Image taken from Hybrid

    Animation vs Motion

Animation is an incredibly versatile and flexible means of expression and one that has become perhaps the most cross-disciplinary of all mediums within the moving arts today. It has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a means for artistic expression and story-telling. It is now clearly an advanced medium and mixture of techniques allowing not only the possibility to exist alone and entertain on a feature length level, but also act as a means to seamlessly integrate with live action to the extent that the real and the modeled are utterly indistinguishable. The borders have become so blurred within this hyper reality that even making a distinction between what is an animated and a live action shot film seem pointless. The purists stand firm to their beliefs that if not animated within a ‘traditional’ framework, then it just isn’t animation (see discussion at Cartoon Brew on motion capture). However, beyond the technical advancements and their validity, animation has for me two clear sides to the creative coin: Genre & technique. The important point to retain here is that genre stems from an industry firmly linked with character driven story-telling and film tradition. Its beginnings, as we are all aware, date from the Disney empire back in the early part of the twentieth century. Technique on the other hand is what has given rise to other ‘forms’ of the medium that either stand alone as early abstract works or, as I have mentioned, become a modeled part of the bigger picture. It is rather a means to an end whereas ‘animation as genre’ is indeed the whole package and the end result.

Where then could we fit an idea of motion graphics within this framework? Well, put simply, it uses animation as a technique. It is however not solely a technique but a new form of animation with its own unique visual language; one that does not take root in character driven narrative nor does it adhere to traditional filmic language. This new language draws predominantly from graphic design and the more experimental boundaries of art. If we take a closer look at the production of most animated films or series these days, apart from the developments in technology, the actual artistic and directive process has remained very similar to those of the early days: Animation within its context as a genre depends on strong character design and the ability to bring the character alive through movement, dialogue and eventually emotion. The key to good animation remains strong scenarios and strong characters that need to be designed within the context of the story line and in line with particular design and technical issues. These key points of procedure and production have been and still are the basis of all good animation schools and training.

Motion graphics however resides on formal issues of shape, colour, composition and typography. The design issues are focused foremost on context and communication where style follows and never dictates. I prefer to see motion graphics as a mode. It is neither genre nor simply technique: Not genre because it does not have the historical nor professional weight. Nor just technique, because it has a language of expression and communication that goes far beyond that of simple execution of sequential image making. Motion graphics is something new.

>>> Read an earlier article on this subject: Mode vs Genre