Illustrating mathematical concepts in video with Manim

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Article from Issue 248/2021
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Manim lets you program video sequences with a few lines of Python code to present mathematical problems in an engaging and scientifically accurate way.

A precise description of a complex problem is sometimes difficult to achieve. Plain text will work eventually, but it often requires a great deal of imagination on the part of the reader. In a conventional classroom setting, an instructor might attempt to illustrate a topic by drawing on a chalkboard or whiteboard during a lecture, but it is fair to ask whether the power of the computer might offer a better option than a professor talking and writing at the same time. Presentation tools such as Impress or PowerPoint evolved as a way to illustrate key concepts in advance, but these tools typically have limited support for mathematical expressions, and they tend to present information in a static, slide show format. Movies and video sequences, on the other hand, can follow a spoken presentation organically in a way that often enhances learning and builds understanding.

However, shooting, trimming, and post-editing video footage can take time, even if you are experienced with video production. Manim [1] is a computer graphics tool that speeds up the task of building mathematical relationships into videos (Figure 1), letting you create a graphic video image with a simple Python script.

Manim, which is based on Python, combines the Cairo graphics library, the FFmpeg recording program, the SoX sound tool, and the LaTeX word processing system. SoX and LaTeX let you create optional acoustic effects and output mathematical formulas. The finished video all lands in an MP4 file.

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