How can an amateur develop engaging, informative visual content online?
November 8, 2010 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I love RSA Animate videos. What makes these videos so great, and to what extent can I replicate this process in attempting to convey information on complex subjects in creating my own online content?

I work for a nonprofit that distributes resources and knowledge about a relatively complex subject (investment finance) to an audience with a relatively short attention span and low prior knowledge (college students).

Right now we have some 'webinars' that we use to explain the more complex material we disseminate basically in a web player format that is powerpoint + a voiceover. This is somewhat effective, but the image is static and the entire setup is a little slow and unengaging. We use this method because it is a) cheap - nearly free to host them (something under $100 a year for the service) and b) relatively easy to create - not too time intensive. However, I feel pretty strongly that there are better models out there than having a voiceover for Powerpoint.

I really enjoy the RSA Animate videos that have been spreading across the internet in recent months. The way the videos are animated and narrated in a continuum, and not as static slides, helps draw the viewer in, while writing out some of the text that is spoken reinforces the message. Some videos that companies like Google have done, such as this one, show the potential to combine fun music, simple black-text-on-white-background messages, and zoomed in 'clips' of a mouse on a screen to potentially walk users through accomplishing tasks online or on a computer. All of these facets are highly desirable to me yet totally unattainable as far as I can tell in thinking about how to further develop our content with the existing tools we have.

The process of making something like this is unclear to me. I wouldn't even know where to begin, and we wouldn't have tons of time or money to devote to it. I have no idea what can realistically be accomplished by an amateur like me, and what needs a professional, and wouldn't really know where to start.

So I suppose this question has two parts:

1. Does anyone have any other examples of highly engaging displays of complex visual content on the internet that could be somewhat replicable by a layperson like me? What do you think makes them so interesting and effective? Video lectures? Online tutorials? If you have examples of static image walk-throughs, tutorials, or articles that present content as effectively as an animation, then I'd be happy to see stuff like that too.

2. Does anyone have any knowledge or experience in making content like this? What equipment did you use, and do you have any idea what sort of capacity is needed in terms of time, money, or expertise? Are there 'how-to' guides online somewhere that my Google powers have failed to unearth?

Basically, I want fun, engaging, informative RSA Animate-style content that I can develop myself, quickly, easily, and for free. And I know I'm not going to be able to satisfy ALL of those criteria. But if anyone can help me move towards this goal in at least some of these realms it would be greatly appreciated.

To clarify, I'm looking for examples or practical skills to help me to think about developing content - I know there's a lot of amazing animations and videos out there, but if it's clearly the work of a professional graphic designer and/or animator who spent many, many hours developing it, then it's not going to be particularly helpful for my process. I think there's a world of attainable stuff out there, though - I think I just need some hive mind help. Thanks for any help anyone can offer.
posted by Muffpub to Education (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by RobotHero at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, thanks. Since there's virtually no description or tags I wasn't able to find that post.

I'd still like to leave this question up since I'm trying to focus on keeping the facets of this approach in a somewhat more attainable manner than the (apparently) more high end, time- and money-consuming methods that these need. There must be easier ways!
posted by Muffpub at 11:51 AM on November 8, 2010

Technical aside is "Tales of Mere Existence" where a guy draws on tracing paper or something from the other side, which I think would reduce the hassles with lighting and not getting your head in the way:

For more theoretical stuff on how to present information graphically, maybe some Edward Tufte, especially his things about what not to do for presentations and why Powerpoint is rarely the best tool for the job.

A pattern I've noticed in this sort of thing is:
1) describe a general principle with the spoken word while you
2) provide a concrete example of that principle with the image

Which makes a lot of sense, since it uses each mode of communication to its strength.
posted by RobotHero at 5:49 PM on November 8, 2010

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