Best beginner-friendly animation styles for science videos

Are you a fan of animated science explainer videos?

Maybe you’re looking to make your own animated science video too!

We’re long-time fans of YouTube stars like Kurzgesagt, and I totally remember being taught science in school through channels like CrashCourse. There’s something truly magical when it comes to learning about science in a captivating animated video.

And it’s true that loads of time and effort (and a love of science) goes into making a high quality animation. Trust me, we’ve done our fair share of them too.


science animation animate your science

But as a scientist without any formal animation training, you’d probably think it’s too difficult. Wait, wait, don’t run away just yet!


What if we told you that you could make your own simple science animations?


We believe that scientific animations are a valuable way to ease readers into the modern-day complexities of science in a fun and approachable way. And it is not just our belief, because peer-reviewed research confirms that representing science through video boosts citations and even comprehension, enjoyment and desire for future updates!


Just imagine for a moment how convenient it would be if every research paper had a video trailer like movies do?


And, I guarantee there’s no need for animation to be difficult. Remember what Leonardo da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.


Let’s Animate Your Science!



Choosing your animation style


We’ll discuss three styles today, and you can decide what style might best suit your work.


Let’s check them out below.


science animation stop motion whiteboard motion capture
Stop motion | Whiteboard | Motion capture

Stop motion


We’ve all watched stop-motion videos growing up - remember Wallace and Gromit or Celebrity Death-match? Stop-motion videos are made by taking a photo of an object, moving it a little, then taking another photo, then moving it a little - you get the idea. Each photo is called a frame.


You can use absolutely anything as your animated object, though these are some popular choices.


Here are some popular ways to string your pictures together.


Sounds simple enough! Let’s start with an example.


Check out the rocket below. I’ve mapped out where I want the rocket to be at points 1, 2, 3 and 4. These are called Key frames. It’s a great way to plan your stop-motion video. You’ll need to get the rocket from point 1 to point 4.

To get there, how will you illustrate the journey?


science animation rocket stop motion

Between each Key frame, I’ve slightly rotated the rocket. Then I move it closer to the next Key frame. Then I take a picture.


But how much closer should it move? Well, it depends on the look you’re after!


The fewer frames you have, over larger distances, the more jagged and rigid it’ll look.

The more frames you have, over shorter distances, the smoother your animation will be.


You can decide which stylistic choice suits your animation. A jagged look might help show it was a bumpy ride!


rocket science animation stop motion
3 frames
rocket science animation stop motion
10 frames












Once you string your pictures together, then voila you’ve got a complete sequence!


Here’s one I made with 30 frames between key frames. I like a style that’s got a lot of frames to illustrate that it’s a relatively smooth ride. I also included a little smoke trail too (you can draw it behind your rocket with each picture you take).


rocket science animation stop motion

The challenge now is figuring out how other objects in your animation come into view. What if the rocket was bouncing between asteroids? … who’s driving this thing?!


In this case, the asteroids won’t move until the rocket hits them.

That’s the first law of physics. Look over your shoulder, Isaac Newton is fact-checking your animations right now.


Time your frames (moving your clay or paper asteroid, if you’ve got one!) such that the asteroid moves and rotates slightly shortly after making impact.


stop motion science animation rocket

But to imitate slow motion in space, I want the asteroid to move more smoothly. That would mean taking more frames for the asteroid.


But wait, how can I do that if the rocket has to look bumpy (less frames) while the asteroid gently drifts away?


You’ll need to take Still shots for the rocket. That essentially means one of your objects will stay still, while the other is moving.


To put this into another perspective: if you take 9 frames for the asteroid (so it moves smoothly), and 3 frames for the rocket (so it moves in a jagged manner) - your rocket will stay still for 6 of those frames (9 - 3) to imitate this stylistic effect.


Need to wrap your head around it?


Here’s a schematic to summarise this point.


stop motion science animation rocket
stop motion science animation rocket

Apply these basic principles to try and make your own stop-motion videos with virtually any sort of image or prop.

Let’s ride this rocket to the next style!



Whiteboard-style


You’ve likely seen a DIY whiteboard video where a presenter draws images sped-up on a real whiteboard.


But what if there was a way to do this all digitally?


We recommend VideoScribe as a beginner-friendly tool for trying out this style of animation, which we’ve used for years! They’ve even got a free trial so you can give it a test drive.



The greatest part about VideoScribe is the availability of ready-made templates, including images and music! Everything you need is in one place, and you can also import your own work too.


But let’s focus on the animation part for now.


When you first open up VideoScribe, you’ll be introduced to a blank canvas. To bring images in, click the bottom right Images icon the bottom right corner.


videoscribe science animation
The canvas

Search for any icons you might want to use, and double-click them to bring them into the canvas.


videoscribe science animation
Image selector

Every image has been pre-programmed to be drawn and coloured in a particular way. Hit play on the top right hand corner to see it in action.


science animation videoscribe
Preview

You can also choose to customise the drawing hand, or remove it completely if it gets in the way.


science animation videoscribe
Hand options

To adjust how long the animation plays for, double-click your image to see its settings. Hit the preview Play button for that image to see how it looks. Then click the Check symbol to apply it.