University of Houston Research Report

This video project for the University of Houston’s 2017 Research Report was a nice opportunity to explore data visualization in After Effects. It also gave me a chance to do some more complex things with the Camera Tool.

What I did:

  1. For the intro, I sketched things out in Adobe Illustrator to get the text treatment and elements laid out right.
  2. Exported individual vector files and placed them in 3D space in After Effects. I started at the point at wanted everything to line up then backed up the camera move from there.
  3. Experimented with opening camera move like crazy: tried moving down Y axis and the X axis (and some other more elaborate things to get around the text), but I ultimately settled on the push in.
  4. Realized I didn’t have enough elements to fill the background, and scoured Getty for more stuff.
  5. For the charts, I plugged the yearly data into a .json file and worked from a video tutorial to set things up in After Effects. I ended up using an expression from Chris Sililch to clean up the lines by snapping to whole pixels.

newX = Math.round(transform.position[0]);
newY = Math.round(transform.position[1]);
[newX, newY]

What I’ll do next time:

This workflow, despite some trial and error, was fairly smooth for the intro. However, I think most of my problems could have been addressed in the design phase. The background needs more depth and texture, and I might have been able to animate the individual elements easier had I put a little more time into cleaning up the original stock vector files or creating my own.

I have a hunch that the chart might have been clearer as bar graphs, though there is something to be said for the psychological effect of that line bursting upward. Knowing the ropes now, I’ll pay more attention to subtler effects like adding a slight wiggle to individual characters à la this example from Le Monde.