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April 2020

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis and the accurate communication of basic info is critical. We are creating a a range of media free to use under a Creative Commons license.

More updates soon – Please stay safe and healthy.

December 2018 Update

Well, 2018 was quite a year. Brexit. Trump. Climate chaos. Wildfires in California. Fuel price protests. Civil unrest in Europe. Further cuts to UK feed-in-tariffs and the solar export tariff.

Many UK businesses seem paralysed because they can’t plan beyond March/April 2019.

However – despite all the economic uncertainty and apparent lack of political leadership – and despite the massive subsidies and tax breaks that the fossil fuel industry still enjoys, renewable energy is steadily advancing.

According to the report released by the REA in August, in 2017 almost 30% of energy generated in the UK was renewable. In 2018, between July and September, renewable energy output overtook fossil fuels for the first time in history.

Electric Vehicle demand has also soared, with 1 in 12 new vehicles purchased being EV or hybrid. The uk is some way behind countries like Norway (at 37%) but the trend is in the right direction and auto companies are taking significant steps to recalibrate their business towards an ‘electric future.’

With ever increasing energy prices, Solar technology becoming cheap enough to make sense economically even without tariffs, and demand for electric vehicles rising – energy storage technology and home energy management may be the next big thing. Heat pumps have proven themselves decisively over the last few years, and heat recovery systems are gaining ground. All of this technology exists, and becomes cheaper and more efficient every day.

Our job in 2019 will be to help people understand how the different technologies work together to make homes and business as comfortable, green, efficient, and energy-independent as possible.

Don’t let your bespoke video get you in legal trouble

Copyright and IP are widely misunderstood – even by creative professionals – and the upshot of this is bad for everybody. Over the years at Explanimation.net we’ve spent a huge amount of time and resources having to protect the work we’ve done, and in this post I’m going to summarise some of what I’ve learnt.

Bespoke animation is a lot of work. Explaining a complex subject first takes days of research, because you cannot make something seem simple unless you understand it very well yourself.

Then you have to check what materials are out there already, to make sure you don’t accidentally copy someone else’s work. Sometimes I deleiberatly leave this until after the basic ideas are developed – so as to not be influenced by other people’s approaches – but, either way, you have to check before you publish anything.

You have to establish what people ‘typically’ don’t understand about a subject, and create a prioritised bullet-point list of learning objectives. From this you develop a basic narrative structure (what happens in what order) captured in a storyboard. From this you draft a script. This will be whittled and reworked many times for timing, clarity and various nuances as the storyboard develops.

Within the storyboard you have to come up with ways to explain things that ideally, no-one else has done before. Then you test those ideas by showing people sketches and rudimentary animations.

All of that happens and we haven’t even begun to create real visuals yet. I would say in a three-minute animation, physically producing the animation is less than 30% of the overall work.

Anyway – you get the picture. If the animation is good, people will understand something – often for the first time. The way you’ve shown it will often seem ‘obvious’ – that means that you’ve succeeded. You’ve made it look easy.

The final product is the outcome of a process which is (or should be) entirely unique, and an end result that’s entirely dependent on the skills and experience that the team have, and the work they’ve put in. 

Fortunately, the law recognises and protects this effort. If somebody else uses this work as springboard to produce something similar, they are, in effect, stealing the work that has been done. The law protects script, the narrative, visual devices (how we show stuff) & metaphors, artwork and other elements.

The basic premise is that if a judge looks at two pieces of work and says “was piece Y influenced by piece X”, and the answer is yes, then the creators of piece Y (both the end client AND the creative they commissioned) have infringed IP, and will probably be liable for damages and costs.

We’ve had to defend our work 8 or 9 times so far. Although we’ve ultimately won in every case, it’s a tedious, stressful and ultimately a bit soul-destroying process for everybody to go through. 

There’s simply no short cut to doing the work. Don’t get caught out!