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Symbiartic

The art of science and the science of art.

The Intelligent Use of Animations

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Or, in other words: Don't do this. Do this:

Jim Benton Cartoon

© Jim Benton; www.jimbenton.com

Remember websites in the early 90s with their scrolling banners, cheezy tiled backgrounds, and blinking and twirling text? No matter how swanky html5 or the next coding language is, I hope I never utter the phrase, "sure, why not?!" when it comes to use of special effects in my visualizations. In fact, when Henry Reich, the creator of the popular YouTube channel MinutePhysics, and I were planning our workshop on special effects in visualization for the ScienceOnline 2013 conference several weeks ago, we had a good chuckle about the gratuitous use of special effects in animation. I guess we laugh about it so we don't cry...

With the Hamster Dance as a backdrop, I want to point out this hilarious cartoon by Jim Benton that was used last week to illustrate a post by Bora Zivkovic on commenting threads. Cartoons have been around for long before the internet, and like any successful medium, I suspect they'll be around, largely unchanged for a while. So I was particularly amused to see Benton make use of a very basic animation to get his point across - the addition of animated franken arms. The cartoon would stand alone, without the animation just fine, but what I love about it is that the crude nature of the animation itself - essentially just rotating two stiff arms back and forth - underscores the punchline that the commenter is a dolt. This is a great example of thoughtful, intelligent use of animation. Well played.

See more cartoons by Jim Benton.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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