A Beginner’s Guide to the Australian Football League
Dream job creating an animated explainer video for the biggest football league in Australia!
Australian football is a confusing sport. The gameplay, skills and rulebook are unlike any other game’s in the world.
As the AFL pushes into new markets via the expansion teams on Australia’s east coast, and with the introduction of the women’s competition, more and more potential new fans are gaining exposure to Australia’s premiere sport. Add to this the countless international eyeballs with eyes glued on footy during Covid lockdowns when AFL was for a brief time the only professional sport still playing.
The AFL published a short explainer video in 2015 (2 million views and counting) outlining some of the basics of the sport. However much has changed since then – new rules, an entirely new women’s league, and a banquet of new superstars and accompanying highlights. Fair to say the video was very much overdue for a refresh. When the AFL put the project out to tender, as huge footyheads we could not have acted quicker in putting together a proposal. Footy + Creative = Dream Job!
Our team rewrote and animated a refreshed version of the explainer video, tailored to a new and more diverse audience – ready for release in the build up to the AFL finals series and commencement of the AFLW season.
Watch it here 👉
Client | Australian Football League (AFL)
Project | Animated explainer video Melbourne
Producer | Matt Hitch, Michael Healy
Design & Illustration | Matt Hitch
Animation | Matt Hitch
Editing | Matt Hitch
Narration | Barton Welch, Grace Koh
Sound Design | Mark Farrow
Create a fun, educational and engaging 5 minute animated explainer video selling AFL to new fans – highlighting the spectacular nature of the sport, its popularity, and outlining the basic rules. The video should combine live action footage supplied by the AFL with animation, evenly splitting between men’s and women’s vision where possible, and will be for publication on the AFL’s digital channels as well as in-stadium prior to matches.
The animated video should talk to all audiences, including kids, adults, interstate/international visitors, and those from a non-English speaking background – meaning any voiceover or text should be simple and easy to understand. With the expansion of the league into non traditional heartlands, special emphasis was also on attracting new fans in Queensland and New South Wales.
Given the scope and complexity of the project, the challenges were many and varied, which kept us on our toes!
The list of AFL rules are endless, and at times very nuanced. We needed to selectively break these down to the bare essentials – sufficient for a new fan to have enough of an understanding and start watching a game.
There are numerous small but important differences between the men’s and women’s leagues – things like the number of players on the field, game time, season format amongst others. We had to create a script that avoided too much repetition in explaining every logistical aspect of the game twice, and yet was not so succinct that it vaguely spoke to these fundamentals without providing enough details. We used break out graphics to highlight some of these differences, and in consultation with the AFL decided to limit a slightly expanded narration to the season formats.
Our biggest challenge was in selecting clips from AFL archives – the previous 2 seasons had been decimated by covid, resulting in empty or sparsely populated crowds throughout much of the vision. Trying to showcase recent highlights required careful consideration of camera angles to avoid the look of empty grand stands. After all, we wanted to show off the big game atmosphere and popularity of the sport.
Given the infancy of AFLW and its associated broadcast budget, many games had limited cameras available. Disappointingly this meant some amazing highlights hit the cutting room floor in the final edit owing to less than ideal footage for the purpose of this video. The smaller pool of footage certainly challenged our efforts to maintain a balance between men’s and women’s highlights and finding footage that demonstrated the various fundamental skills in a clear manner.
In selecting clips showcasing the various skills and highlights we wanted to ensure a reasonable balance between representation of each team, with some extra emphasis on Queensland and NSW clubs. While showcasing the league’s biggest names. And trying to find the best demonstration of the various skills possible (did we also mention covid crowd issues?). Add to the mix striking a balance with highlights of the women’s game, which came with its own challenges of broadcast quality and limited cameras at suburban grounds, and showcasing players from diverse backgrounds – Indigenous, Irish, Sudanese, and so on – the edit process was like a game of whack a mole finding the right mix.
We wanted to amplify the spectacular moments and athleticism unique to the sport – the big marks, amazing goals from all angles, the speed and hard hits without padding.
Centring the video around the live action footage, we utilised full screen break outs to illustrate key logistical points such as league composition and season format. These graphics were kept uncluttered in a minimalist style, reducing any excess noise to avoid information overload for a new audience in the limited time the frames were on screen. Visually we linked back to the AFL and AFLW brand and colours within the illustrations and live action flourishes, and gave line work and text a slightly distressed look to match the organic feel of the brand’s secondary font, reinforcing the light casual feel of the explainer video.
We put emphasis on sound design, drawing audience into the experience of sitting in the stadium, hearing the roar of the crowds and the bone crunching impacts, or watching at home on TV and hearing the commentators go wild. Some abstract effects were added to keep things lighthearted at various points.
A small selection of frames from the initial project pitch.