Chapter 3 Content

Animation Design Exercise

Create a twenty-second motion graphic video spot serving as an advertisement or public service announcement.


Design and produce a twenty-second motion graphic video spot using imagery, text, audio, and motion graphics. The advertisement can promote a physical or digital product, a service, cause, organization, or an event. Over the course of the video, a central concept or plea needs to be introduced, supported by additional content, and followed through with a strong call-to-action. The client can be a company, nonprofit or cultural institution, general cause, or event-based organization.

Go with a 1280 x 720px composition size, 24 or 30 frames per second. Exactly twenty seconds in length. The final video output should be an .mp4 file. The reason we’re not specifying a full 1920px frame is because you might want to manipulate position or scale in a background video. This slightly smaller size gives you a bit of room to do so.


This motion graphics piece is an advertisement or public service announcement. The big takeaway for this exercise is the call-to-action at the end.What kind of client or concept would lend itself well to this format? Consider a cause that you could easily support, or a product or service that you understand. The client doesn’t have to be a real entity, and you can create a fictitious product or service as well. Because the final video will live online, it may be more advantageous to create the brand from scratch (because of copyright issues).

Research and Methodology

When animating something simple like a logo, you’re trying to distill the essence of a brand or organization into a short visual expression. For this longer-form animation, you’re appealing to the viewer to do something. You can already see the need for text to be read on-screen and engaging graphics. Both need time to be processed, and pacing becomes even more important at this stage. In a twenty-second piece, you might ask: How can this be broken down into five-second chunks? You’ll introduce the idea within the first five seconds, use the following ten seconds to support that, and end with the call-to-action.


What kind of visuals might work well with your concept? Photos, illustrations, video? Maybe some combination of these? There are inherent aesthetic associations with how each are used. Contemporary photography or video can convey a forward-facing business, while whimsical illustrations might suggest something more casual. Just know that these meanings can be juxtaposed to create contrast or embrace wit. The copy used should be succinct, but it also needs to be emotionally captivating and memorable. What’s the question or proposition? This will be what grabs the user’s attention. What are the main ideas you want to convey? What is the call-to-action? Everything leading up to this has setup what you’re asking the user to do.That might be purchasing something(product or service), donating time or resources, attending an event, or participating in an experience.


A quick sketch of each chunk of action will help you start animating with intent. These should quickly communicate the scene, animations happening in that timeframe, text that appears on screen, background audio, and the transition to the next scene.

Mood Boards

Assembling some visual content can be done quickly after you’ve decided on some basics. There are many websites that feature 100 percent free photography and video (they make money through advertising and partnerships). A few noteworthy ones are Gratisography, Unsplash, and Pexels. Arranging these on a basic mood board will allow you to see them in context with each other, as well as typefaces and colors. Take screenshots of video clips to show them as well.


Acquiring audio for this exercise is a bit more difficult than visuals. In short: Don’t use popular music, period. There are algorithms built to find these in videos across social media, where they’re flagged and removed. Specifically try searching for “copyright safe music” on social media will paradoxically yield good results because there are individuals that upload their own music for pure exposure. Other places to look online are the FreeMusic Archive and FreeSound. If you’re musically inclined, creating your own ambient track might actually be quicker than searching out what you have in mind.

Style Frames

Using some of the content you’ve collected, design four to eight style frames. Remember, these are highly polished compositions that should communicate a level of detail, which looks like a finished product. You can use these to showcase typography, color schemes, and the overall look and feel.


With your sketches and style frames in hand, it’s time to begin assembling your composition in the timeline. Import the content that comprises the first five seconds or so, and reference what you’ve designed on your first style frame. After keyframing your initial animation and tweaking their velocity in the graph editor, test it by playing back in RAM preview.After the first few scenes have been designed, you can work out the transitions between them. Bring in your audio files, set their levels, and be sure to fade them in and out.

Render and Export

After viewing the entire composition and adjusting for timing and pacing, it’s time to export. Use the command: Composition > Add to render queue to create a lossless video file. This will be very large and can be used to compare quality against. Open Media Encoder, add the video file to the queue, and choose the h.264 preset. You can further tweak settings here, but adjusting the bitrate will make the most difference. Keep lowering the bitrate and exporting until you can see a noticeable difference between this and the original file. That’s the sweet spot. Uploading the resulting .mp4 file can be uploaded to Vimeo for easy sharing and embedding.

Reflection and Revision

Looking at your final video, how have you addressed the intent outlined earlier? Does the overall aesthetic and presentation fit well against the client (real or imagined) or cause? How is the imagery drawing emotional ties to the concept being presented? What’s the tone of the copy and call-to-action? Is it easily scanned and integrated with the imagery? Are there dynamic motion graphics driving and enhancing the concept? There should be much more at play than just photos and videos with text overlays. Answering these questions and confirming effectiveness is key to reflecting on your approach. If you pursue any revisions, remember to save a copy before doing so.

Goals and Outcomes

A strong portfolio piece is the most obvious evidence of completing this exercise effectively. We’ve addressed some basic questions above about what a successful project looks like in this category, but the true test is to compare it to real examples.Find two to three examples of motion graphic advertisements or public service announcements, and rate them against yours. Better yet, have someone else do it.It needs to be “on-brand” with the client you’ve chosen or created. The final imagery should feel “created” rather than chosen.Viewers should feel compelled by the call-to-action, and it should all look seamless.