Motion Graphics For One-Man Bands: Part 1 – Geometry

By Jeremiah Hall

I retired from broadcast news a couple of years ago.  Back then I shot and cut daily, in addition to shooting and editing freelance projects.  Being one of the oldsters in the newsroom (“You saw Star Wars when it came out?  Wow, you’re old.” – real quote), I lived the change from reporter / photog teams to Multimedia Journalist, which is industry-speak for man or woman who can write, shoot, edit and act as talent all on one salary. I frequently had to field questions from budding One-Man Bands on editing, audio, and shooting techniques.  I still get phone calls and emails to this day with questions.  To save some time, I’m going to share some basic motion graphic lessons for the beginners reading this blog.  While my examples will be done with After Effects, these basics also apply to Premiere Pro, Avid, Final Cut X, and any other editing platform where image manipulation is possible.

Thinking In 3D

3D Space. Click picture for a larger view.

When you work with motion graphics, you need to think about the axis.   What is an axis?  According to, an axis is “any line used as a fixed reference in conjunction with one or more other references for determining the position of a point or of a series of points forming a curve or a surface.”

Now let your eyes unglaze and let’s put this into layman’s terms.  An axis is an invisible line.  It is not really there.  It is used to figure out where something is.  There are three axes:  X, Y, and Z (see Fig. 2).

The X, Y, and Z axes. Click picture for a larger view.

X is left and right, also known as horizontal.  Y is up and down, a.k.a., verticle.  Z is toward and away, and is also referred to as depth.

The End Product

Here are three small movies showing what an object looks like on each axis as it moves.

In the above movie, we see the red box moving along the X axis.

In the above movie, we see the red box moving along the Y axis.

In the above movie, we see the red box moving along the Z axis.

Now you should have a basic understanding of space when it comes to motion graphics.  Next time, we’ll take a look at how to use this in a very practical way – making static photos move.

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