CT 345 Introduction to Motion Graphics
3 crs., 2 hrs. lab, 2 hrs. lecture.
Mon. 2PM-5:50PM

Michael Branson Smith
Twitter: @mbransons
Flickr, Youtube, Soundcloud
Email: michaelbransonsmith [at] gmail [dot] com
Office Hours: M 10AM-12PM, or by appointment
Phone: 718-262-2853

Course Description

You will be introduced to the principles of visual effects and motion graphics production for Television and Film. Using non-linear editing and compositing techniques, you will generate complex video effects by combining and animating video, still images, and text. Advanced lighting and the shooting blue and green screens will be introduced for creating video mattes to be used in layered video sequences. You will be pushed to produce videos with unique and professional-looking results using current video and effects software such as Photoshop, Adobe Media Encoder, SpeedGrade, AfterEffects and Premiere.

In this course you will:

  • prepare assets (bitmap, vector, video, audio) for motion graphic projects based on the final output,
  • work with a variety of tools for animation including Photoshop and After Effects,
  • build an appreciation and understanding of the aesthetics time-based design and animation.


We will employ a variety of online tutorials and readings in this class.

Course Assignments

In the first few weeks we will be working on common assignments, but there after we work with a number of options that follow but bear in mind there are three rules for all assignments.


Blogging is an integral portion of the class as all the work you complete will be posted to the site There are three different types of posts that are possible for the site and used depending on the assignment completed. A blog post has it’s own evaluation criteria (refer to the makings of a good blog post) and is worth a certain amount of points in addition to the assignment detailed in the post. Each post must be properly categorized as level 1, 2, or 3 as well as to the particular assignment category.

There is a maximum of 18 posts required for the semester if one were to complete every assignment. You must do a minimum of 2 level two blog posts and a maximum of 2 level three blog posts. You are required to make at least one post per dated period and can create a maximum of five per time period.

Level One Blog Post – this post type is used as a simple reporting-out blog post of an assignment completed. (6 points). Posts are graded using the following criteria:

  • A thoughtful title.
  • An embedded media artifact relevant to the assignment (image, video, audio).
  • A clear statement of the post’s purpose.
  • At least one contextual link related to the post’s purpose.
  • A clear statement of reflection.
  • Appropriate grammar and syntax.

Level Two Blog Post – this post type is used to reflect more deeply and give additional context to the assignment you’ve completed. (12 points) Posts are graded using the following criteria:

  • A thoughtful title.
  • At least two embedded media artifacts relevant to the assignment (image, video, audio).
  • A clear statement of the post’s purpose.
  • At least two contextual links related to the post’s purpose. One of these links must be to a piece of research related to the completed assignment.
  • A description of the piece of related research and how it influenced/impacted your completed assignment.
  • A reflection on your process detailing how you completed the assignment.
  • A final reflection on the assignment.
  • Appropriate grammar and syntax.

Level Three Blog Post – this post type is a more expansive look at a particular topic or assignment. There is a larger amount of research and examples required to frame the work presented. (25 points) Posts are graded using the following criteria:

  • A thoughtful title.
  • At least 4 embedded media artifacts relevant to the assignment/topic. Two artifacts must be references, not created by yourself.
  • A clear statement of the post’s purpose, including an enumerated set of at least three goals (or illustrations) for the deeper investigation.
  • For each goal or investigated illustration:
  • At least two contextual links related to the goal/illustration. One of these links must be to a piece research.
  • A description of the piece of research and how it influenced/impacted your understanding of the illustration/goal.
  • A final reflection on the investigation.
  • Appropriate grammar and syntax.

Motion Graphic Production Projects

You will be working from the weekly calendar as we develop the assignments based on the progress of the class. Hopefully each of you will find a method to progress based on your current skill-set. It’s not important to me whether or not you already possess quality digital-imaging skills, so many of you already come with an approach to manipulating media. The goal is to find a way to incorporate your existing skills with new methods and ideas of animation.

For each project completed you will need to post it as part of a level one or two blog post. If you choose to turn your assignment in with a level three blog post, consider it must contextualized with a broader research interest developed in the context of the pursuit of the project.

