Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2022/ Whiteboard Animations

Whiteboard Animations

Do you remember the Youtube phenomenon of whiteboard animations? Somebody would explain a concept as it was drawn out on a whiteboard. The first one I remember watching was a Dan Pink video on mastery, autonomy, and purpose. It was magical. The RSA Animate series was painstakingly animated by Andrew Park Guardian article]. Each video took months of work to animate.

Other people were wowed too, and for a while whiteboard animation videos got real trendy (trendy enough to be parodied, anyways).

Sure enough, capitalism noticed the market demand and stepped in to make the process more efficient. Now you can get computer software that will pretend to draw along to your script, complete with an fake forearm holding a whiteboard marker.

Surprise! These are awful. Even when the underlying content is okay the videos feel phony and deceptive. Using illustrations to illustrate narrated content is a time-honoured technique, but these phony computer-generated whiteboard animations completely miss the point. The magic is not the whiteboard, but the human painstakingly drawing illustrations and syncing the videos to match the narration. There is still human work involved to create a computer-generated whiteboard animation, but the essence of the process is a human drawing the pictures. In that light, the animated forearm holding a whiteboard marker is worse than useless. It is an insult. It comes across as deceptive. It is much, much better to use traditional animation and illustration instead.

This is an interesting way in which jobsolescence fails. Automation can make the production of such videos faster and easier, but that completely misses the point.