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Motion Graphics for Educators Tariq Butt's Learning Journal

step one: storyboarding

The first step in creating my motion graphics video was selecting a topic and storyboarding. I chose to make my video about the iambic pentameter because I think it is a simple concept that can be explained in a short video. Being more comfortable with graphics design on the computer and having limited skills as a pencil and paper illustrator, I chose to create my storyboards using a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. In retrospect, I did overthink things in step one. Simple pencil and paper sketches would've allowed me to experiment more with visual design and explore more options in terms of animation. Lesson learned...

Storyboards

Step two: two bills

Bill the playwright
Bill the actor

Creating the character of William Shakespeare was a fun challenge. Being a historical personage whose physical identity, life and work is rife with speculation about who he was and and was not, Shakespeare should be open to interpretation in terms of his physical appearance. However, a couple of portraits do survive and are so well-ingrained in our popular culture that too much speculation and deviation could lead to a character that was not recognizable as Shakespeare. Some of the most recognizable attributes of the popular image are the Elizabethan collar, the distinctive hairstyle and a goatee (or similar beard). I decided to flesh out a face by placing these three features down first and creating the other attributes around them. The second challenge was that I wanted the character to speak and I wanted to keep it simple. Therefore I created the lips and the mustache as separate objects in Illustrator. This way I would be able to bring them into After Effects and use a combination of Rotation, Scaling and Position effects to create the effect of moving lips.

Step Three: Styled storyboards

This is where overthinking Step One paid off. When it came to creating styled storyboards I started with my first draft of the storyboards, refined some of the graphics and then created a second version with notes for motion effects. I could see the project taking shape...

Styled Storyboards
Styled Storyboards with notes

Step Four: Animatic

Having dabbled in explainer videos for many years, I know the pain of synching audio and video. Pacing and rhythm are often sacrificed in order to get a version where the script is thrown on to the screen and held together with haphazard graphics and animation. Not this time, I pledged... I used the animatic to animate the script that was already playing in my head but was not written in stone yet. I used this stage to experiment with timing and find what worked well visually. The script continued to play in my head but I was determined not to record it until I had the pacing for the visuals worked out. I aimed for a one minute video and used a combination of text effects and motion graphics to create the animation. I did not need to make too many edits to my original graphics except for some resizing and separating the objects that I needed to animate.

Step Five: Final

I did not tweak a single frame of the animatic to get to the finished product. I literally recorded the narration on my phone while watching the video on my laptop. This allowed me to time, pause and pace on the fly. The script was short and I knew it well enough to get it right by the second take. I threw the After Effects render, my narration, a canned sound effect and some background music in Adobe Premiere Rush. Did some sound cleanup and thus produced the final version.

Final Reflection

I have found the most invaluable takeaway from this course to be a deeper appreciation of the workflow. Having dabbled in explainer videos, motion graphics and After Effects for many years, I have used a variation of the workflow introduced in this course for many years. However, this course allowed me to better understand the steps. A couple of things that I will do differently now that I have gone through this course:

  • Take a more iterative approach to storboarding and create the characters before doing a final round of storyboards. I always took storyboards as sketches and did not realize that taking a more iterative approach towards creating them allows us to refine them like blueprints. After round 1 we have a better idea of the elements we need and we can create create the characters as well as other visual elements. The final round should be a set of storyboards with notes where I have directions for movement, animation and sound.
  • Create an animatic. I had a rough idea of my script and it was getting more refined with successive drafts of the storyboards. However, the animatic really allowed me to put the visuals at the forefront. I created a version without regard for the narration and worked out all pacing and rhythm issues visually. The final version became easy to produce after the animatic because the script in my head and the visuals had been synched through succesive iterations.

There is a popular saying about writing, that all writing is rewriting. This process and course has taught me that the same is true for animation. Through successive iterations I was able to refine the content and bring it closer and closer to my vision. The final product, though far from flawless, was very close to what I had visualized at the beginning. I am grateful that this course taught me the importance of the workflow.

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