10 things you should know about Online and Motion Graphics with Ludus Post Productions’ Donovan Smith

We asked the Head of Online and Motion Design at Ludus Post Productions, Donovan Smith, some questions about the inner-workings of the post process and what are some of the best practices for achieving top craft in post.

You know the adage; ‘We’ll just fix it in post’? Yeah, a lot can come down to a good edit so you’re probably going to want a good Editor on your job – someone pedantic, never settles for ‘good enough’, with years of experience in the industry, lives and breathes post and is in a serious relationship with a programme like After Effects. That someone is Donovan Smith. Donovan has done some hard time in post. He began his career as a 3D animator back in 2004 then pivoted to Motion Designer (a combination of Online Artist and Motion Graphics Artist).

Donovan officially stepped in as Head of Online and Motion Graphics at Ludus in 2020 – have a look at some of the work he’s been up to below.

Dark & Donovan Smith’s Online and Motion Graphics showreel

‘Donovan is honestly one of the most talented Online Editor and Motion Graphics Artists. The fact that he can do both is so rare and we are very lucky to have his kind of talent at Ludus.’Ashleigh Oates, Senior Producer and Managing Director at Ludus.

Donovan Smith Said That

1. Let’s start right at the beginning, explain the process of Online?

Don: Basically, it’s where I take things out that previously went unnoticed on the shoot day or things that were impossible to remove or capture on the day; perhaps a product in the shot with a competitor’s logo on it, a scar on someone's face that they don't want shown, or the director wants a sky replacement. Online is the final step before your commercial airs on Television.

2. What is Motion Graphics?

Don: Motion Design is where you bring movement to graphics and text, like logos and credits. Many people assume it is something that happens during the Online process, but Motion Design is a totally separate technique and should be treated as such. For best results, it should be briefed in early in the process, even as early as pre-production.

Below some Motion Design work from Donovan and to really show the impact it can have on film, check out the Bellas music video, before and after Donovan gets his hands on it.

Zee World Ident

Loeries Opening

Bellas (Music Video)

3. Are all Online Artists also Motion Designers?

Don: Absolutely not, they are two separate skills that each deserve enough time. Not a lot of people can do both.

4. To get the most out of the post process for a commercial, what do you suggest is the best practice for clients and directors when working with Online Artists?

Don:  An initial briefing with the director, even during the pre-production stage, would be invaluable, especially in terms of understanding their vision. Then by the time you get to the Offline phase, you should be involving your Online Editor, even if it’s just bouncing off ideas. Mark (Mark Ash, Ludus’ Offline Artist) will often grab me to look at potential editing challenges that could be heading my way, but by discussing this early on we can already find a solution during the Offline phase. Because I have already seen the edit ‘in the beginning’, I have already found the solution of how we are going to work around it or fix it by the time I work on it. We are lucky because we (Offline and Online Artists) have access to each other in the same company, which is rare. In terms of Motion Design, which is a totally different phase of the post process, try and provide your Motion Designer with the artwork for the credits and logos early on in the production process and the results will be so much more impressive. Motion graphics can be worked on way before the edit already and deserves time to craft, and if it is awarded that time, guaranteed the result will be better.

5. Have you ever had that, that people start briefing in the motion graphics before the shoot.

Don: *Laughter*

6. On average, how many days do you get to work on a commercial in the Online edit suite?

Don: It depends on the complexity and size of the project. In general, maybe a day or two for a 30 second commercial that needs some simple sky replacements or to remove some blemishes. But there are jobs that are more intense that require about a week.

It’s here where Ludus’ Offline Editor, Mark Ash, jumps into the conversation and adds: ‘Don works incredibly fast, I would say for someone who isn't Don it would take exactly double that time.’

7. So, what makes for a good Online Editor?

Don: Experience teaches you how to know when to use what programme to achieve the highest quality results and in the quickest time. That is what it comes down to. A good Editor will pick up where the challenges in an edit are far quicker, which means the get to solve them faster.

8. What programmes do you work on in Online and Motion Design?

Don: At certain times in my professional career, certain programmes have been more prevalent, because that was all that was available. It’s all relative, and all are tools to get to the end result with what the operator is comfortable with using. For some, it is Flame or Nuke and for others like myself, it is After Effects. There is not one right answer, only the right tool used in the right hands. After Effects can do so much and continues to grow because of its versatility in adaption. It is the best motion graphics package, but it’s not only a motion graphics package for those who push its boundaries to the extreme. If Premiere and Photoshop had a baby After Effects is the result. Things are changing so quickly; they are not the same as they were ten years ago or even 5 years ago. It’s not necessarily about the programme that you work on, but rather about having the experience to know when to jump between the software to get the best results. You must have a real passion for the work to be into this stuff I guess, haha. All I do is work, live and breathe these programmes. When I'm at home I'm doing stuff artistically and creatively to keep myself focused and sharp on the programmes that I use. The more I use those tools, the faster I am at what I do. I am sharpening my sword all the time.

9. What do you do to keep yourself sharp in the editing suite?

Don: I do art work and some animations of my own. It's just for the love of it. I have a background in illustration and I think it helps to keep my eye adept to certain details.

Artwork by Donovan Smith.

10. What should you never say to an Online Editor or Motion Designer?

Don: 'That is good enough...’

Wanna (s)talk some more? Check out Ludus on IDIDTHAT or company website.

Contact Ludus Post Productions

Joburg Office:

Kate Grosso
Senior Producer and Client Liaison 


Tel: 011 326 2827
Cell: 082 342 8722

Cape Town Office:

​Ashleigh Oates
Senior Producer and Managing Director

Tel: 021 461 8400
Cell: 083 695 1769

IDIDTHAT Profile: Ludus Post Productions
Website: https://www.ludus.co.za/
Instagram: upstairs_ludus

Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio - Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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