Spotlight: Educational and Technical Animation

A look at some of the companies that are finding fascinating and profitable new applications for the medium.

Animation: It ain’t just for cartoons anymore.

In fact, it hasn’t been “just” that for quite a long time, but the explosive growth of digital technology for creating and delivering animated content has allowed the medium to grow its use in fields like education with astonishing speed and effectiveness.

So with the computer imaging world assembling for SIGGRAPH, Animation Magazine decided it was a good time to take a look at some of the companies in this often overlooked segment of the industry — the people and firms that use animation to create and augment educational materials, legal presentations, architecture, and scientific applications.

The companies here are just a few examples of the companies doing this kind of work, which is expected only to grow in the future — something for anyone interested in the medium to think about.

Patrick Weir

Patrick Weir

Fulcrum Labs

www.the-fulcrum.com

Location: Los Angeles

Founded: 2014

Number of employees: 65

Specialization: Video, animation, multimedia learning, personalized learning, training and test prep

Major clients: Allegiant Air, Chegg, North Carolina State University

Awards won: 2015 Telly Award – Aviation Training – “A320” – 3D Graphics / Animation; 2015 Telly Award – Telcomm Training – “Fasteners” – How-To / Instructional; 2015 Davey Award – Website Design – Fulcrum Labs Website

Who They Are: “We come to work everyday because we believe learning should not be one-size-fits-all, like sweatpants. Because training shouldn’t mean PowerPoint and conference doughnuts. And, because textbooks suck. Fulcrum Labs is the world’s first learning and development agency. We have a singular mission: Turn students into learners; and turn learners into confident subject matter masters. We craft instructional materials and learning objectives into ready-to-use online courses. We power those courses with our adaptive platform and provide our partners with actionable analytics. We specialize in premium content: live-action, motion graphics and 2D and 3D animation, because adaptive learning and advanced analytics alone don’t guarantee people will pay attention, stay focused, complete a course, or stop procrastinating. Our content is created by a team of award-winning producers from the entertainment world, experienced instructional designers and handpicked subject matter experts.

— Patrick Weir,
CEO

Andy Rahden

Andy Rahden

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Pluralsight

www.pluralsight.com

Location: Farmington, Utah

Founded: 2004

Number of employees: 501

Specialization: Professional development for developers, IT specialists and creative technologists. Offers more than 4,700 online courses that include closed-captioning in more than 50 languages. Adding 80-90 new learning videos to our library each month, totaling 14,500-plus hours of video training.

Awards: Forbes Most Promising Companies (No. 42), Fortune Unicorn;

Inc. 5000 (No. 338); Top Education Companies (No.2); Top Utah Companies (No. 7); The Wall Street Journal Billion Dollar Startup Club; Entrepreneur Top Company Cultures for 2015 (No. 20)

Who They Are: Pluralsight democratizes professional technology training for the creative, film, games, and design industries. The knowledge we share on our platform not only provides the ability for users to “skill-up” on technology but also allows users to think about their approach to layout and design. It provides a way to learn from others through video content, live mentoring sessions and assessment-guided paths. With Pluralsight focused on learning and development of its users, business and consumers alike, users now have better options for their learning needs. Pluralsight is now the leader for online learning for creatives, animators, marketing professionals, designers, engineers and architects. We have the largest network of courses focused on all aspects of design available in the market. We have the best professionals sharing their knowledge on our platform, which is available to our customers for a low monthly subscription. We are excited about the expansion and investment we are making in this space. Pluralsight is leading the way in providing an experience for creatives, from the interface to content. Our platform was created by creatives, for creatives, and it shows in everything from our custom video player, mentor experience, and assessments.

—    Andy Rahden,

VP Creative Design & Engineering 

Brad Graeber

Brad Graeber

Powerhouse Animation Studios

www.powerhouseanimation.com

Locations: Austin, Texas; Burbank, Calif.

Founded: 2001

Number of employees: 50 to 60

Specialization: Powerhouse works in television, video games, advertising, film and education. We don’t specialize in a specific market segment. We just try to produce the best 2D animation.

