Increasing Production Value with Graphics

Everywhere in today’s professional video media, motion graphics are filling in the gaps where straight video shots fall short.

Titles no longer stick to the screen like they were fixed in place with a glue stick. Backgrounds are no longer freeze-framed images of abstract block art or dull cityscape. Rather excitement has been infused into almost every shot by adding motion backgrounds, title animations and moving design elements. Without these additions all video would look the same. Talking heads are synonymous to one another unless motion graphics and other frame enhancers are added to a shot.

Whether you are editing a newscast, montage, report, or commercial, motion graphics need to be added to your workflow to increase your production value. Without them the shot will look empty and the viewer will subconsciously notice that there is something missing, whether they are savvy enough to pinpoint it or not. Motion graphics are the added touch that can take video production value exponentially forward by its ability to create both subtle accents and powerful dynamic accentuation either by themselves or simultaneously.

There are many different places in which motion graphics can be incorporated into a video shot. Here are some of the most common forms of motion graphic eye candy:

Animated Backgrounds (Motion Backgrounds):
One of the most common places to insert animated backgrounds is behind the subject matter such as text, logos, titles, photos, and within the background of a set design. A moving background can do great wonders for your logo by adding emphasis and excitement to the screen. Editors should ditch those old still graphics that bore the viewer and add a splash of motion to the backgrounds of their logos and graphics. Green screens or LCD displays are two other wonderful spots to inject motion graphics into the scene. Try adding a motion loop or animated logo into these places to reach new levels of video production and professionalism.

Video Openers (Video Bumpers):
A flashy animation of a station id or logo can really set the stage for a better and more professionally developed broadcast. Just imagine instead of fading straight into a newscast or video clip from a blank screen there was instead a three to six second animation with text and audio that introduced the clip or segment. Animated title sequences and station id’s can help establish brand recognition when used as part of a production workflow. Video openers are vital assets for any video production that wants to push the envelop for a higher value of production.

Lower Thirds (Superbars):
Sometimes shots need to include a place to add a title to describe a person, place or even the scene itself. Lower thirds accomplish this by overlaying a placeholder graphic on the video shot which text can be layered into. The name “lower third” however is misleading because lower thirds do not take up the entire lower third of the screen. Rather lower thirds are positioned in the lower third of the screen with a space bellow them that is unblocked. The text ranges from one to three lines and can vary in text size. What can bring more dynamic interest to a lower third is the incorporation of motion graphics. The first way would be to use a motion loop as the placeholder graphic instead of one that is static. This adds a subtle aura of sparkle and raises the value of the shot. The other way is to make the entire lower third an animated element. This might include an animation that pops or flips the lower third up into the screen. Once it is visible the text could be animated in with a typewriter effect or subtle positional slide. After the lower third had done its job be giving the viewer the needed information, it could then be removed from the screen by sliding off or rotating away.

Title Animation:
Whether it is a piece of text, phrase or logo, a title animation can add a lot of thrill to a video project. As seen in the previous video examples, static images and text is boring, plain and outright dull. Animation can captivate an audience very quickly and draw them into a production very easily. When a title or logo is animated it can bring a whole new persona to its identity.  It can bring ideas and characteristics that static logos just cannot communicate on their own. Production value and brand value can be greatly increased through these means and should be explored if a higher production value wants to be reached.

There are two great tools to create your own motion graphic elements, backgrounds and sequences. Do note however that both of these programs are motion graphic industry standards and involve steep learning curves. The first is Motion by Apple, which is part of the Final Cut Studio software bundle. This product is only available on Macintosh computers and requires a fast processor and a fair amount of RAM. Motion boasts itself in having an easy to use interface that holds the power and flexibility to create outstanding work. What is most impressive about this program is its ability render on the fly and its ability to create great looking motion graphics quickly using Motion’s animated presents. The second is After Effects by Adobe and can be bought separately or as part of the Creative Suite Production Premium bundle. After Effects runs on both Macintosh and PCs and also requires a fast processor with a sizable amount of RAM for faster rendering. Being an Adobe product there are many familiar characteristics between After Effects and programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. However it is a very powerful program and includes many features and options that might scare away a lot of new users. It also does not include as many easy to use interface mechanics as Motion and has far fewer canned and template material shipped with it. After Effects is not for the weak of heart, but is for those who are serious about creating professional motion graphics.

Video editors such as Adobe Premiere have varying capabilities to add animation and motion to an edit and they in no way compete with the flexibility and power that Motion or After Effects offer.

There are two other ways of adding motion graphics to a video workflow without breaking much of a sweat. One is to buy stock motion graphics and the other is to hire a freelance motion designer to create custom content. There are many sites that sell pre-made motion elements such as istockphoto.com, revostock.com, and pond5.com. Other companies such as Digital Juice provide libraries of motion backgrounds and motion elements that can be dropped into editing programs quickly and easily. All of these sources are royalty free and come at a reasonable cost.  The other way is to higher a motion designer to create custom motion graphics for your production. Once the graphics are made they can be used over and over again in your productions and can be a very cost and time effective approach for increasing production value very easily.

Jeff McIntosh is a motion and print graphic designer in Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of the International Academy of Design Toronto, Jeff started his own company called Jeff McIntosh Design over three years ago. JMD specializes in custom motion graphics and openers for a variety of clients such as major corporations, video producers, churches and schools. You can see more of his work and contact him at www.jmdesignco.com.