Exploring Motion Production: Animated Infographics, Explainer Videos, and Viral Videos

Exploring Motion Production

In addition to static and interactive content, Column Five has a team that specializes in motion content. Motion content can be a powerful form of communication, especially for information design and data visualization. This article is the first in an ongoing series exploring the world of motion production.

What’s motion?
At C5, we use the word to describe our team specializing in video production. So why not say “Video Production” instead of Motion Production?” Video refers to a technology, while motion refers to a form of communication. While our motion team is skilled technically in the use of video technology, our main value to clients is applying creatively the principles of motion communication to the audiovisual opportunities afforded by video. For example, film is another technology that is distinct from video, but the principles of motion communication still apply. Another (more relevant) example is GIFs, which are very popular at the moment, especially on the social networking website Tumblr. At Column Five, our Motion team excels in audiovisual creativity through motion communication, not just video technical expertise.

The Corruption Perceptions Index video we created for Transparency International uses motion graphics to capture viewers’ attention and communicate the organization’s message in a concise, direct way.

Who’s it best for?
Motion content is ideally suited for those interested in powerful storytelling. Because motion content consists not just of words and images but of movement and sounds as well, it provides unique creative opportunities. Also, the pace and nature of the storytelling is controlled with motion content, which means it’s a great form of communication when the audience wants a passive experience—simply clicking a play button and watching the media.

This doesn’t necessarily mean motion is a better form of storytelling than other content forms. For example, interactives would be better for content presentation in instances where allowing the audience to control the pace of storytelling is important or where the content’s focus is story-exploration rather than storytelling. When content strategy benefits from a simple audience interaction (just clicking a play button) as well as the communication power and shareability of the video medium, motion is a great option.

More information on motion communication theory (and how it relates specifically to data visualization) can be found in Chapter 2 of our book, Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling.

What are popular uses?
Most of the motion content that C5 produces falls into one of the following categories:

Animated Infographics
Animated infographics are an opportunity for enhanced data visualization storytelling, often building off static infographics. Converting a static infographic into an animated infographic is relatively easy, but the audience experience is quite unique. This conversion can mean qualitatively and quantitatively more impactful audience reach for marginal additional work.

Explainer Videos
The popularity of explainer videos has been widely discussed. Explainer videos are a great tool for introducing people to products, services, or ideas. While often featured on landing pages, they can also be great for social sharing. Sometimes you’ll want multiple explainer videos, depending on the volume and nature of the information you want communicated. You typically don’t want a single video to exceed 2 minutes, given audience attention span. Multiple explainer videos can also be used to customize messaging to your target audience segments.

Explainer videos address some or all of the following topics for your product, service, or idea:
– What is it?
– Why does it matter?
– How is it different from others?
– How does one use it?
– What are examples of it in use?

Viral Videos
Unlike explainer videos, which are designed to help audiences better understand something, viral videos are usually designed to maximize social media sharing while promoting a brand. While TV is known for a traditional 30-second commercial format, the Internet has expanded the the nature of audience-brand interaction through video, with both longer- and shorter-form video storytelling proving popular among brand audiences. But the biggest difference between traditional TV commercials and viral videos online is the content. Traditional TV commercials tend to be very product-oriented and at times formulaic, while viral videos are often quite experimental or have very little product presentation, focusing instead on expression of brand values and personality through creative storytelling.

Does C5’s motion content always include data visualization?
While we typically find unique opportunities to incorporate data visualization, some projects include less of it than others (and some don’t include it at all). For example, sometimes the motion content we produce is in the context of a larger data visualization project, serving as an explainer video for the project. In other cases, we are applying our expertise in visual storytelling, even if there is little or no visualization component. This can be especially true for viral videos, where the focus is maximizing shareability through humor rather than communicating specific content. Still, in other cases, the motion content is entirely data visualization.

In a commercial for Microsoft Internet Explorer, we created a concept that focused on the personality of the brand, rather than product promotion, to connect with the audience. While traditional TV commercials are 30 seconds in length, our copywriting approach focused on long-form storytelling (1 minute, 45 seconds) with design-minded live-action and motion graphics, plus a strong musical arc.


An animated graphic, our video for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign uses graphic elements to relay statistical information and detail how the campaign works.


In a video for Mint.com, we combined live action with data visualization to bring the information to life and make it more applicable than it might otherwise feel to someone reading it in a static infographic.

Nick Miede is Director of Motion Production at Column Five. You can follow him on Twitter @nickmiede. You can follow him in real life too, but if it gets excessive, he’ll ask for a restraining order.

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