gganimate vs. plotly - Which is better at animation?

March 22, 2018
R

When I was in school, I always found that the blackboard was the best teaching tool (as opposed to say a pre-prepared static slide in PowerPoint). As a student, I found it really helpful to see a concept get built up from nothing, and accordingly when I was a teaching assistant in economics, I also preferred using the blackboard to build up concepts together with my students (I also found it more fun as it was now a collaborative experience). Now in the business world, developing concepts is still as important as when I was in school, but using a blackboard will likely get me… looks… Luckily, there’s a very neat alternative: the animation!

I’ve been trying two methods with animations:

  1. Method 1: gganimate & tweenr
  2. Method 2: plotly

Let’s build a quick demo of each!

Dataset

This post will be more on creating animations, rather than focus on the specific dataset being animated. Having said that, an interesting dataset will make this all the more exciting.

Lately in Canada, there has been some concern over the number of babies the country is producing. We shall then take a look at how income per person has been affecting the number of children women have given birth to throughout the years across all regions around the world.

Pulling in the data

We’ll begin with downloading the data.

  1. Link to Gapminder income data

  2. Link to Gapminder babies data

  3. Link to Gapminder population data

I’m going to do some data cleanup but I will skip the code to keep this post more brief.

[…data cleanup…]

After the data cleanup, we will join all the datasets together for one unified set:

# Join datasets
data.join <- left_join(data.income.clean, data.babies.clean) %>%
        left_join(data.pop.clean) %>%
        left_join(data.region.clean)

data.join[complete.cases(data.join),] -> data.join

Here’s a random sample of what 10 data points look like:

country year income babies pop region
Ethiopia 1995 578 7.00 57237226 Sub-Saharan Africa
Nepal 2013 2173 2.30 27834981 South Asia
Nepal 1995 1405 4.71 21390905 South Asia
West Bank and Gaza 1979 2144 7.39 1469730 Middle East & North Africa
Togo 2003 1235 5.11 5283246 Sub-Saharan Africa
Nepal 1800 654 6.15 3881000 South Asia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1967 2611 6.49 87736 Latin America & Caribbean
Niger 1996 809 7.77 9701730 Sub-Saharan Africa
Romania 1991 10059 1.56 23454143 Europe & Central Asia
Ireland 2000 41198 1.95 3841574 Europe & Central Asia

Method 1: gganimate with tweenr

First up, is a combo-solution that directly extends the ggplot2 universe: the package gganimate developed by David Robinson (@drob) along with the package tweenr developed by Thomas Lin Pedersen (@thomasp85).

Let’s develop this animation.

library(gganimate)
library(tweenr)

# Tween for smoother animations
data.join.tween <- data.join %>%
        rename(x = income,
               y = babies,
               time = year,
               id = country) %>%
        mutate(ease = "linear") %>%
        select(-region) %>%
        tween_elements("time", "id", "ease", nframes = 1000)

# Re-add prior data
data.join.tween <- inner_join(data.join.tween, 
                              data.region.clean, 
                              by = c(".group" = "country")) 

# Plot
p <- ggplot(data.join.tween, aes(x = x, y = y)) +
        geom_point(aes(size = pop, frame = .frame, colour = region), 
                   alpha = 0.7) +  
        xlab("GDP per capita") +
        ylab("Number of Babies Born per Woman") +
        theme_minimal(base_size = 16) +
        geom_smooth(aes(group = .frame, frame = .frame), method = "loess", 
                    color = "black", linetype = "dashed", 
                    se = F, size = 0.5) +
        theme(legend.position="none") +
        scale_x_log10(labels = dollar) + 
        scale_size_area(guide = FALSE, max_size = 20) +
        scale_color_brewer(name = "", palette = "Set2") +
        facet_wrap(~region)


# Animate Plot
gganimate(p, title_frame = T, interval = 0.02, "../../static/img/gganimate.gif",
          ani.width = 800, ani.height = 800,
          ani.res = 90) #<- Not run to save render time


Voila, a pretty nice looking animated graph if I may say so myself 😃.

Method 2: plotly

The second method is via the plotly package, developed by a Canadian company of the same name.

Plotly also has a function which allows you to translate a ggplot2 graph into a plotly graph which we will use below.

# Generate base ggplot2 graph
p2 <- ggplot(data.join, aes(x = income, y = babies)) +
        geom_point(aes(size = pop, frame = year, colour = region, group = country), 
                   alpha = 0.7) +  
        xlab("GDP per capita") +
        ylab("Number of Babies Born per Woman") +
        theme_minimal(base_size = 10) +
        geom_smooth(aes(group = year, frame = year), method = "loess", 
                    color = "black", linetype = "dashed", se = F, size = 0.5) +
        theme(legend.position="none") +
        scale_x_log10(labels = dollar) + 
        scale_size_area(guide = FALSE, max_size = 20) +
        scale_color_brewer(name = "", palette = "Set2") +
        facet_wrap(~region)

# Create plotly graph
ggplotly(p2, height = 900, width = 700) %>%
        animation_opts(frame = 200,
                       easing = "linear",
                       redraw = FALSE)