How to Make a (Good) Kinetic Typography Animation Video

December 19, 2014

Kinetic typography is a fantastically engaging way of delivering text information in a visual way. It’s a great marketing vehicle for those looking to spread a heavy message without losing their audience, and is equally as good simply for entertaining the viewer – particularly with the advent of YouTube, there have been so many great examples of kinetic typography that it’s become something of an artform.

Rendering text in an appealing manner is a fundamental skill taught at graphic design school, and there are a lot of resources out there to get you started with the animation aspect. But putting technical factors aside, what makes for an aesthetically pleasing kinetic typography animation that stands a chance of going viral?

The Key Ingredients for a Great Kinetic Typography Animation

  • Don’t Go Over Three Minutes. This is a real biggie – no matter how excellent you think your material is shaping up, your audience’s mind will wander around this point (and all those hours you spend putting into the superfluous two minutes will be wasted). Keep it tight and concise, and your viewers will love you for it.
  • Don’t Use A Weak Soundtrack. Another huge mistake that can kill an otherwise good animation is using an audio file with a terrible bitrate, distortion or other issues. Although kinetic typography can be seen as primarily a visual media, it’s very much an aural one, too.
  • Render The Exported Video on the Highest Settings. Again, it’s all about not selling yourself short – why bother spending hours on a crisp-looking typography that would get you accepted into animation school, only to stick it on YouTube in a pixelated 320p resolution?
  • Triple-Check for Typos. This one sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often we see excellent kinetic typography laden with spelling (and grammatical) errors. It can ruin the experience for an eagle-eyed viewer, and it’s very difficult to go back and correct these, so be sure to triple check for typos.

These four major guidelines should stand you in good stead and get you most of the way there, but next we’ll take a look at some nuanced aspects of kinectic typography when executed brilliantly…

… and dissect some poorer examples, too.

Picking Workable Audio

Having good sound quality is key, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all of an audio track that will look good when animated.

Let’s assume you’re looking to take some movie dialogue and give it the kinetic typography treatment purely for entertainment purposes (a great place to start out).

What you should be looking for is a scene that isn’t too “messy”, with numerous actors talking at once or overlapping, a big soundtrack detracting from the spoken words or abrasive sound effects that will be tricky to represent in animated form.

While there’re no strict laws here, you’ll probably want to start out with just a one or two actors speaking at a fairly even rate (more on pacing in a bit). If the script itself is instantly recognizable and/or iconic, even better – a superb example from Breaking Bad:

Do set aside some time to fiddle with the audio track in the editing suite before you begin animating to get the best out of the finished product; a little time spent tweaking the EQ and lowering any ambient noise that may be in the clip so that the words shine out can pay dividends.

Working in the Third Dimension

Check out this kinetic typography video from Zombieland (a movie which actually employs kinetic typography during the scene itself):

You’ll notice how – particularly towards the end – the animator employed back and forth motion with the type and graphics rather than just scrolling text along the X and Y axes.

One of the great benefits of the medium is that you’ve got an infinite canvas to work with, so do make good use of it in all three dimensions – it’s a lot more engaging to see the ‘camera’ move through the frame, especially since this technique makes it hard to predict which direction the font will start moving in.

The Art of Pacing

In the above two examples, it’s clear that the animators paid a great deal of attention to the pacing of the script; sticking with some words or lines longer than others, and dramatically speeding up or slowing down at points.

How you approach this depends hugely on the audio you’re working with, of course, and more often than not you just have to go with your gut as to what feels ‘right’.

That said, the best way to demonstrate the importace of pacing is perhaps to look at a poor example. This one comes from the movie Inception:

Hit Them With a Surprise

Much like any visual medium, throwing in the odd curveball or twist can be a very effective way of leaving an impression on your audience. This is especially true of kinetic typography, which is, at its heart, simply text moving around a screen.

Check out this delightful animated clip from The Social Network, which not only incorporates a lot of the above advice, but features a delightful twist at the end: 

The Best Way to Make a Killer Kinectic Typography Video? Practice!

Your first few videos are likely to be very rigid and not particularly mindblowing, but that’s very much to be expected. The only way to better yourself is to have fun playing around and discovering what works and what doesn’t – by the same token, feel free to contravene every piece of advice offered above!

There are already a lot of tired clichés when it comes to typography, so there’s nothing wrong with trying to stand out from the crowd by experimenting. To demonstrate this in action, we’ll finish off with this marvelous Pulp Fiction clip in which the animator has even managed to incorporate video into the mix: