The Elements of Modern Motion Graphics

Creating motion graphics is often the synergy of many different applications and skill sets. In addition to a good sense of design, an artist involved in modern motion graphics needs to have knowledge of four major areas: bitmap graphics, vector graphics, 3d graphics and compositing software.

Bitmap graphics, also referred to as pixel-based, is probably the most common form and the most familiar to the laymen. In bitmap , the images are composed of different colored dots (known as pixels) that together form an image. Bitmap images are typically photographs or real world images. Resolution of the image is dependent on how many pixels comprise the image. The more pixels in an image, the higher the resolution. As a result, the file size increases. Although there are several applications on the market that one can use to create and treat bitmap images, by far the most popular is Photoshop.

The other form is vector, also known as resolution independent. Vector graphics are lines, curves and shapes that the computer interprets through mathematical equations. Vector-based images are usually illustrations, logo designs or other comparatively simplistic compositions with potential complexities. Whereas bitmap are composed of pixels and can become distorted if scaled too large, vector has unlimited resolution. Because the information used is all mathematics, the image can be the size of a building without losing resolution. Several vector packages exist, the most common being Adobe Illustrator.

With the leaps in computing power in recent years, 3d graphics have become a more accessible and practical tool. The world of 3d is immense and comprises many different disciplines from architectural rendering to major motion picture special effects; however, these applications can be used to solve design problems that only they can solve. Both bitmap and vector are inherently flat, but you can use a 3d software package to take these flat graphics into the third dimension. Many programs, such as Maya, Lightwave or 3d Studio Max, are up to the task, Maxon's Cinema 4d's use of layers and hierarchies will be familiar to users of Adobe's programs. This program is simply more intuitive than its bigger and more complex rivals, making it a superior package for the motion graphics artist.

Last and probably most importantly is compositing. This is where all your flat graphics will come to life! Compositing software creates motion through the use of key frames and the program interpolates the in-betweens. A skilled artist will use bitmap, vector and 3d together to create attractive and effective animations. The most common consumer level compositing program is Adobe After Effects. In addition to their familiarity with the Adobe software, After Effects users also benefit from the ease of integration it offers with the bitmap and vector graphics of Photoshop and Illustrator, respectively.

A good motion artist tries to accomplish one central idea: communicating effectively while retaining the viewer's attention. Today's audiences have a shorter attention span than ever, as well as a more refined and ever more savvy recognition of a good graphics treatment. A video that presents itself with lackluster or uninspired visual treatments is doomed to appear "behind the times" and lose credibility as a result. Knowledge of the four facets of motion graphics is indispensable and serves as the cornerstone of effective modern two-dimensional animation.

Contributed by: Travis Turner, Graphic Artist, Metro Productions

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2007 Metro Productions

Metro Productions is a full-service video and multimedia production company headquartered in Hampton, Virginia. Metro Productions' client list includes large and small companies nationwide. Metro Productions provides clients with the ability to realize the benefits of high-end visual media products for the purpose of sales, marketing, recruitment and training. Delivery mediums for these productions include DVD, streaming media and broadcast quality High Definition applications.

Author: Travis Turner
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