The Unsung Art of Screenwashes

About a month before Inspire, we realized we needed something on the screens between presentations and during introductions.

“Yeah, like one of those looped animation thingies that you see at the Oscars,” someone suggested.

“Yeah, a screensaver,” someone else said. It wasn’t until a few days later that I learned that the proper term (i.e. the one you want to use if you’re trying to get hired by a client who needs one) is a “screenwash.” There are probably other terms that are more eloquent, but screenwash works for the purposes of this post.

“Screenwashes are shown between screenings while the theater changes audiences. About 20-30 minutes. It needs to brand the event without being too static or repetitive,” explains Doug Grimmett, founder and creative director of Primal Screen. “It should not appear as a narrative with edits because that changes the audience dynamic. People would feel that they have to focus on the screen while others are still arriving and settling in.”

Screenwashes, like movie titles, are yet another example of motion graphics that can be taken for granted and become nearly invisible to general audiences. But that also makes them perfect canvases for thinking a little outside the box. They’re great design challenges that actually serve a pretty important purpose. (If you don’t believe me, try sitting through the awkward visual silences at a conference that doesn’t have screenwashes.)


To illustrate the point, check out “Spark City,” a clever screenwash created by Doug and his crew for this year’s Sundance Film Festival (which, for those of you who just missed the pun, is held in Park City, Utah). Primal Screen actually has some history working with Sundance for this sort of thing. Find more action here.

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



very cool. great concept, great design, great colors, and just the right amount of activity.


whatever the name is, i love motiongraphic including this stuff :)


what would be other names for ‘screenwash’?


cant help thinking of


I want a QTHD 1080 version. That would be pretty.

George Loch

That is really fun. It reminds me of the illustrated children’s books I loved so much as a child where there was so much to look at and engage with (I was/am a big Richard Scarry fan). I just love the story within the story approach.



Glad you all like it! It was a load of fun to work on. More info on some of the action going on, if you’re curious:

Thanks for the write-up, Justin!


Now that’s what I call a “screenwash”!?!.. Fun piece! :)
Does anyone have any links to more?

The Crabster

I would like to see more posts on less know Motion Graphics forms… I think we have all seen enough 30: spots to keep us happy for a while… I want to see creative loops for DVD menus or new interesting lower third animations… etc…

Good post…


Just wondering… is there such a thing as “burn-in” with digital projectors and screens? Seems like if that image (even though animated) it might do so if it was up for 20 to 30 mintues?

Cool anyway!!!!!!


refreshing from the slice my face, ninja-attack-my-mind-with-semiotics of most mograph these days.


Rafael M.

awesome! about making Blue-ray DVD for sleek TVs while people having cocktails in parties?

Allan White

Awesome! Very well-designed and subtle, but I find myself watching every area to see what they’re doing. It has whimsy and surprise.

I have to make logo loops for conferences and festivals; this is inspiring (though probably consumes more time than I have to hit a mark like this).

DUN: LOL! So true.

Bob: Burn-in isn’t much a problem on projectors, AFAIK.

Crabster: Ehh, I think the posting content here is fine. I wonder if “creative loops for menus and lower thirds” is a bit of an oxymoron. I don’t see much real freshness in those areas.

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