Finishing the Logo animation

Welcome to week 02! Let's finish up the logo animation we began last class. I did a little bit more work to complete the logo accroding to one of our design ideas. Here is the completed logo:

Click here to download the exercise files so we can recreate it in class.

 

Broadcast Standards Overview

Screen Formats

Related imageRelated image

Screens come in all kinds of sizes –also called screen format – so it's good to begin any discussion of broadcast design work with a discussion about which format we will be working with. This is true of any visual design, whether it's print, web-based, social-media, or video media. Keep in mind, screen format is really more the ratio of width to height (the aspect ratio), and shouldn't be confused with screen dimensions. 

In this class, we will most likely be working with the HDTV format, which has a 16 unit by 9 unit aspect ratio. 

 

Title Safe and Action Safe

In the old days, there wasn't much in the way of standards for screen real estate. Television manufacturers basically adhered to screen format, but there was variation. This meant that broadcasters couldn't guarantee that elements they placed around the edges of the format would be completely visible to their entire audience. That being the case, safety areas were introduced to ensure that any on-screen type was legible any on-screen action was visible. 

The areas are called the Title and Action safe areas. Traditionally, title safe was roughly the inner 80% of the screen, whereas action safe was roughly 90%.  But, as television standards have changed, screen manufacturers have fallen into line with these standards, more and more content is now viewed on smart-devices with clearly defined screen sizes, and lastly video codecs/formats have gotten much better at re-scaling to aspect ratios and screen dimensions, these areas have been revised to about 90% for titles and 93% for action (see below diagram):

 

Title and Action safety areas post-2010

For designers, we're really committed to padding and margins, around our type and around screen elements, so we're all for the continued use of title and actions safe guides. Broadcaster designers, however, must adhere to them even more stringently if they want their content to even be accepted for broadcast.

 

A Word About Digital Content Standards  

Digital Media is definitely an incredible sea change in the broadcast world, and it was a long time coming. But keep in mind, it’s not magic. While it’s true that many different formats are supported, this didn’t happen overnight and the technology required to make this possible is vast. To be a broadcast designer or animator, it’s not necessary to know everything about Digital Media, but the following are just a few of the things you definitely must know.

CODECs

A CODEC is essentially a piece of hardware or software that encodes or decodes digital data. The word itself stands for 'coder-decoder'. Video codecs encodes video from an analog source into digital video and also from digital video to analog video. See below:

 

A typical digital video workflow: video gets encoded into H.264, then decoded and re-encoded into Apple ProRes, more suitable for editing.

 

 In the diagram above, the Video Camera has a hardware-based codec that converts the chroma and luminance values to a digital video signal, encodes with the H264 codec and saves it onto the Memory Card, in this case a Sony SXS card. When it comes time to edit this video, the H264 files are converted to the Apple ProRes 422 codec and copied, bit for bit, into a computer’s hard disk. 

In order for it to be viewed on screen, there needs to be a codec on the computer that decodes the Apple ProRes Quicktime stream into a computer screen-ready format. Lucky for you, you’re on a Mac. Apple has tied Quicktime into their operating system and Final Cut Pro (FCP) editing software. Moreover, your computer (and Final Cut, After Effects, and other video-centric applications) natively understand how to decode the Apple ProRes 422 codec. 

audioLikewise, Audio codecs encode analog audio to digital and also from digital to analog. When Kendrick Lamar, for example, records audio, the sounds he makes are technically analog signals in the air, in the microphone, and through the mic cable, until they finally get to the computer’s ‘Analog to Digital Conversion’ hardware. There the analog signals are converted to digital information through an audio codec and written to the Hard Drive. On an Apple, this audio data is usually encoded with the PCM codec within an AIFF file format. From there, different codecs are used to encode and place the audio on iPods (AAC, MP3), Apple TV (MPEG4, H264) and Compact Disc (PCM).

 

Commonly used CODECs

Video Codecs:

Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)

  • Apple ProRes HQ, LQ, Proxy
  • MPEG-1(includes .mp3) 
  • MPEG2 (used on DVDs)
  • ISO MPEG-4, versions 1.0 and 1.1
  • MPEG-4 Part 2
  • H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) 

Windows Proprietary Video Codecs

  • Windows Media Video
  • Microsoft MPEG-4, versions 2 and 3 (proprietary and not MPEG-4 compliant video codec created by Microsoft. Released as a part of Windows Media Tools 4. A hacked version of Microsoft's MPEG-4v3 codec became known as DivX)
  • Microsoft Motion JPEG

Other common Codecs

  • VP6, VP6-E, VP6-S, VP7 - used in Flash Player 8+, Flash Lite and Java FX and it suports High Definition standards

Audio Codecs:

