Creating short, simple videos that use simple animated graphics, illustrations, text and photography to explain something
If you have a service, product or concept that needs explaining, creating a short, motion graphics-based online video can be a very effective way to get your audience’s attention, engage them better and improve their learning experience.
You may think that you need high-end expensive software like Adobe’s After Effects or Apple’s Motion to create and publish motion graphics videos. And if you want to do sophisticated and complex motion graphics you will need dedicated motion graphics software. But you just might be surprised at the results you can get with some software that you already have on your computer.
Inspired by Xplane’s experimentation with Apple’s Keynote presentation software to make their “Did You Know?” video, I’ve used it myself on several projects over the last year and half. Apple Keynote, you say?
Xplane’s Bill Keaggy replies,
“Now, you may think of Keynote as the designer’s version of PowerPoint — which it certainly is — but I think of it as low-end video software.
Why? Keynote exports to Quicktime. You can set timing on slides and apply builds and motion to objects and type on those slides. That means you can make videos. “
Note: Though this process describes using Apple’s Keynote presentation software, PC users can use PowerPoint in much the same way.
Here’s some more examples from Xplane:
And here’s a couple of examples from me:
I’ve now created several of my own motion graphics videos and though the software tool suite I now use has evolved a bit, the basic process is the same.
How to Create Basic Motion Graphics Videos with Apple Keynote
1. Start with a Script
It may be tempting to jump into creating graphics or animation first, but resist that temptation. You may be able to start with a document that’s already been written which you can then go through and distill down to the essentials. Or, you may have to write your own from scratch. Anybody who has been in the video business long enough will tell you that starting with a script is essential. Ignore this step at your own peril.
2. Brainstorm graphic ideas and concepts
Once I have my script distilled down to the essentials, I like to just brainstorm some ideas for graphic content. For this, I like to get away from the computer, preferably outside somewhere peaceful and relaxing with a sketchbook and just doodle ideas with my script as a reference. If I’m stuck for ideas, I’ve found it helps to review some examples that others have done to get inspiration. I might go to my YouTube channel and look at some of my Favorited videos, or to my Visual Think Media site where I keep tabs on my favorite motion graphics videos that I come across.
With a script and some brainstormed ideas, some kind of coherent graphical storyboard starts to take shape in my brain. At this point, I usually sketch out a storyboard using a storyboard template. Sometimes I sketch out each scene or script element on an index card. Doing that gives you the flexibility to easily re-arrange the story elements. Another approach I’ve taken is to print out my script with lots of white space beneath each main script element and sketch the graphics idea underneath. Whatever method you use, the point here is to marry your visual concepts to script elements.
4. Create digital assets in Photoshop and Keynote
Now it’s time to start creating some digital content. I like to create the basic graphical elements I need first. Some times I do this in Photoshop, sometimes in Keynote. It just depends on what the element is. For my style, I like to create very simplified pictogram-like versions of whatever graphical element I need, be it a car, an airplane, a person, a building. I’ll often take digital photos of what I need and either simplify it with Photoshop or do kind of a digital tracing using the photo. The result of these digital assets is a library that I can use to create the individual frames and animations in the next two steps.
5. Create digital keyframes in Keynote
The digital keyframes are essentially digital versions of my storyboard. I put together a scene using the digital assets I created in the previous step. Each of these keyframes is a separate slide in Keynote. All of these slides are created in a Keynote file of course. In creating a new Keynote file for the project, you have several sizes you can choose from. If you want an HD video, choose either 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080.
6. Create animation
Once the basic elements are in my slides, I move on to animation. If you’re limiting yourself to Keynote, the Build Inspector is where you’ll be doing all of your animation. A lot of the animations are useless junk. I stick to a few basics like the Move or Rotate actions
If you haven’t used the Build In, Build Out or Actions before, it’s useful to spend a couple of hours just playing around with a sandbox Keynote file. The best advice I can give to learn Keynote’s animation is to just play around with it. Set aside a weekend morning to try some various animations with simple shapes like squares and circles.
Tweaking and finessing the animation can be very time-consuming depending on your script and the complexity of what you’re trying to build. Sometimes the animations just don’t look like I had hoped and I often end up revising storyboard elements some in this step to align with what Keynote can do. Once you’ve done a few videos, you’ll start to get a better idea of what you can accomplish and what will likely not work.
7. Export/Capture images and clips using Camtasia
While Keynote does have the ability to export directly to a QuickTime file, I’ve never been satisfied with the result. There’s not enough control over timing to suit my tastes. So, I like to go to presentation mode and play the presentation and do a video screen capture using TechSmith’s Camtasia software (Mac version / PC version).
When I first started doing this I tried to capture the whole video at once. But, I found that this was only a slight improvement over the native Keynote export. So, now what I do is capture individual scenes or clips as separate Camtasia video captures. Then I have the flexibility to piece these separate clips together, re-arrange, re-cut, etc. in the next step. When capturing these clips, it’s good to capture several seconds worth of extra “footage” at the beginning and end of the clip before any animation starts. This will give you a lot more flexibility when it comes to editing in the next step.
8. Edit in Camtasia, iMovie or Final Cut Pro
Though you can skip this step if you’re just using Keynote and exporting Quicktime video from there, I really like the added flexibility of editing the video in a true video editor application. I’ve tried several video editors in doing this, including Apple’s iMovie which comes standard with Macs, TechSmith’s Camtasia, which, like iMovie is very simple to learn and use, and most recently, Apple’s professional video editing suite, Final Cut Pro. If you’re just starting out with motion graphics videos, I’d recommend starting with either iMovie or Camtasia for your video editing. Out of those two, I’d recommend Camtasia over the latest version of iMovie (an older version of iMovie, iMovie HD was actually a pretty nice basic video editor, but the latest versions, in my opinion, have taken giant steps backwards). I use Camtasia primarily for capturing individual video clips in the previous step and exporting rough cuts that I then import into Final Cut Pro.
As for Final Cut Pro, it’s currently my video editor of choice. It’s a professional level video editor so it’s very powerful. The downside is that there is a significant learning curve to get proficient with it and it’s also fairly expensive.
I import all my video clips and still imagery into Final Cut Pro and work on final arrangements and timing there.
9. Audio & Voice-over
The last step in my process is to add narration or music. If I’m doing voice-over narration, I usually capture that separately using Camtasia and export separate audio files that I then import into Final Cut Pro to synch up with the video tracks. If I’m incorporating music, I also import that into Final Cut Pro and edit there. Both narration and music can be added edited into the video using iMovie or Camtasia if those are the tools you are using.
Once all the audio and video elements are edited together it’s time to export your finished product. For uploading to YouTube, I export as a QuickTime file using the H.264 codec at 1280 x 720 pixels.
If you’re looking for ideas or inspiration for infographic videos, check out VideoInfographics.com, a curated site I’ve launched recently to showcase infographic videos that explain, educate, or inform.