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What is a Motion Graphic?

Motion graphics are similar to infographics, but
they use video footage or animation to create the illusion of motion. Unlike
interactive data visualizations, which allow users to
manipulate the infographic and interact with a dataset, motion graphics tend to transform on their own.

Motion graphics are usually combined with audio, which makes them closer to films than
static infographics. Perhaps “multimedia" might also be
appropriate, but again, we’re getting into semantics where there are a lot of overlaps. Let’s just say that
motion graphics move on their own and are generally displayed through some sort of electronic media --
at least nowadays.

Of course, the history of motion graphics dates back to long before electronic media. In the 1800s, early
presentations via flip books or zoetropes were, by the definition used above, motion graphics. These
certainly fit the definition we’ve established above.

But generally, and at least around here, when we use the term “motion graphics," we’re following in the
tradition of John Whitney, one
of the fathers of computer animation and perhaps the first to use the term “motion graphics," when he
formed a company called Motion Graphics Inc. to create motion picture and television title sequences. By
the 1970s, Whitney was using digital processes, and modern motion graphics was born.

Before computers were widely available, motion graphics were expensive and time-consuming. But
the availability of desktop programs like Adobe Flash and After Effects have made motion graphics
increasingly accessible. The leading program used by motion graphic designers is probably Adobe After
Effects, which works a bit like Photoshop.

Of course, new products come along every day. What they all have in common is the ability to combine
video, text, speech, data visualization, special effects and even 3D to create animations. The goal is to
add the elements of time and space into the world of infographics, and to breathe life into otherwise static
content.

Motion graphics are not only created digitally. Traditional animation can also be used. But web-based
data visualization tools are making it easier to create motion graphics and animated infographics
-- cheaper and with less effort than ever.


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