Animate This!

one design problem, many (Emmy award winning) solutions

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

Every year I work with students in Heidi Kumao’s class, Animation for Broadcast, to create motion graphics for our PLAY series for broadcast on Michigan Television (PBS) and the Michigan Channel. (Michigan Television has since closed its doors but we still air work on the Michigan Channel and of course here on our web outlets.) The series features work by and about the creative community here at the school.

It’s been a great relationship: students get a real world broadcast outlet for their work and the PLAY series has a creative, award-winning graphics campaign that doesn't look like anything else on tv.

One of the first animations (from 2006 and still one of my favorites) was this one by Belal Hibri. (It was also the first time Belal had ever worked in After Effects!) 


The following year, senior Jeff Christy became our animator-in-residence and produced these great promos for which he won a Michigan EMMY award.

Last year, Heidi and I decided to have the students create stop motion animations using logo pieces laser cut out of wood.  This approach left less opportunities for experimenting with the formal qualities of the logo’s design, so students focused on the challenges of creating a sense of narrative within 6-10 seconds. (This campaign was also nominated for an EMMY!):

Shark, by Kavita Lokchander

Bob Ross by Shannon Kohlitz

So, this year, a fresh crop! We had a new logo to play with and, returning to After Effects, students could again explore the qualities of the logo. This exercise is an interesting challenge for students because it has lots of limitations (a logo/brand identity to adhere to, a 6 second time limit, a client, (me!)) yet the stakes are high and students seem to rise to the challenge every time.

The animation has to be good enough to air on tv, so the key is refining, refining, refining. They have to be prepared to start over if their ideas aren't working and, rather than leave the assignment at a typically student level, their job is to make every second of the piece look professional. Working with a short form like this is great practice for longer animations. (And in animation, you have to remember, six seconds is a lot of work!)

For many of these students, this was their first time working in After Effects. Take a look at a few of my favorites:

by UBin Li

by Betsy Peters

by Jackie Endres


by Emily Sajewski


by Stephanie Schutter

by Ran Li


Congratulations to the students for their great work and keep an eye out for these animations on TV!

(And, here's a shout out to Ilene and Marc Steglitz who have supported the PLAY project throughout the years. It's a wonderful thing!)


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