We all know that animated content is a great way to engage viewers online. Among a cluttered jungle of media, it’s one of the most effective ways to stand out. Unsurprisingly, animation is giving the edge to some of the biggest brands in the world.
But the world of animation never sits still. There are always new and exciting innovations that are just around the corner. From realtime rendering techniques to advanced automation, a handful of technologies have quietly emerged, about to enter the mainstream.
Join us as we delve into five of the technologies that are poised to revolutionise the world of animated content.
Accessible Augmented Reality
While Virtual Reality has been in the spotlight for some time, Augmented Reality has been quietly integrating into our lives. Indeed, many are predicting that AR will prove to be the most important of the two.
We’ve seen household names like Pokemon Go and Snapchat bringing AR to the masses. But now Google and Apple have made the technology accessible to hundreds of millions of users, and AR apps are truly going mainstream.
With barriers dropping in terms of technology, it’s becoming easier than ever for creatively-led apps to emerge.
Slapstick is one such example. Aimed at a similar audience to Snapchat, the app lets you ‘slap’ animated stickers onto real-world surroundings, and share in social posts.
The real USP for Slapstick is the slick animation, that elevates the app above similar rivals.
Developed by motion design studio Buck, this is an interesting departure from the studio’s more straightforward service work. Slapstick points to the IP-led direction that many animation studios are taking.
Another one to watch is Weird Type, which allows users to place animated typography in the world around them.
Artist Zach Lieberman created the app using his own toolkit openFrameworks. Weird Type was an unexpected hit, breaking into the top 30 on the App Store entertainment section.
As the technology continues to mature, expect more game-changing AR apps to emerge, featuring beautiful animated graphics.
Live Character Animation
When Adobe Character Animator appeared as a beta in 2015, the animation world was fairly underwhelmed. Although the technology – dynamic character movement captured from camera footage – was impressive, the quality of the animation still left a lot to be desired.
But then the world of TV got on board.
When The Simpsons broadcast their first ever live show in 2016, Character Animator was suddenly cast into the spotlight, and the industry took notice.
Generating a live cartoon character – who reacts to the real world – opens up lots of new avenues for TV production – particularly within the improvisational nature of live comedy.
The next high profile example, Cartoon Donald Trump, featured on the Colbert Show during the run up to the US Presidential Election in 2016. The regular spot was such a success that a whole new series, Our Cartoon President, followed.
Now rival products are coming to market, such as Live Face from Crazytalk Animator. Using the insane processing power within the iPhone X, this app allows users to animate characters from their iPhone camera.
This software is unlikely to replace established workflows within high-end production. But for animated content with quick turnaround – and with a live element – this opens up new doors.
As new products emerge, expect to see more brands using this approach to tell stories using animated characters and avatars.
Data Driven Infographics
Infographics are growing and thriving, according to Forbes magazine.
90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, according to the report, and visuals are known to improve learning and retention by 400%.
The effect can be even more profound when rich animated content is used to bring infographics to life. Used the right way, motion can be an instrumental part of the storytelling process.
Undoubtedly Adobe had this in mind when they added advanced new data driven features in After Effects. This new functionality makes it easier than ever for designers and animators to harness the power of dynamic data visualisation in their animated content.
The technology has been used to great effect in this series of videos for the World Intellectual Property Organisation. They took a report containing over 200 pages of graphs and tables, and streamlined it into a beautiful series of motion designs for the web and social media.
The data visualisation sector of motion design has always been an interesting area, but these new features will undoubtedly lead to incredible advances in how data is presented in more cinematic ways.
With more data available than ever, expect to see animated infographics used increasingly to engage brand audiences.
Automated Video Generation
Everyone loves how rich animation can delight and tell a story. But it’s hard to deny that good animation is time consuming and expensive. This expense doesn’t always suit every budget.
Recently, though, we’ve seen advances in dynamic video creation that are allowing much more to be done with automation. Savvy content creators are able to create rich animated spots for social platforms, quickly and easily through the cloud.
The brilliant London-based Cub Studio recently developed a system designed for their high profile sports client base. MoShare allows clients to create branded content that combines beautiful animation with real-time scores and statistics that can be published within seconds.
Italian studio Illo have taken the concept even further with their platform Algo. This incredibly smart subscription service allows users to input information and receive automatically generated content on the fly.
In one example, they show a daily newsletter being transformed into a Buzzfeed-style summary that can be pushed to Instagram stories and other video formats. The software is given basic text, and can grab the rest of the assets automatically.
Automation is emerging in many professional fields and animation is no exception. No doubt this will lead to a lot more cheap “throwaway” animated content, as well as the beautiful examples we see here.
As great designers become more comfortable with automation, expect more fantastic dynamic animation to feature among your social feeds.
Realtime Animation On Mobile
Some of the world’s biggest app brands – such as Headspace – have been making great use of animation for a while now.
Animation has been implemented in the past through heavy video files, which can lead to large file overheads and load times.
Building complicated code-based sequences for apps was tricky and time consuming, requiring lots of hard-to-maintain scripting, and large image libraries.
But now, some of the largest tech brands are pushing lightweight scripted animation that can be rendered within the app in real time. With techniques like this, we’re seeing increased use of dynamic interactive animation sequences, with a small footprint.
AirBnb recently introduced Lottie, an open-source native library for iOS, Android, and React Native that renders After Effects animations in real time.
Lottie is along the same lines as Facebook’s Keyframes library, used for their native app animations, and Marcus Eckert’s Squall. With several platforms jostling for superiority, the speed of innovation is sure to continue apace.
For now, these plugins support just a handful of the vast array of After Effects features – mainly those for creating vector motion graphics. The feature list is sure to grow with time, though, opening up new possibilities.
As these ecosystems grow, expect to see lots more slick animated graphics in a mobile app near you.
Exciting Times in Animated Content
Since the dawn of film, animation has always been at the cutting edge of the moving image. The newest advances show that we’re clearly living through an exciting time within the industry.
Although these innovations often start out as expensive and inaccessible experiments, they eventually filter down to the wider industry as the barriers to entry fall.
Expect to see this technology like this used more and more in the everyday brand videos that we see on the web and social media.
Are you interested in learning more about any of these innovations? At Stampede, we’re keen to work together using the latest advances to engage audiences more effectively.
Get in touch now to discuss how we can collaborate!