­bi­lities open to you — even if what you end up doing is — say — classic photo­graphy. It makes the talking and commu­nicating withother profes­sionals you might be working with so much easier, to have a basic unders­tanding or their work. 

          If nothing else, it makes you respect their efforts.

          (My turn to say sorry about the rambling and too many words…)

  2. Fine. You generally agree with my idea. And I agree with the stuff you brought up in your reply. 

    I.e. are you saying that it should be left to “true” profes­sionals? Such as doing video should be left to networks? Or photo­graphy (in general terms) to the profes­sionals with expensive equipment?”

    Absolutely not! I’m not a profes­sional and I’m very happy that I can use AfterEf­fects if I choose to to get sophis­ticated effects with relatively little effort and training that was impos­sible before cheap and powerful PCs existed. And I’m all in favor of the democ­ratic proli­fe­ration of software tools. Which leads to the topic of the ability of anybody to mess with AE, Photoshop and other software to turn mundane images into visuals that look wild and exciting but more often than not fails to achieve real quality. But no need to go there.

    1. Good conver­sation — appreciate it. Really do. :-). I wish I coudl say ” I can use AE…” Still on the road to get there. Could well be I never get to the level I will really use it in my profes­sinal work, but will continue to explore and learn more.

      Just did a video this afternoon for my client…lit it with a spotlight and some animated text.… but it looked cheap, so I trashed it. Did something more straight forward instead.

      Three most important thing in multi­media story­telling: story, story and story.…

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