Major clients: Disney, Nickelodeon, Electronic Arts, Deep Silver, Brain Chase

Awards won: Gold Clio and Webby awards (through Weiden + Kennedy on “Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 ½ Weeks to Save the World”)

Who They Are: Powerhouse generally has 20 or so projects of varying scopes and from markets at any given time. Currently we are working on 176 minutes for a series, 70 mins. of game cinemas, a couple of music videos, and the Brain Chase online-educational series, just to name a few. The series and cinemas are higher-level action animation with fight choreography, while a lot of our other work is “cartoony” limited animation. We do a lot of motion comics and motion graphics as well. I think it is this diversity that has kept us around and growing for 15 years. When there is a down turn in one market we are able to keep things going in another. The range of styles across projects also helps keep our artists engaged.”

—    Brad Graeber,

CEO

Ricardo Andrade

Ricardo Andrade

Pixeldust Studios

www.pixeldust.tv

Locations: Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; New York City

Founded: 2004

Number of Employees: 20

Specialization: Short-form documentary series, explanatory animated videos, VR experience content, educational interactive content, science and medical videos, film CGI, broadcast in-show graphics, museum exhibits content and TV commercials.

Major Clients: WebMD, National Geographic, Smithsonian, PBS, NBC

Awards won: Emmys (12), New York Festivals (7), Tellys (15), Pixie awards (10), CINE Golden Eagle (4)

Who They Are: “A story may be told in many different ways, but at Pixeldust Studios we’ve chosen to use our innovative creativity and awe-inspiring approach to tell our stories. Our productions have the ability to engage, surprise and inspire audiences … whether it’s reconstructing archaeological remains of ancient civilizations, creating immersive VR experiences of an alien planet, explaining scientific theories or bringing awareness to climate change. The bottom line is we love what we do, and we’ll apply our talents and best efforts to every project in our pipeline.”

— Ricardo Andrade,
President & Creative Director

 

Jim Lammers

Jim Lammers

Trinity Animation

trinityanimation.com

Location: Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Founded: 1994

Number of employees: 11 animators, 6 support staff

Specialization: Technical and industrial animation

Major Clients: Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, Landis+Gyr, Oil States Industries, Trilliant

Who They Are: With a large staff of full time animators and a powerful in house render farm, Trinity Animation is prepared to meet any requirements and deadlines you have. We have multiple engineers on staff (including president and CEO Jim Lammers) who will understand even the most complex concepts, and can translate them into beautiful visuals. Using state of the art technology, Trinity ensures that your project will be striking and demand attention. Trinity is more than capable of providing any type of instructional or technical animation you may need. Cutaways, exploded views and dynamic simulation can be included in your animation, along with a narrated script read by you or one of our stable of voice actors. Our knowledgeable staff can help suggest a method of animation that will effectively communicate your ideas and message, even if you don’t have a basic script ready. We can work within virtually any budget, and will recommend a style of animation that will give you the most return on your marketing dollar.

— Jim Lammers,
CEO

Michael Astrachan

Michael Astrachan

XVIVO Scientific Animation

www.xvivo.net

Location: Wethersfield, Conn.

Founded: 2001

Number of employees: 13

Specialization: Medical and scientific animations

Major clients: Novartis, Shire, Roche, Medical History Pictures, Harvard University

Awards won: We don’t generally submit our work for awards consideration; we focus on direct marketing and PR. We have been covered my many publications including The New York Times, National Geographic, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Mail and Wired.

Who They Are: XVIVO’s process is designed to create concise and visually striking scientific stories for our clients. Because we work with multifaceted animation programs that need to illustrate exacting science, a big part of our success is how we communicate with our clients. Our science writers, medical illustrators, animators, and producers are all experts not only in their field but also in communication. Knowing the language of art, science, cinematography, audio, and production, and being able to clearly communicate these concepts throughout all stages of the production process, is part and parcel of our success.

— Michael Astrachan,
president and creative director