10 tips on approaching animation the right way. As any author will tell you, the blank page is intimidating. This is often what makes creating high quality animation such a challenge for business’, it is the blank page of film making. The possibilities are endless, so the options can feel overwhelming. With COVID-19 impacting commercial production on a global scale, brands are embracing animation to continue communication with their audience. This reality creates a new set of questions & concerns.
How does a company / marketing team with limited experience approach this art form? How do you know what is realistic? Most importantly, how do you stand out in a sea of competitors and other companies that are utilising the same solution?
This list is designed as stepping stones – simple considerations and advice to help the uninitiated feel at home or the experienced re-focus their creative process. If you’re about to create what could be the most important animation your company has ever commissioned, these steps will help maximise the results. 10 tips on approaching animation the right way.
- HAVE A CLEAR VISION OF YOUR BRAND TONE BEFORE YOU START.This will guide a lot of your stylistic decisions going forward and provide clarity for any creative production partners you engage. Don’t start by searching for animations you like, or yours will be lost in a sea of identical productions. Think about your brand and its tone of voice – this should be your driving force, build on that and your animation will be unique to your business.
- MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY.This element can effect the form your animation takes. Is this a people focussed message? You may want to tell a story using characters. Is it a message about statistics, facts and figures? An infographic approach is probably what you need.This step seems simple, but it is astonishing how quickly businesses embark upon creating animations without really asking themselves this question. Once you ask yourself this question you need to make sure you…
- START SIMPLE. We all know ideas & messages have a habit of growing – with animation, increasing complexity can often mean unexpected cost. Steps one and two should allow you to identify a very clear end goal for your animation – what action are you trying to promote? Are you simply trying to inform. Try to distill your goal in to a sentence – re-visiting this sentence is a really effective way of maintaining a sharp focus on your original goals throughout production.Detail can be added and removed as the script evolves in pre-production but your goal should be simple and easy to identify, informing every decision you make .
- DON’T RUSH TO BEGIN PRODUCTION. We still haven’t started to fill our blank page – pre production is where that happens and it’s important to take the time to get this right.Your production partner (or internal team) will support you through this. When you finish pre-production you should have a very clear idea of how the final animation will look. If you haven’t… you’re not ready to start production. Steps 5 – 7 are some of the big questions you and your team will have to consider.
- 2D or 3D? There is a common misconception that 3D (or CGI) is more expensive to execute than 2D. This is not necessarily the case. This decision (like every one you make along the way) should be guided by which option will tell your story best. It’s easy to understand what each method makes possible but the production process’ differ greatly.3D: The big challenge with 3D is that the render (the process of delivering the final film file) is time & resource intensive. You may have to make decisions & sign off the film using sample still images and very low quality moving examples. Alterations after the fact can be expensive and time consuming, so you need be confident you know what the outcome will be before giving the green light. If you want to see full renders at different stages you can, it just takes a lot of time (and is an expensive way of working as a result)2D: This is a process that is easier to see in a “finished” quality as work is carried out. The challenge with 2D work is the knock on effects changes can have (especially the later you get in to production). What seem like a simple change could have a dramatic knock on effect for the entire film (and require a lot of time to implement).
- SHOULD WE USE VOICEOVER?The decision to use voiceover can often feel like a necessity but in a world where the sound on animation is often muted, do you need to re-think this position? How much of your message is being lost because people scroll past your film without hearing a word?Think back to your “start simple” sentence – is this an outcome / message that can be achieved purely through visuals? If so, it might be worth considering that route in pre-production.
- WHICH VISUAL STYLE?This stage of development needs to be heavily dictated by the tone of your brand & message – something you should have identified clearly in step one and two. Is this something serious that requires emotional impact? A cartoony aesthetic probably won’t be suitable. Is this going to be heavy in statistics that could change right up to the delivery date? You may want to use a 2D art style to allow for quick turnaround changes at the last minute.Based on your answers to earlier questions your creative partner or department will have suggestions to make on this front, just make sure you think about the implications on tone and ask about the implications on process.
- INTERROGATE STORYBOARDS PROPERLYSteps 1 – 7 should have put you in a strong position to move in to storyboarding. Most film projects will start with this, it is especially important for animation.As a client – look at every detail as well as thinking about what is happening between frames. What do all the elements look like, the size, shape and position of everything, how will it move from one frame to the next?Once the storyboard is approved it sets a lot of wheels in motion. Assets are designed, textures and scenes are created, characters are rigged and scenes are laid out. Once this is done, what seems like a small change could cost a lot in time… so don’t sign that storyboard off until you confident you understand what it represents and you’re happy with it.
- Whether it’s a creative partner or an internal department, any production team would want the chance to talk their client or superior through a storyboard if it is needed.
- RECOGNISE PERSONAL BIAS.The difficulty in divorcing personal preferences from production decisions is an age old problem for clients and creatives alike. The danger of any “empty page” production method (like animation) is filling it with what YOU LIKE, rather than what is RIGHT for the film, the message and the business. This is difficult but at the same time, very easy (if you’re strict with yourself).If the only reason you’re pushing for a change is “I like that way more” it may well be at the detriment of the animation. Think back to your simple sentence and your goal for the animation – every change and action should be driven by improving against those initial goals.
- TRUST YOUR CREATIVE PARTNER. If you have an internal resource you will be used to the working dynamic and hopefully this article provides a little extra insight, maximising the quality of your output.If you are in the process of appointing a creative production partner to produce an animation, it’s important to place trust in what they do. Creative work of any kind is a collaboration – the blank page productions more than any. If you want to maximise the quality of animation for your budget it’s important to embrace that collaboration.
At Clearhead we have a wealth of experience in a wide range of animation techniques. If you already have a creative production partner appointed, we hope these points help enhance your working relationship with that team.
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