Fancy animated graphics are certainly all the rage in advertisements these days. They’re so flashy, eye catching and sleek looking! But the question is, how do they do it? How can you get the same look for your personal or small business projects? Well, I’m not going to say it is easy, but those graphics are obtainable if you have some key basic information. We’ve put together a list of terms, tools and advice for those just starting out on the motion graphics journey:

What do they use to make them?

The fancy animations and graphics that you see in commercials, movie trailers, music videos and whatnot were not made in a title tool editor or even Photoshop. There are two main motion graphics programs out there right now: Apple Motion and Adobe After Effects. Adobe After Effects is considered the industry standard for creating animated graphics and titles.

How does After Effects work?

Adobe After Effects is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, and as a result it has many of the same attributes you would come to expect from an Adobe product. The program is based on a timeline sequence, just like most video editors, and you layer together multiple textures, backgrounds, effects and text to ultimately create a final graphic.

Can I use After Effects?

Sure! Why not? Learning After Effects is a very valuable skill to have since not many people take the time to really learn it. The software itself costs around $1000 to buy, depending on what type of license you get for it. If you’re going to try to teach yourself, I recommend checking out some free online tutorials or buying an After Effects book. Personally, I like Adobe After Effects CS5: Classroom in a Book. It comes with a disc full of project files so you can follow along step by step with the examples in the book.

Is there an easier way?

Of course there is! Instead of learning all of the ins and outs of After Effects, you can take some help from the experts who have already figured it out. Many sites sell After Effects templates where a designer has put together a full animation for you, and all you have to do is drag and drop your footage, logo or text into the designated areas. You still will need to own After Effects and be familiar with the basics (how to import, render, etc), but it will cut down your workload by 90%.

What if I don’t have After Effects?

There are also pre-made templates available for Apple’s motion graphic software, Motion. These are a little less popular since Motion is a lot more limiting than After Effects. But if you already own the Final Cut Studio, these might be a good option for you. Also, some sites sell customizable motion templates with green screens in them so you can edit them in a normal editing program like Final Cut, iMovie or Premiere. (Like this one! You can download it for free). These allow you to use a chroma key tool to key out the green and lay your image or logo behind it. A note of caution though: these are not nearly as easy to work with. If the graphic involves any sort of movement, you will have to add key frames to your footage or logo to make sure it follows the rest of the template.

This still sounds like too much work. How else can I get a customizable graphic?

Consider hiring someone to freelance a motion graphic for you. There are many talented After Effects artists out there that would love to take your business! Try posting your project proposal on Freelancer.com. After Effect artists can look at what you need and then they bid on who gets to do your work for you! Does it get any simpler than that?

Still have more questions? Let us know! Leave a comment below to ask us your motion graphics questions.

And make sure to download this free green screen motion graphic template!

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