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Alex Yorchak
by Alex Yorchak
Jan 28, 2016
All Posts by Alex Yorchak

2016 Motion Design Trends

If you’ve spent anytime on facebook recently, you’ve probably been subjected to Kylie Jenner’s goals for 2016. Spoiler alert: It is as terrible as you’d imagine. If you don’t have time or just don’t care to watch the video, simply hit your head against the nearest wall until there is a sharp pain in your ears.

At One Floor Up, we feel like 2016 is going to be a bit less about “realizing stuff” and a bit more about getting better at what we do best - producing great work. To do this, we thought it would be helpful to identify some of the hottest motion graphic trends for 2016.  So let’s get to it!

1. Stroke-based iconography

Simplified, stroke-based designs have been popular among the design community for the past few years, and we think the trend will continue in 2016. The minimalistic style is modern, cost-effective and visually appealing, making it a good solution for clients on a limited budget. 

Buck, Blend, DEmark

2. The Retro / 80’s look

From vinyl records to mid-century modern interior design, retro is making a comeback. Motion graphics are not immune to the resurgence and are typically embodied by things like neon pastel colors, VHS tape distortion, and 8 bit music. This motion design trend relies heavily on nostalgia to leave a unique and lasting impression on the viewer. 

Interstellar, Chrome

3. Escheresqe Transitions

Anyone familiar with MC Escher’s work can probably guess why these type of transitions are gaining popularity with motion designers.  The smooth and constant motion paired with sudden changing of perspective drives viewer engagement by making the viewer more eager to fully embrace the next, visually-correct scene. These transitions have an immediate “payoff” for the audience in the same way that optical illusions tend to fascinate us and force us to look back at them again. The only drawback however, is that creating this look takes a lot more time and effort than “traditional” motion design, and as such, can require a much larger budget to pull off. 

Escheresqe Transitions

4. Mixing 3D and 2D

Up until the last few years, it was very rare to see motion graphics work that featured 3D objects within a 2D environment.  Recently though, mixing 2D and 3D has become a lot more common. 

5. Simple character design

As motion designers, we absolutely love this look. It’s clean and simple in terms of the design, which in turn helps to cut down on animation time. Win-win. 

6. Looping gifs

While there isn’t a consistent or defining style to looping gifs, they are poised to be one of the most used techniques for 2016. Looping gifs can take 15 seconds of content and turn it into endless engagement. These gifs are extremely shareable, great for embedding within websites, and the looping aspect makes it easy to watch again and again. 

Looping Gif

Talk to a motion designer at One Floor Up about your next project! 

Andrew Spain
by Andrew Spain
Jan 8, 2016
All Posts by Andrew Spain

The Five C’s of Cinematography

Though it may seem obvious to point out, the camera is one of the most important parts of telling a visual story. There are so many nuances involved with cinematography it’s difficult to know where to start when explaining it’s significance. As Gus Van Sant said, “…I can’t think how anyone can become a director without learning the craft of cinematography.” Even if you’re not trying to create high art, it’s vital to know a few things about cinematography. Luckily for us, Joseph V. Mascelli wrote the Five C’s of Cinematography back in ’65 and his advice is still as relevant as ever. Mascelli compiled a list of the five most important aspects of cinematography that will contribute to the strength of your video project. Let’s unpack them here, shall we?

The Five C’s of Cinematography

1. Camera Angles- This refers to the position of the camera while filming. While that may initially seem straightforward, there are numerous ways that the camera angle can influence the narrative significance of a scene. For example, a low-angle shot means that the camera is essentially looking up at the subject, which in turn makes the subject appear bigger and more dominant.

Darth Vader low angle shot

Darth Vader is consistently shot from a low angle, making him all the more ominous and threatening. Conversely, a high-angle shot is taken from above the subject, making them appear smaller as exemplified in this next clip from Psycho:

That scene is a masterpiece of cinematography from one of the masters of the art, Alfred Hitchcock. The high-angle camera in addition to the vulnerability of the location terrified audiences in 1960.

2. Continuity- Continuity refers to shooting things in a manner so that the scenes all interconnect and flow well, presenting a fluid sequence of events. Though mise-en-scène and editing contribute to the success of continuity, the camera is of equal or greater significance. Let’s take a look at one of the most amazing scenes in film history (Goodfellas) that demonstrates (along with an absolutely brilliant director) the camera’s role in continuity: 

This is a wonderful example of a tracking shot or more specifically a Steadicam shot. The camera rolls for over two minutes without cutting once, all while demonstrating the nuances of storytelling at which the camera is so exceptional. We get a true insider’s glimpse of the world, mirroring the way Lorraine Bracco’s character must feel upon her introduction to Mafia life. The result is a truly immersive piece of filmmaking and a testament to the narrative power of continuity. More recently, Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), and Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) have used similar techniques to great effect in the films I listed here. Birdman, in particular, takes continuity to a whole new level, by being carefully shot and edited to suggest that the film itself is essentially one long take.

3. Cutting- Cutting is putting together scenes in such a way that they become more than the sum of their parts. Continuity is important to keep in mind while shooting so that shots flow well into each other. Action at either the beginning or the end (or both) of each shot ensures that editors have a wealth of material to work with and produce the best possible cut. Here is an exhilarating example of continuity from The French Connection: 

Conversely, you can use cutting to disorient the viewer, fracturing their perception of time within the film to make for a more challenging viewing experience. Jump cuts, so very favored by the French New Wave, is no better or worse than continuity editing, it just dramatically changes the flow. Here’s a clip from the film Oldboy that makes excellent use of jump cutting:

Through this non-linear presentation we as viewers get a sense of the ennui and boredom that the character Oh Dae Su is experiencing as he sits in jail. Regardless of implementation, cutting is paramount in presenting an engaging narrative.

