Trends, like financial markets, are cyclical. If conspiracy theorists can be believed, it is those in power who are continually shuffling things in and out of fashion to ensure that consumers continue to, well, consume.
Motion graphics, as an extension of Art, is no exception. If Art can be thought of as action and reaction, so too can we consider motion graphics an ouroboros of recurring styles, endlessly chasing its own tail.
Now we’re not saying actual progress is impossible; after all, some styles and forms do fall out of favour as a result of technological improvements.
For instance, stop motion was first commercially used in the late 1800s because it was the best way to simulate movement. But as better ways of animation were invented, stop motion’s star slowly faded.
But on the other hand, some styles come, go and then proceed to appear again, almost entirely unchanged, for no better reason than the fickleness of the global audience.
Returning to the example of stop motion – despite more efficient techniques available today, some stop motion aficionados do continue to produce videos with clay and a camera because well, it does have a unique charm not easily replicated.
And thus, does the old become new again.
But far be it for us to throw our hands up in surrender. After all, copious amounts of electricity and man-hours have been expended in identifying and documenting the top 5/10/20/30 motion graphics trends in <insert arbitrary year here>.
Inspired by those that have gone before, us CraveFX folks too would like to do our bit in humbly chronicling what we’ve observed thus far.
So, be our guest in the wicked and wonderful world of motion graphics, and we’ll introduce the trends that we think best embody the pulse of 2020.
1. Textured Videos
We’re kicking this off with a classic: grain. Grain can be found in both digital and analog media – in analog film, grain forms as a result of silver halide particles in developer solution. With digital images, grain, more commonly known as noise, is caused by wayward electrical signals in the camera or too much ISO.
While grain and noise are considered undesirable in traditional coloured photography, it seems to have received quite a bit of exposure (hoho) in the world of animation. It adds texture and charm to otherwise staid explainers.
For instance, this 17s clip about home insurance was elevated quite a bit by the addition of CG grain. It also creates a sense of history and age – which might lend itself well to your product if you’ve actually been around for a while!
Let’s have the video take it from here, shall we?
2. Mixed media
Anyone who’s ever had to commission a video should know very well the pain of stylistic decisions. Should I get my studio to do a cel shaded piece? How about something in full 3D? Or should I just book a photographer for a day and get them to do lots of high-resolution shots of my product?
Well, the good news is, you can have your cake and eat it. Or at least, that’s what we’re seeing with mixed media. Through the use of multiple styles – we’re talking 2D animation, 3D asset creation and even the use of stock footage, a video greater than the sum of its parts is created.
Take a look at what we did for Shangri-La – certain assets, such as the cookies and the box were created in full 3D and composited with the 2D reindeer and polar bears – which were designed to look like paper cutouts. When combined with the particle effects and ribbon simulation, the final product had a unique handcrafted aesthetic not easily achieved with any one medium.
Mixed media traces its roots to the cubist collages of 1912. Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is perhaps one of the more iconic figures of the movement. His collage style involved the incorporation of everyday objects into fine art.
While this should be read as a rebellion against the hoity-toity-ness of fine art in his time, we’re going to move away from the politics of his style. We would instead like to invite you to consider his Still-Life with Chair Caning, where he directly stuck a piece of cloth onto an oil painting that was also framed with a bit of rope, as one of the forerunners of mixed media.
More than a century later, we’re seeing a resurgence of this movement, but with CG. By throwing together such disparate formats such as 2D illustrations, realistic 3D objects and CG animation, we wind up with an end product that looks all the more interesting for its inconsistency.
Take for instance, the piece we did some years ago for the anti-shark’s fin movement in Singapore. It might look like we did some shooting on our end but the cutlery was created in 3D, the backgrounds were illustrated in 2D and we animated everything with the help of our computers.
No sharks were harmed in the making of this video.
3. Oddly satisfying
So, what exactly is up with these clips? What’s drawing the viewers in and keeping them engaged even after the 49th loop?
We can’t think of any explanation beyond “It just…feels right.” And that’s exactly why we’re to be animators and not psychologists.
According to Wikipedia, we all have an innate preference for symmetry, patterns and repetition. And these satisfying videos scratch that itch.