You are welcome to create your own project ideas and present them as well. If the project is an original assignment, you must post it as part of a level two blog post. I suggest looking at a number of the more complex GIF subreddits (High Quality .gifsGIFs with a little extra!Real Life Doodles) for inspiration, but anything is on the table. Please blog about your interests and embed inspiring GIFs/videos.

You will need to complete a minimum of eight projects and a maximum of fifteen. We will use the following criteria to evaluate your projects (5 points):


The quality of assets prepared for the animation (clean transparency edges and appropriate resolution for output).

Quality of the motion methods (motion paths, blending/transparency changes  used for the output chosen.

Quality of blending/layering of assets in the project.


Quality of the composition/design/typography of the motion graphic space.


Ability to describe decisions made in your project based on the content used. Choice of assets, type of motion, choice of type, etc.

Ability to describe and effectiveness of the message of the motion graphic project. What are you trying to elicit from the audience (this can be very specific and/r subjective – humor, inside knowledge of a genre/story remix, creepiness, etc)? Please make an attempt to make sense of your messaging awareness of the piece.

Field Trips

Making a visit to a museum, show, studio and presenting your findings in a level one, two, or three blog post. You must create at least one original piece of documentation of your visit and provide it as evidence in your post. Documentation can include image, audio, and/or video.



Create a tutorial or presentation that explains a particular topic or teaches a particular skill in the field of motion graphic production. Tutorials can be created as video presentations (3-5 minutes) or a text based instructions with images. A level one or two blog post is required to report out on a tutorial. Consider the following in your tutorial:

  • The audience minimum skill level for the tutorial is clearly identified.
  • A clear description of the skill to be taught or the topic to be explained is defined.
  • A set of major steps is clearly defined and within each step there is adequate coverage.
  • Ample and clear visual and aural examples are included for steps.
  • A clear voice with simple, straightforward sentences in a video tutorial.
  • Grammatically correct and simple straightforward sentences in a textual tutorial.
  • The coverage of the topic was appropriate for the length of the tutorial.
  • Both presentations have the option to be group presentations (5 additional points each)

Constructive Blog Comments

Provide constructive feedback on at least eight of your peer’s blog posts in the form of a comment to the post. You must include a positive piece and negative piece of feedback. For project posts, constructive feedback should be founded on technical and/or content criteria defined for project posts. If someone else has already commented on the post, then you must provide additional insight to the project’s critique. And finally it is possible to construct a thoughtful question as part of your feedback. The original poster can reply thoughtfully to a question and this will count a piece of feedback for the original poster. You cannot receive any points unless you have provided at least eight constructive comments.

Critique Blog Post

You can chose to critique either a student presentation/tutorial or a student project. If you wish to critique a presentation you must be present for it! Use the criteria for evaluating a presentation/tutorial and give at least two positive and two negative constructive pieces of criticism in a level two blog post. If you wish to critique a student project, you must pick two and compare/contrast them in a level two blog post. You must both positive and negative constructive criticism for both projects on both a content level and a technical level. (20 pts)

Bonus Points

On several unannounced days, attendance will be taken at 2:05 PM. Those present will receive 1 bonus point.

Additional bonus point options will be offered at the discretion of the instructor.


In order to prevent a concentrated amount of work being completed in short period of time (either the beginning, middle, and/or end), the remaining semester has been divided into four periods:



Students are expected to treat the instructor and fellow students with the appropriate degree of respect, both in class (if applicable) and in online discussions. Communication, either in person or through electronic media, that is deemed abusive, threatening, or harassing in nature will not be tolerated.

Academic Integrity

York College’s Academic Integrity Policy & Procedures, developed to conform to the CUNY policy on Academic Integrity.

INC Grades

The following overview of the INC grade is condensed from York’s grading policy website

The student must be passing the course, and have work remaining to complete the course requirements. The student must request an INC grade. The instructor must approve whether the student has a valid reason for not completing course requirements and has reasonable expectation that the student can in fact successfully complete the requirements of the course within the allotted time.
Policy on Accommodations for Disable Students

CUNY York College is committed to providing access to programs and services for qualified students with disabilities. If you are a student with a disability and require accommodations to participate and complete requirements for this class, contact the STAR Program (Specialized Testing & Academic Resources), services for students with disabilities (Academic Core Building (AC), Room 1GO2, 718-262-2191/3732) for verification of eligibility and determination of specific accommodations.