4. Close-ups- Close-ups typically consist of the subjects face and draw the viewer’s attention to what the character is feeling in that moment. It is a useful device for showing the viewer rather than telling them. Joan of Arc (the classic 1928 film, not the Mila Jovavich snooze-fest) is shot almost entirely in close-ups. Granted, this decision was likely born out of the limitations of cinema at the time it was made, but it’s still an effective example of the narrative weight that’s possible when using close-ups to portray emotion and motivation:

Poor Joan, having to deal with those mole-y clergymen. And who could forget this famous close-up that now mostly adorns white plaster walls in college dorm rooms across the country:

Photo credit: The Shining, Warner Bros., d. Stanley Kubrick, dp. John Alcott

Just look at the madness on that face. There’s no mistaking his state of mind. Close-ups are invaluable in orienting your audience to character pathos and emotions.

5. Composition- Composition refers to the arrangement of actors and props in relation to the camera’s view of it. There are two shots, three shots, four shots, etc. referring to the number of character’s onscreen in a scene.

There are “dirty” shots, which generally refer to over-the-shoulder shots in which part of the subject is obfuscated by another character’s body in the foreground.

“I’ll ask you one more time, where’s Coral?”

There are wide shots, mid shots, reverse and cutaway shots, static shots, etc. Far too many to list and they are probably due a dedicated post. So let’s get to the meat of composition and watch a masterful scene that is both beautifully filmed and demonstrative of the narrative importance of continuity:

I know, I know, everyone is tired of talking about Citizen Kane, but at least I’m not bringing up D.W. Griffith. “Deep focus,” you say… “I already know where you’re headed.” Well, you’re right. Developed by Gregg Toland on Citizen Kane, deep focus allowed for both the foreground and the background of a shot to be in focus. This in turn led to some significant developments in using the camera as an active storytelling tool. In this scene, we have poor young Charles Foster Kane in the middle, literally and figuratively, of an argument between the people determining his future. He’s framed within the window, which is thematically significant as the film is a window into Kane’s life. The deep focus and composition make this struggle visually apparent, enhancing the themes and storytelling. 

So there they are: the Five C’s of Cinematography. The reason this list is so renowned is that each “C” is important to filmmaking but, when taken as a whole, they are invaluable in describing the camera’s role in telling great stories. The camera is to film as the brush and canvas is to art. Without the camera we wouldn’t have the cinema, and then we would all be forced to read or talk to each other or something. Surely I can’t be the only one to find some comfort in that. 

Jon Flacke
by Jon Flacke
Dec 9, 2015
All Posts by Jon Flacke

The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT - What does that even mean, anyway? Could it be more opaque?
Well, lucky for you I consulted a little-known print/online magazine called Wired to sort out just what-the-heck this Internet of Things thing is. Here’s what it had to say: 

The Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”

There it is. A one-sentence definition of the Internet of Things (“IoT”). Case closed, right? Wrong. Turns out the “IoT” is slated to be a real game-changer in almost every aspect of your life. For example, let’s say you buy a pair of Nike running shoes that have a sensor built into them. You then download the corresponding app for your smartwatch or smart phone and take a run. The information from the sensor in your shoes (such as how fast you’re running and for how long and your typical route) is being transmitted to the app in real time and being stored in the cloud. So now that these devices are communicating, the accumulated data can be used to help improve your running. Maybe you have a tendency to pronate while you run and you are at risk of a muscle tear? Or, maybe your usual route is blocked off because there’s a craft fair taking up the sidewalks? The app provides you with an answer, an alternate path based on other user data that is equal in distance to your usual run and allows you to keep up with your regiment. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Well, that is one of the more straightforward and helpful ways in which the “IoT” is going to change our lives. The subtext to this, of course, is that intimate and specific data about you and your interests will be made available to just about any interested party. So: your wonderful running app and intelligent shoes are providing you with a new and invigorating spin on exercise. But with the potential of the “IoT”, it could soon be possible that a new route is deliberately devised for you so that you run past a billboard for a specific product of which the mining of your data has suggested you would likely be interested in purchasing.

Because while the “IoT” possesses the potential to improve the safety and quality of our lives so too does it possess the ability for advertisers to hone a finer point on their marketing tools. While that may initially sound nefarious, there exists massive potential for the creation of new products and services that could change our lives in unforeseen ways as a result of blind data collection. It may even level up the playing field a bit, allowing local businesses to compete in a congested market with the various titans of industry that currently dominate the realm of advertising. Having a concise understanding of your customer base is an amazing tool regardless of scope. An effective web presence (best accomplished by online video advertising, of course) is integral to any business plan, big or small, and incorporating localized content into your advertising could only ever be a boon.  

Hey, let’s face it, data is the future. With the amount of personal information that we willingly disclose through social media and other forums, it shouldn’t be shocking to learn that it’s also being collected elsewhere without our express consent. Although how do I know for sure, I never read the User Agreement. I’ll tell you one thing though, indignation at the faceless absorption of our data certainly ain’t gonna change anything and, frankly, that argument is a little didactic. Data collection will only become more pervasive and subtle. 

As an advertiser, the Internet of Things should be embraced. It will allow unprecedented access and traction in ensuring that precious advertising dollars are spent effectively in reaching the exact people they’re intended to reach. But it’s not so basic as simply making it easier to hock product to the mindless masses. The “IoT” allows companies to track usage and satisfaction in real time, thereby putting product refinement and functionality at the forefront of the user experience. In other words: maybe this will temper the onslaught of cheap crap currently on offer and provide a shot-in-the-arm for quality control. Either way, modern life will continue to change and evolve. Before you know it we will hardly ever have to think about anything; our machines will be smart for us. What a relief.