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Video Backgrounds Buyers and Users Guide

Motion graphics buyer's guide

 

If you've been looking around the Internet for Video Backgrounds you've probably noticed that there are quite a few providers.  Some, like us, have been around for a while, while others are relative newcomers.  But how do you truly know if what you're going to get is any good?

When looking through video background collections you might see a few small web previews that are asthetically pleasing, but that should only be part of your buying decision.  We've provided this page to give you a few things to think about so you can make an informed purchasing decision no matter who you get your video backgrounds from.

Video backgrounds are known by a few other names such as animated backgrounds, moving backgrounds, and motion graphics.  And animated elements are known as overlays, lower thirds, etc.  For simplicity sake in this article, we'll stick with "video backgrounds."

 

There are many ways to use animated video backgrounds. A popular use is as a background for text in video editing projects. Having a cool video background behind your text is almost always better than just a plain colored background (note we said almost, and we'll touch on that later.)

As your skills advance you can use tools like After Effects (or even some editing systems) to blend animated video backgrounds with stills, video, or other backgrounds to make some really cool polished "motion graphics" looks. You can even use animated video backgrounds in banner ads and web pages.  Many people also use them in their DVD menus.  As you can see, you can get a lot of use out of a good video backgrounds collection.

We've been creating video backgrounds for many years now and we can't help but notice them everywhere.  We see our backgrounds on TV of course. On news shows, commercials, infomercials, etc.  We also see them when we're watching sporting events such as Suns basketball games and Diamondbacks baseball games (both Arizona teams if you didn't know we were based in the Phoenix area.)  We've also seen them in movie theatres before the show, on kiosks in the mall, in web videos, corporate videos, school videos and on church multimedia screens.

There's a reason we see video backgrounds all over the place; they make the information presentation cooler and more professional looking.   It's really that simple.


 

USEABILITY AND AESTHETICS

Now, we've got to say, we've seen some pretty bad video backgrounds out there. These tend to come from companies that don't understand that video backgrounds are supposed to complement whatever is on top of them, not overpower it. Be it text or video on top, the background must not fight for the viewer's attention.  These companies usually have little or no professional video production experience so they just don't know what really works and what doesn't. So they go for lots of "flashy" backgrounds. Consequently they may end up with some animations that are cool in their own right, but that doesn't mean they'll work as a video background and you end up with a large percentage of unuseable backgrounds.

We're always a bit perplexed when we see collections that feature video backgrounds with every color in the spectrum and several layers of random shape motion blasting all over the place.  This is to be avoided.  Lots of motion and color can work in a few instances (nightclub dancefloors for example,) but rarely in most video productions.  It's amazing how many collections out there are wall to wall with these types of flashy video backgrounds.

We believe subtlety is usually the best course of action when creating a background. If you're a "drag and drop" person (you use the backgrounds just as they are with no tweaking) you'll enjoy subtle video backgrounds that work great "out of the box."

Now, there are a few backgrounds in our collection aimed at advanced users that can take somewhat "wacky" video backgrounds and do really cool things with them by manipulating them and combining them with other elements.  As you get more skilled, you probably will too.  These "wacky" backgrounds are usually not intended to be dropped behind your text right out of the box, but rather manipulated and incorporated into a new motion graphics piece.

TECHNICAL QUALITY

Ideally, for best quality, video backgrounds (and live action video for that matter) would be captured and provided in a completely uncompressed 128 bits per channel format on some massive capacity, yet tiny storage device. Well that's not going to happen for a while. So for the sake of logistics and economics, compromises have to be made. To keep video background file sizes manageable, some sort of compression must be used.

There are two kinds of compression; lossy and lossless. When using a lossy fomat (like jpeg or DV) the original data gets changed a little during the compression process and resulting visual artifacts such as blockies and banding might be a problem if you're not careful. With a lossless format (like PNG) the original data comes out of the compression process looking as good as it did when it went in but this results in much larger file sizes.

We use QuickTime files featuring the high quality Photo-JPEG compression scheme for our downloadable backgrounds and JPEG 2000 for our overlay elements.  This is the best trade off between file size and quality.

 

 AND LASTLY...

So what are some other clues that a company is selling trully professional video backgrounds?

Well, sometimes simply looking at their website is a tip-off.  If the website is cheesy and amaturish, beware.  Also, check to see if the majority of their collections are available in HD.  And make sure the clips are available in a less compressed format.  If they are only available as MPEG H.264, keep looking.

And finally, if you can, have a look at the backgrounds of the people running the company.  Do they have a solid video production background with years of experience?  If so, that's a good sign.

We hope these pointers help you make an educated decision when purchasing your video backgrounds.  If you have any questions plese feel free to send them to us at service@12inchdesign.com

 

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