Post-Production
September 30, 2021

What Is Motion Graphics and Why It's an Essential Part of Video Creation

By Chris Suffield 10 min read

Highlights

  • Understand motion graphics basics, what they are and why you need them
  • How to make motion graphics for your videos
  • A guide to the different types of motion graphics animation you can use

Motion graphics is a big topic, with a vast range of styles and animation subcategories. So, if you've ever wondered what motion graphic animation is, we're going to answer that question and give you the knowledge and skills to begin using motion graphics in your videos today.

What is motion graphics animation?

When you think of animation graphics, you may picture fully rendered animated content similar to Pixar and Disney movies. However, animation comes in many different varieties, and while they may use other tools and techniques, motion graphics are just as much animation as kids' cartoons.

The critical difference between cartoon-style animation and motion graphics is the process undertaken to create the format; cartoon animation starts with a script, whereas motion graphics more often begins with graphic design. 

Motion graphics is essentially animated graphic design; you begin with the layers of design assets and use effects, transitions and keyframes to make it all move. Fortunately for editors, you can create stunning motion graphics for your videos using the same software you edit in. such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

Why use motion graphics?

Now that we've answered what motion graphics are, let's see why you should use them. 

Motion graphics are used in videos for both stylistic purposes and to add context to your message. For example, some videos will combine motion graphics Animation with video content to create cool slideshows and showreels. Other videos might be entirely made from motion graphic content, such as trendy typography or infographic videos.

When you look at the types of motion graphics available, you can quickly see how and why you would use them when making a video. As an animation designer, you must decide the best use case for motion assets in your projects, but the aim should always be to create a more exciting and informative experience for the viewer.

What types of motion graphics are available?

Motion graphics can be created from scratch, but there is also a massive library of designs available to download and customize. There are many subcategories of motion graphics available to download, but motion graphic designs can be divided into 2 broad categories; templates and plugins.

A plugin will install directly into your editing software, and you'll be able to access the asset from your built-in effects, generators and titles panels. Template projects provide a pre-animated video with customizable elements such as messaging, colors and media.

Titles

motion graphics titles

Titles are essential for creating digital marketing content, showreels and slideshows. Animated title elements grab your viewer's attention while delivering your messaging and emphasizing your branding.

Title templates and plugins come in every shape, size and design you can think of, 3D motion graphics titles, glitch effects, cartoon-style messaging, the list is endless. Title graphics can even come ready for a specific use case, such as Instagram Stories templates or YouTube End Screens.

Lower thirds

lower thirds motion graphics

Lower thirds are essential for digital content creators or filmmakers editing interviews. The Lower Third graphic displays the interviewee's name and includes job title, personal information and contact details.

A considerable advantage of using motion graphic animation rather than plain text for your Lower third elements is the addition of branding. Some lower thirds even come with media dropzones, allowing you to add a logo or profile image to the title graphic.

Intros

Intro videos are super short sequences that often utilize a mix of titles, media drop zones and animated flourishes. Intros, also referred to as openers, are ideal for creating a uniform look for a series of videos or YouTube channels.

You can also find a range of opening credits for narrative films and TV shows; from sci-fi to horror, every genre is covered with its own distinct style. 

Slideshows

Slideshow templates and plugins are one of the most diverse categories of motion graphic animation. One thing all slideshows will have in common is that they will include your photo and video assets.

Slideshows can be used for sharing family events, business presentations and producing showreels of your work. With slideshow template projects, you'll find everything from lengthy, slow-moving corporate presentations with a handful of video clips to speedy Instagram posts containing hundreds of images.

Logo indents

Logo indents are a great use of motion graphics animation. What better way to start and end your video than with a branded indent. Of course, you can opt for a simple fade on/off effect for your logo, but with so many motion graphic options, you'll be sure to find something for your brand.

Logo indent templates don't have to be used for your logo. However, these trendy pre-animated designs can also be used as title cards or stand-alone social media updates. The key to using logo indents is to match the style and theme of the brand logo.

Backgrounds

Motion graphics backgrounds are just what the name suggests - animated graphic backgrounds. Motion Backgrounds allow you to add movement to every element in your video, from simple gradients to complex plexus patterns.

Animated backgrounds are great for displaying title animations, as unlike most stock footage, they offer a clean and consistent layer. What's more, motion backgrounds often come in packs with a variety of colors for the same design.

Overlays

Overlays are similar to motion backgrounds in the scope of their content. However, unlike backgrounds, the overlay will sit on top of your footage; it will have a transparent background, allowing your video to be seen below it.

Overlays have a vast range of subcategories depending on the look you want to achieve. One widespread use of video overlays is a light leak, a layer providing a range of cool light blurs and bokeh effects that can sit over your footage.

Overlays are not just for style but can be used to add information and context to your film. For example, HUDs are commonly used in sci-fi and technology-based movies to add digital views on top of the footage, similar to Iron Man's helmet view.

How to use motion graphics animation in your projects

The easiest way to get to grips with using animation graphics for video is to download a template or plugin and play around with it. All templates have customization options which are a great place to start.

Depending on the editing software you're using, you may edit your template projects even further. For example, with an After Effects template, you can access every layer and keyframe used to create the project; by pulling the templates apart and putting them back together, you can learn a lot about motion graphics animation.

If you're looking to create motion graphics from scratch, check out these handy After Effects tutorials about keyframing and shape layers.

Wrap up

Motion graphic animation is a big topic, and professional animation designers have worked for years honing their skills. Now that you know the answer to the question "what is motion graphics," you can begin to use them in your video projects.

 

About Chris

Chris Suffield is a London-based writer, editor, and voice-over artist at Jellyfielder Studios; he also writes entertainment news for Box Office Buz and enjoys making things from stock footage. 
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