Introducing Text In Motion

I’m pleased to finally reveal a big project that I’ve been working on for the last year.

Text In Motion is a new service that allows you to create customised text animations for your TV screens. There are over 35 different designs to choose from (and this will continue to increase), and the whole process is fully automated. You simply choose a design, enter the text you want, select any colour options (if applicable), and go through the checkout process. Your order is then sent to our render servers which will render your video as soon as it reaches the front of the queue. When it’s ready you’ll receive a download link to your finished file(s), typically in under an hour.

Check it out here: http://textinmotion.tv

To say that “I” have been working on it isn’t quite true though – I should say “we” – here’s the story behind Text In Motion:

Chapter 1 – Where it all began

When I first became a motion graphics designer, my intention was to make motion graphics available to the masses rather than it being something only people with huge budgets could afford. I’ve always enjoyed finding ways of doing big things on a small budget. As I taught myself how to use motion graphics software, I found ways of streamlining processes and making things more efficient which meant I could produce things like logo animations and animated adverts much faster than many other motion graphics designers. This coupled with my lower overheads as a sole trader meant I could charge less, and therefore made my services affordable for a much bigger market.

This worked well from a business point of view – I quickly built a huge client base, mainly within the nightlife industry, who kept me permanently busy earning a comfortable salary, even through the recent recession.

The problem was, there was only one of me, and more work coming in than I could handle. I considered employing people, but the financial figures just didn’t add up – I wouldn’t be able to offer those same low prices that I had become known for. I was also ambitious, and doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t appeal to my ambitious side. So I was taking on bigger and more challenging jobs in order to further my career. These bigger jobs were much more exciting to work on than small one-off jobs like logo animations which, by this point, I could do in my sleep! It was also impractical to be working on big jobs where clients are booking my time by the day alongside small jobs that only take half an hour.

It bothered me that I was turning away so much potential work, particularly as it seemed there was no other motion graphics designers out there willing to do those small low-value jobs.

So I introduced a minimum order value to filter out the smaller jobs. This worked well, but it bothered me that I was turning away so much potential work, particularly as it seemed there was no other motion graphics designers out there willing to do those small low-value jobs.

Some of my friends had suggested I offer a ‘template’ based service, where I could just swap in different text or logos to a selection of template designs and charge a lower rate for them. This appealed, but it would still involve me stopping what I’m doing on the big jobs to process the orders.

It turned out that full end-to-end automation of something like this was a lot more difficult than it might seem.

My original "Custom Messages" service

My original “Custom Messages” service

What I needed was a fully automated system, where everything was done online with no intervention from me. And this was what led to the creation of my original Custom Messages service.

Chapter 2 – “Bearman and Bearman” is born

It turned out that full end-to-end automation of something like this was a lot more difficult than it might seem. So the Custom Message service was a semi-automated system, limited to just one ‘template’ design, but still involved a bit of intervention from me. The service was popular, and it spurred me on to look at how I could make it fully automated.

After a lot more research and development work, I devised various methods which allowed me to fully automate the animation process in a way which was both reliable and flexible.

Next I needed a platform to sell the service on.

Luckily, I knew just the right person for the job… my brother Ross!

I’ve done a small amount of web development in the past, but am pretty rusty at it these days, and my knowledge of modern web technology is very limited. I knew that I was going to need a really slick website to sell this service – to make it really easy to use, and to be completely automated. Luckily, I knew just the right person for the job… my brother Ross!

Ross is an exceptionally talented web developer. He’s developed web-based computer applications of mind-boggling complexity for multi-national companies, and after a brief chat with him, I knew he was the right man for the job. So I proposed that we form a partnership to run this new enterprise, with me responsible for the product and marketing, and him responsible for the web development. He agreed, and the Bearman and Bearman partnership was born.

Text In Motion homepage

The Text In Motion website

Over the next 8 months, Ross developed the website, and wrote bespoke software to interface between the web server and the render servers, joining up our two ends of the operation.

Keeping things in the family, the Text In Motion logo was designed by our brother-in-law Nathan, a professional graphic designer.

I created an initial set of 35 different designs to offer on the website – these will be continually added to so that we end up with a catalogue of hundreds of designs, all categorised to make it easy to find what you’re looking for. A lot more work goes into creating a template than into a ‘single use’ design, as you have to design it to work with different quantities of text in different sizes, and ideally in multiple colour options.

We spent several months beta testing ourselves, and then got our friends and family testing it, and finally we did an ‘advance preview’ period with a small trusted group of my existing customers to get some feedback from ‘real’ users. Over this time we refined the service into what it is today.

One of the most difficult things to judge has been pricing.  When you’re setting up a brand new service like this, you literally have no idea of how busy it will be, and no way to calculate that.  It’s one of the reasons I find “Business Plans” a fairly pointless exercise – the idea that you can somehow predict how a new business which is different to anything else already out there will perform is ludicrous.  Launching a new business is a gamble, pure and simple.  So although we know our running costs, we have had to make a complete guess at how busy the site would be.  Within the first couple of weeks of launch it was clear our guess was a bit conservative (which was great news), and so based on the real performance of the site we revised the pricing to be 30% lower which will hopefully bring Text In Motion to a wider audience, and make it more affordable for existing users.

Customising a design on Text In Motion

Customising a design on Text In Motion

Now the site has been launched, it’s time to switch into marketing mode and make sure it continues to generate enough income to cover the running costs, the investment we’ve made in hardware and software, the ongoing marketing costs, and to ultimately give us both an income.

We have already identified ways we can make the service even better, which will be developed and released as soon as possible, and have some other projects in mind which will use the same technology in different ways.

Watch this space!

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