Know The Difference Between a Video Editor and a Motion Graphics Artist


With video editing being a key area of expertise at our Chicago headquarters, it often comes as a surprise to see how often this role is confused with that of a motion graphics artist. Certainly, while you will find just about any production role adapting to changing trends over time, their core function will generally stay as is.

The more that recruiters, managers, clients, and even fellow staff members understand about the function of each role, the smoother the entire production process will be. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what distinguishes a video editor from a motion graphics artist.

Story creation vs. enhancement
Admittedly, some of the differences between the two roles are quite technical and complex. However, take a step back and survey the bigger picture, and you will find that the fundamental difference is that your video editor creates a story – often using existing footage, music, or dialogue – while your motion graphics artist enhances or supplements this story with advanced 3D/4D graphics and animations, amongst other video elements.

Worth mentioning here is that a basic level of motion graphics skill is certainly to the benefit of every video editor out there. The ‘story’ may only communicate effectively once the motion graphics artist steps in and with this awareness, the editor can work his or her way through the project accordingly.

After Effects: static and active graphics
As a professional video editor, you should still be able to know your way around After Effects and be able to create custom, moving lower thirds and backgrounds without assistance. The building of these static graphics, such as a chart or baseball field, should be up your alley, depending on the requirements of the project or client.

However, if an active graphic needs to be created – let’s say it’s a talking baseball bat trying to make contact with a rebellious ball – this is where the motion graphics artist will need to take sole responsibility of the task. Like any artist, a motion graphics guru is there to create, often from scratch; similarly, by definition, the editor creates only from existing media or information. Also, while a ‘pure’ editor (focused only on cutting content) could do with an understanding of color grading and visual effects, asking one of them to work with complex software such as Cinema 4D is considered largely presumptuous.

So, we’ve looked into some of the major differences between these two creative roles, but it’s worth remembering that the many variables between diverse projects and client demands often dictate whether you will require a motion graphics artist. In many cases, your editor will be able to do enough to meet the requirements of the brief, but it’s up to the informed producer to make this decision, hopefully before the post-production portion of the project gets underway.

While the tendency amongst creatives in an ever-changing world is often to acquire as many skills as possible, it’s worth finding your specialty and sticking to it. Just as a motion graphics artist may not be able to tell the most compelling story in the manner that an editor can, your editor is also unlikely to end up with as crisp or dazzling an effect. Respect for each role’s focus will enhance not only your finished product, but the dynamic between your team members too.

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