MPEG

  • ISO MPEG Layer 3 (MP3) - we use this codec everyday to share and listen to music
  • MPEG4 (AAC)
  • Vorbis (Used by Spotify)

Windows

  • Windows Media Audio
  • Microsoft ADPCM
  • PCM (Pulse Code Modulation)

Apple

  • Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC)
  • AIFF (PCM)

Others

  • Dolby Digital (a.k.a. AC3)
  • Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)

File Formats

Taco Crispy Beef 990x725Ok, so we’re finally here: formats. How exciting! Here’s the deal with formats: you’ll remember that after a computer or other hardware device has converted analog images and sound to digital video and audio, it has to be stored onto a hard drive. What I didn’t tell you is that storage, whether on tape or disk, requires the data be sealed in a specific wrapper, commonly called a format. A good analog to the file format is the humble tortilla: if the codec is the type of filling (beef, chicken, fish, chorizo, lengua, beans, etc.) then the tortilla is the format.

 

Tortillas come in all types: in rural Mexico they're usually corn, made by hand the old way from macerated corn or maize. But in northern Mexico you will occasionally find flour tortilla. And throughout the world, there are all kinds of bazaar takes on the Mexican tortilla: hard-shell, gordita, etc. But most of these tortillas can contain any number of fillings, such as beef. 

To summarize: tortilla = format; codec = filling

 

Examples of Format

File format is not to be confused with compositional or screen format, discussed above. We’ve already seen examples of a few formats in the hard drive file universe:

  • MP3 - file format that uses the MPEG1 (Layer 3) codec to transport and stream audio in small files.
  • AIFF - uncompressed audio file format used by Apple that uses the PCM codec. 
  • h264 - compressed video format that compresses/decompresses High Def video for screens of all sizes using the MPEG4 codec. This particular format is so adept at displaying content on big flat screens as well as little smart-device screens that is supported by the international, digital TV body ATSC.
  • Quicktime (.MOV, .m4v, .mp4, et al.): this format can use a multitude of codecs, including MPEG1,2 and 4. It is an all around good format for Apple computers.
  • AVI (Audio Video Interleaved ):  this format is used by Windows machines and usually contains video encoded with Divx, Xvid or some variety of Window Media Video codecs.

But there are also Digital Video codecs that can be on video tape in addition to hard drives:

  • DV - used for video tape recorders, color information reuced, max dimensions: 740x480, usually interlaced video
  • DVCPRO - better sound quality and better chrominance accuracy
  • DVCAM - invented by SONY, similar to DVCPRO
  • DVCPRO50 - very good quality, accurate color representation. Used for high-quality productions where HD quality is not required.
  • DVCPRO100/DVCPRO HD - High Definition quality format that supports the same color representation as DVCPRO50, but also supports variable frame-rates and is usually recorded on tape-based, cinema quality cameras or smaller, handheld cameras utilizing flash memory. As a result, this format is generally for professionals only.
  • HDV (High Definition Video) - Conceived and developed by JVC and supported by Sony, Canon and Sharp as a low-cost high definition format. When you buy a consumer HD camera today, it will almost always be using this format. Supports  720p, 1080i and 1080p content.

Why should I care about codecs and formats?

Codecs and Formats are important because when you deliver projects to clients, the clients have editors or producers who have strict codec and format requirements. If the delivered file isn’t in the formats they have requested, they are going to do extra work to convert them. In other words, if you haven’t delivered anything usable, then you haven’t delivered.

Furthermore, in order to export your animations with a particular codec to a particular file format, you usually have to have certain things set up initially, such as frame-rate, audio and dimensions. E.g. you wouldn’t create a standard definition, NTSC DV composition for something that is meant to go into a high definition project. Colors are different, screen dimensions are different, codecs are different... you get the picture.

Understanding these concepts before you even open up After Effects will not just make things much easier for you throughout: they will make it possible to even begin!

 

Type exercises

Let's end with some simple type exercises. The Goal: Choose a typeface that you have some familiarity with, or perhaps just admire, and sketch versions of it modified by three action words. You can use the verbs themselves for the text content for each sketch. Below are some student examples:

 

What Exactly Are Action Words?

Action words are words that express active endeavors, as opposed to passive. You'll often see referecne to these online in regards to resume prepartion, as action words are far more effective in conveying ambition, effectiveness, and success. In our case, this isn't some workforce prepartion class: we're more interested in creativity, and action words are perfect as they activate the visual centers of the brain. Some examples of action verbs:

 

Richard Serra, Verb List, 1967, graphite on paper.

The piece above is by artist Richard Serra, but you can find action verbs pretty much anywhere. After you've sketched multiple versions for each of your three action verbs, we'll take a look at everyone's sketches and choose which onces to animate. Below are examples of some sketches I made in response to a few action words:

Baskerville with 'distribute' applied to it. 
Baskerville with 'spill' applied to it.