Animated Figures in AAS Journal Articles

19 April 2017

The AAS Journals would like to bring to your attention a change in how we support animations in the online (HTML) version of your final articles. Movies are no longer supplemental material, but are now “animated figures” in the final article. Animated figures are presented in an embedded streaming window, so it is no longer necessary to download the video or open a separate window to view it.

In addition to making an animation more prominent in an article, there are a number of advantages to this style, including better browser support and long-term preservation for varying video codecs and formats.

The primary impacts on authors include a few recommended changes in style. First, the caption of each animated figure must include a description of the contents of the animation. This is to improve accessibility for readers who cannot access the animation. Second, the main text should refer to “the online animated figure” by number instead of to a “movie” or to supplementary material. This is to improve interlinking in the final article. Lastly, we recommend authors present animated results separately from other graphics or plots. Authors should continue to supply a single or grid of still frames from the animation to represent the figure in the final typeset PDF version of the article.

Animated figures also support accessibility functions such as audio and closed captioning. We encourage authors who wish to make their animations accessible to the widest audience to create “narrated” videos. Narrated videos include a detailed description of the data or simulation presented in an animation through an off-camera voice-over. Authors should also supply that descriptive text as material for closed-captioning the animated, narrated figure.

A list of all (>2400) published animations in AAS Journals can be found at the Astronomy Image Explorer by clicking on the “Videos” toggle facet on the left-hand side. As seen in the plot on the right, we now publish around 400 animations annually. More author guidance on animated figures can be found on the
“Author’s Instructions” webpage.