Animation Translation

Author: Brandon Butrick |


In the Bay Area tech community new products are often software and unlike physical products, are defined not by aesthetics but by function. For those of us who understand visually this presents a problem and is one of the reasons the animated explainer video has had such widespread usage.

If we were to take practical imagery of thousands of servers and call them “the cloud,” which is already commonplace, suddenly the magic of an instantaneous video stream to our laptop loses mystique. Our perception and experience of moving away from tower computers is not entirely accurate. And what is so fascinating about huge server rooms that stream data? Not much really. Again, why animation can be of great value to those of us who need to see in order to understand.

Animation starts with what is real and what is imagination. Let us take a simple example and use that in study. If I press the spacebar on the keyboard, a space will appear on my text-based writing program. The mechanical depression of my finger on the keyboard stimulates an electrical response in the circuitry of the keyboard to then have a certain function within the writing app, resulting in a space between letters. Now that is dry, unimaginative but practical. With data software, the complexity is exponentially greater, and something like this no longer can be easily visualized. Enter imagination.

Before even handing a script or product to an animator, use your imagination to try and see what the product does. What texture does this animation live in? Is it flat animation? Is it 3D? What color scheme? Are there gradients in color or just solids? The questions are as endless as your imagination.

As a teenager I took a course from a high school teacher entitled “Intro to the Arts.” This course involved free drawing without observing the result of the hand movement on the paper. I never understood the value of such an exercise until much later. Visualizing what is only in one’s imagination brings to life that which did not previously exist to others. This is what true animators do. They bring understanding to confusion, simplicity to complexity, vibrancy to dullness.

Next time you choose to pursue an animation project, be a part of the process and give guidance to the animator. A true collaborative partner shares vision and doesn’t ask for a magical solution that they themselves cannot visualize. Even when there is an established brand book, be creative. Allow for imagination and make something new!