Opening the Window with Movement Response

This motion trend pulls you deeper into the digital world and lets more of it in.

Image source: Adobe Stock / HQUALITY.

by Malcolm Thorndike Nicholson

posted on 05-13-2020

“Window” is a resilient word with a curious etymology. It’s derived from the old Norse word vindauga, which translates roughly to “wind eye.” It replaced the Old English word eagduru or “eye door.” Along the way from the 13th century to modern times, it came to refer to architectural openings in walls, transparent glass, a figurative opening, a computer operating platform, and the visual interface through which we navigate an internet browser.

Of all these meanings, “eye door” is the great unifier. It evokes the active, permeable nature of all windows. We might use “screen” to talk about laptops and phones and TVs, but really they’re windows. Our phones are illuminated openings for our eyes into a vast digital world. They’re what bring our eyes outside and the frame through which that world comes in. This dynamic play between “in” and “out”, and between “virtual” and “reality”, has become vibrant over the last year. Over recent months, as countries battle COVID-19 with social distancing, it became absolutely necessary. We’re constantly looking for ways to make our videos, webpages, and profiles flutter with motion, responsiveness, and activity: to open the windows and let the world in.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Flashmovie.

Adobe’s second motion trend of 2020, Movement Response, dives into an especially promising window. It collects templates that bring together live-action video with motion graphics and adds all sorts of responsive flashes and whirs to whatever you’d like. We showcase artists creating graphics that can track dance, responding and playing with every bop, twirl, or pivot. A joystick can become a virtual pen tracing lines across thin air. Your videos can even spontaneously combust with hand-drawn flames.

This trend will be familiar to anyone who spends time on social media. At its most ubiquitous are the thousands of different face-filters, ranging from cute, to surreal, to genuinely creepy/funny. But face-filters have been a long time coming. What Adobe pinpoints in our collection is the growing ability for motion-in-video not only to be tracked but to be responsive. It’s a truly interactive collection of visual effects that takes something you do in the physical world and gives it a digital reaction.

It’s one of our freshest and burgeoning collections. Out of the 149 Movement Response motion graphics templates available, all but ten were created with the last year. Design studios and artists like Box of Motion, Wavebreak Media, and Sean Locke Photography have been especially active in the last few months. And for artists and creators, the collection is particularly lucrative, with one of the highest sell-through rates.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Gorodenkoff.

Making the arcane accessible

Tracking objects within a video and attaching visual effects to that element has existed for a long time. But it wasn’t until very recently that this technology and design was accessible to the lay-user.

Tom Spota, head of motion and audio at Adobe Stock, explains, “In the past if somebody wanted to use motion graphics to draw attention to someone running from first base to second base or some part of a body that’s dancing, you had to be a super high-end professional.” You probably would have to learn the tedious and subtle art of rotoscoping in addition to a host of other digital animation and visual effects techniques.

Recently a lot of these tracking features can be performed automatically in the latest versions of visual effects software like Adobe After Effects.

“Now,” says Tom, “you can be a video editor with basic skills, come to Adobe Stock, download a motion graphic template and put it right into your timeline.” Motion graphics templates, created by top artists around the world, harness the power of After Effects, but can be used and customized directly in Premiere Pro without having to open After Effects. This element of accessibility has created a massive spring of creative interpretations of responsive design.

One driver of the sheer quantity of templates and filters are intermediary platforms like Spark AR. With Spark, even a design novice can create their own filters and then share them on platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. This is what’s led to the seemingly infinite variations of “quiz” filters, from “what pokemon are you?” (not even Ariana Grande could resist), to “What Harry Potter House are you?”

But the genesis of novel designs, reactions, and features still lies in artists working in visual effects programs like After Effects. On the back end of Spark are hundreds of talented VFX and motion graphics designers playing around and expanding just how responsive our private windows can become.

Image source: Adobe Stock / oles_photo.

An enhanced perspective

The ascendancy of Movement Response is part of the larger cultural importance of augmented reality or AR. While projecting virtual designs onto reality isn’t anything new (scientists and programmers have been working on that since the 60s), over the last few years there’s been an explosion of applications as the ability of our phones to capture and process video and graphic applications meets the imaginative creations of programmers and designers.

On the consumer side, companies like Sephora built their own AR feature that lets you try on makeup looks virtually before buying them. On the Ikea Place app, you can project furniture into your own home to see if it fits the rest of the decor. And this is just on the consumer side. An estimated 73% of AR development is geared towards industrial clients like healthcare, shipping, and manufacturing.

From a cultural standpoint, Movement Response is notable because it marries two somewhat distinct creative fields.

“This trend comes from multiple directions in terms of the artists,” explains Paul MacAniff, contributor outreach specialist for Adobe Stock. “It incorporates live-action, and it also incorporates graphics. In many instances, those are not created by the same people.”

While there are some artists who can wear both hats, there’s something gained from mixing the live-action of an expert cinematographer with the motion graphics of a top-notch designer. Paul points out that you can end up with “more than just the tunnel vision perspective of motion content being video. It’s an enhanced perception of reality.”

Image source: Adobe Stock / HQUALITY.

Germination of a trend

A quick glance around contemporary advertising shows just how prevalent Movement Response is in the world of brands and marketing. Companies from Taco Bell to Pepsi to Red Bull are finding ways to make Dorito tacos spring from baseball cleats and for bus stations to host alien invasions. These flashes of light, color, and motion are especially useful for brands trying to advertise on social media feeds, where more often than not people browse without audio. Without an audible ping or pop to grab your attention, a video has about one and a half seconds to grab your attention.

But ultimately, like all visual trends, Movement Response is rooted in what artists are creating and what people are excited by. Dennis Radeke, content development manager at Adobe Stock, points out, “this trend is born out of social media. It really comes down to people thinking, ‘Hey, I can do this on Snapchat,’ then trying to create their own version of this content and posting it somewhere else like Youtube, TikTok or any other platform.” Having access to the design elements, like those featured in our collection, allow creatives to realize their vision anywhere.

Given that many people have their own video cameras in their pockets, the urge to throw your own creative flourish to live-action can almost always be met with creative responses. “That’s really the seed of germination on this trend,” says Dennis. “People are doing this mostly on their phones. They have a little more control and can speak in their own voice, and now are able to share that social media on their terms.”

As most of the world hunkers down to self-quarantining and social distancing, our collective need to expand our digital window will only grow. As artists, we may be actively seeking new ways to add motion and life into humdrum video meetings and everyday Instagram video chats. Why settle for an inert screen when Movement Response can make your phone an open window?

To help you get started, Adobe has a complimentary new movement response template for you. You can download it directly and attach it to your library, or you can search “movement response” while in the Adobe Premiere effects library. Filmmaker Valentina Vee gives a demo here about how to use and customize several motion graphics templates (just remember to search for “movement response” instead of “text”).

Browse our collection and motion templates for inspiration or pave your own way in After Effects.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, Video & Audio

Products: Stock, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud