DOTF Blog: What We Talk About When We Talk About Graphics

What we now classify as a “video” is really made up of a multitude of elements – and graphics are some of the most significant elements. But what do we mean by “graphics”? When you’re reading a treatment or quote, what does “graphics” cover?

At DOTF, we use the term “graphics” to refer to any imagery created in a video that has not been created through a camera shooting motion imagery.  This includes motion graphics, animation, 3D rendering, lower thirds, end frames, keying, and special effects. Confused? Have a read through our quick glossary below.

Motion Graphics

Is it a graphic that moves? It’s a motion graphic. It’s not necessarily an animation, but it is animated (in the sense that it is moving). Mostly used to refer to a logo and text elements, such as lower thirds, titles, and end frames.


Whilst the difference between animation and motion graphics is widely discussed, argued and varies from place to place, here at DOTF we like to define animation specifically as a motion graphic that has been created specifically for the video. An animation doesn’t involve making existing still assets move – that’s motion graphic – but drawing, designing and creating something entirely new for the video.

Deakin University - Masters of Business Analysis (MBusAn) from Department of the Future on Vimeo.

3D Rendering

A 3D rendering is a sub-group of animation. Working in 3D is more intensive than standard animation, but can be particularly effective.

RMIT Building & Construction Animation from Department of the Future on Vimeo.

Lower Thirds

Present in most documentary content, a lower third is onscreen text, usually in the lower third of the screen, that gives names and other appropriate information about what’s happening on screen. They may also involve calls-to-action, URLs, location information, anything appropriate for the content being created.  They may be static or animated, depending on the style of the content. Fonts and additional assets will usually be drawn from a brand’s existing style guide for cohesion unless requested otherwise.

RMIT025 - Gaming - Main Video - FINAL - SUBS from Department of the Future on Vimeo.

Animated Text (also referred to as Titles)

Separate to lower thirds, animated text is fairly self-explanatory, and refers to moving text on and off screen (or even around it, if necessary) throughout the content. Frequently used to emphasise key messaging and calls to action.

Melbourne Fringe 2016 - Step Into The Light from Department of the Future on Vimeo.


Again, fairly self-explanatory, these are generally the last visuals of the video, and frequently have a logo, a call-to-action or tagline and contact details for the brand. This almost always involves motion, either of the logo, the text or any other details.

Monash 2016 Winterfest Highlights from Department of the Future on Vimeo.

Keying (also known as Chromakeying)

This is when we get the old greenscreen out (although that’s not always necessary). Keying is used to replace one part of an image with another – for an effect that is smoother, cleaner and more natural than just layering the other image over the top.

City of Stonnington - Cato Square Parking from Department of the Future on Vimeo.

Special Effects

This refers to a broad range of motion graphics skills and can be used to do basically anything. Set things on “fire”, remove numberplates from cars in the background, blur faces, change street signs. These are just a few of the possibilities. Whilst some of these are used to clean up videos, most should be planned in the pre-production phase – and a good content agency will be able to advise which are necessary for your content in this early stage.

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