We could watch the ball roll down for ages.
According to Sabrina Faramarzi from Wired, there have been several anecdotal reports stating that these videos have a soothing, almost hypnotic effect.
And if you’re a numbers person we’ve also got you covered. As of this writing, there are approximately 2.7 million posts under the hashtag #satisfying.
In fact, it’s so satisfying that it even became the chosen approach for MCI’s pre-budget video about active ageing.
And what does this mean for your business? It’s definitely not too late for you to hop in on this trend and incorporate this into your explainer video.
Don’t you just love it when everything falls into place?
4. Smooth, flowing transitions
If you lived in a time before wireless earphones, you’ll know exactly how frustrating it can be to untangle a pair of Beats.
This experience is akin to watching a badly conceptualised video. Awkward jump cuts and transitions can be quite a drag. Throw in a surfeit of text and what looks like template characters and the viewer will probably just navigate away out of frustration.
Remember, it’s not just about blowing your budget on incredibly realistic textures. You also need to think about how you can get your character/icons to go from one state to another in the most intuitive manner possible.
Transitions can happen by morphing existing icons or by moving the camera around in a way that keeps things fresh. There is, of course, a fine line between giving someone motion sickness and keeping your transitions dynamic.
In the video below, careful thought was given to how best we could transition between the booking interface and all the imaginary vacation scenarios that the characters were in. The result? We opted to move the camera around in ways beyond the usual pans and tilts.
This is especially important if the content of your video isn’t intrinsically fascinating – it can be hard to find subject matter that appeals to a universal audience. So, we weaved in a couple of transitions, vibrant visuals and colours to keep the audience awake and engrossed.
Stats, visuals, narration, and fluid-like movements – we’ve got em’ all covered!
Seamless transitions are like finding the end of a straight rope – the journey keeps going till you reach the end – and what this does is indirectly increase your audience’s dwell time.
Our piece for SIA may not be fully seamless, but every element is connected, in one way or another to the next – be it by camera movement, or narrative. The story first starts by following the aeroplane closely; we do a fade into a snowflake in the middle – which then becomes motif which connects the rest of the scenes. We finish by drifting into the stewardess’ hand, ending the video.
Doing away with hard and frequent cuts can create a more pleasing experience for your viewers.
5. Isometric design
Isometric design originally began as part of a movement towards simplification. Technical illustrators could draw isometric objects more efficiently than doing something in perspective, without compromising too much depth. It was also seen as something of a happy medium between 3D and 2D design. It was subsequently used in early computer games because isometric assets required less power to generate than full 3D.
In isometric objects, the objects looks 3D, but with a twist – you’ll notice that only 2 perspectives are visible at any one point in time, as opposed to true 3D.
Animators and designers the world over have since appropriated this style for their own use, shrinking universes to look like they could fit into the palms of our hands.
Here’s what it looks like.
Or how about something like this?
If you would like to give your products and explainer videos a quirky spin, try creating it in isometric perspective. This is especially the case with icons, logos and maps.
Here’s what we did with SMRT. As a happy side effect, you get to make everything look a little like a LEGO playset.
6. Double exposure
Double exposure was first used in the 1860s, when photographers decided it would be a good idea to capture the same subject twice, in different poses, on the same roll of film. As the name suggests, you literally expose the film twice and wind up with a situation where a darker image is superimposed on a smaller one. It’s still making an appearance almost two centuries in the future.
We personally think this is a pretty interesting way to highlight a relationship between two characters without saying much or to draw some sort of connection between an environment and a person. It’s particularly prevalent in opening titles.
This works quite well as an opener and a closer – it’s the perfect way to give the audience a rough idea of what the show is about without divulging too much from the beginning.
Does this opener hit the right spots? We certainly hope so.
If you think about it, double exposure probably began as a way for photographers to get more bang for their buck back when a roll of film wasn’t cheap. It’s since evolved into an artistic choice.
So there you have it – 6 motion graphics styles which are, if not in vogue, then tasteful, charming and bound to resonate with most audiences. Don’t know where to start? Why not ask an experienced motion graphics company?