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Getting Animated About Human Rights

A stunning animation brings a simple text document to life.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | January 01, 2009

I greatly admired this video when I first saw it during the past election season, but could never carve out time to write about it. Perhaps this will serve as a good way to finish off the holiday season and kick off the New Year, both creatively and spiritually.

This music video - a voiceless, text-based recitation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - was animated by Seth Brau using a combination of After Effects and Illustrator. Seth restricted himself to a two-tone palette and a flat text+pencil animation style that flows continuously from scene to scene, often ingeniously taking advantage of continuous rasterization inside After Effects to zoom up or back from one section to another. The result is quite powerful and moving. More on the piece can be found at Cool Hunting; a higher-quality half-HD version can be viewed on Human Rights Action Center's web site.

What I personally found most amazing (beyond the excellent animation job) was how this seemingly radical document was actually penned 60 years ago by - wait for it - Eleanor Roosevelt(!). There is a petition to have this declaration included in passports; it's just a gesture, but a worthy one methinks. There were only 2000 signatures when I joined right after Christmas; add you name and help push the total up.

Then go watch the video again and be inspired to try something like this yourself in 2009!

(By the way, if "claymation" is more your style than Helvetica - and if you have 20 minutes to spare - you might try the Amnesty International animation below. It's more educational, but in my humble opinion, does not have the same visceral impact as Seth's animation.)

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Jim Hines: | January, 01, 2009

Yes, that is awesome on so many levels!!

Not to be a buzz kill but it is my contention that if we would substitute the mindset for the word “right” for the mindset of the word “responsibility” our human dignities would be better preserved.

Happy, healthy, creative and prosperous 2009 to all.

Fraz: | January, 02, 2009

The word “rights” sits just fine with me.  And Article 30 addresses the issue of responsibility, “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Are there any tutorials floating around which incorporate this technique for displaying text?

Thanks and Happy New Year.

Rich Young: | January, 03, 2009

A tutorial for something similar appeared on AETUTS just yesterday, but you might also keep in mind what Chris said and follow up on the link to

Chris Meyer: | October, 11, 2010

For the person who asked beginning tutorials for flying a still image around the screen (I suspect the original post might get deleted, as it was also hawking Facebook pages): Adobe After Effects or Apple Motion would both be good for the job. The second tutorial in our book After Effects Apprentice shows ways to make a still image of a butterfly fly around the screen, including some fancy paths and auto-orientation. (There’s the book, and I’m just finishing a video tutorial of that lesson for; hopefully will be up in about a month.)

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