Animated video production guide

For many people the prospect of working on an animated video production for their company is a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before.  There are so many different things to consider – should it be in 2D or 3D, how long does it need to be, will we need a voice over or on screen text? And at some point you’ve actually got to pick the production company you want to work with! Here at Echo Video we love working on animated videos and to help with some of these questions we’ve put together a helpful guide that will take you through the process of video animation from concept to delivery. Hopefully this will answer all your questions but if anything isn’t clear then you can always get in touch with us.

The Concept

As with all things in life, an animated video starts with an idea. You might have a fully rounded idea for a video that you can take to a production company or you may just have an idea that you want an animated video. Whatever the case a good place to start is with a little bit of research.

Research

Whenever we begin on a new project for a client it’s always helpful to get an understanding of the market they are operating in. Who are their competitors, what other content is out there? A simple Google or YouTube search can throw up a lot of interesting information about what everyone else is doing. Naturally you want your video to be unique, to stand out from the crowd but this research may help form your opinions of what you like or dislike.

Whilst researching it might be helpful to keep in mind a few questions:

  • How successful are these videos at getting their message across?
  • Do you prefer a 2D or 3D animation? (more on this later)
  • Are there any styles of video that really jump out and grab you?
  • Is the video keeping you engaged until the very end?

With any luck by the time your research is finished you’ll be a little bit closer to knowing what you want (or don’t want) from your animation. Just remember that inspiration can come from anywhere – TV, cinema, adverts on the tube – anything that you like and grabs your interest can help inform your video. Filled with ideas and inspiration, now is the perfect time to sit down with your carefully chosen video production company. This company will be your co-worker and partner throughout this process so make sure you’re working with someone you trust and who fully understands your vision. The first step in this process is working out your story.

Find your story

It seems obvious but everyone involved in the video needs to clearly understand its purposes and key message – what are you trying to say? This can often be quite tricky to distill down to one thing but this is vital if you want your video to succeed. Videos, whether they’re animated or live action, will often fail to reach an audience if they try to cram too much in. The videos can become overlong and convoluted which is no good for anything. Having a clear focus in mind will also help shape the rest of the video, in fact until you have this clearly defined you can’t really progress any further!

With a vision of what the video is going to be about you can start pressing forward with the development of your animation and can answer a vital question…

2D or 3D animation?

It might be that from the get go you’ve known whether you want you video to be 2D or 3D. This might be because you like a certain style or feel that one is best suited to the type of video your producing but if you were undecided, now is the time to make up your mind. So let’s cut to the chase – how much money do you have? A fully realised 3D animation is likely going to cost you an awful lot more th

an 2D so in some cases it simply comes down to budget. Other factors to consider are:

Tone, style, design

Once you’ve settled on how many dimensions you can afford you can really start developing the main content of the video. You’ve got to look at the style of the animation you’re after, this will be affected by the tone of the video. Is it very serious and corporate or is there room for some levity? What will your audience respond well to? There are a number of different styles of animation to choose from such as character lead animation, whiteboard animation and kinetic typography to name but a few. What you go for will be greatly dependent on the message you’re trying to get across. The type of audience your after will also impact upon the length of the video you want to produce. An engaged audience who are familiar with your company or have an active interest in your brand will likely sit through a longer video than someone who’s never heard of you.

Telling your story

The final aspect to consider at this stage of the production is the method you want to use to get your key message across in your video. This really comes down to three options:

  • Voice over narration
  • Fully scripted and acted characters
  • On screen graphics only

What you decide on will depend on a number of factors the most prominent being how the video will be displayed and the available budget. If the animation is primarily going to be shown on social media or on a display stand at an exhibition then a voice over will be redundant as these videos are most likely to be played without sound. In these cases, large, eye catching on screen text will be the best option. This is also the cheapest option as it will require less scripting and no actors or voice over artists.

Pre-production

I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to an animated video, there’s a lot to consider but with luck you and your production company are now ready to get started. Just before you jump in though the first things you need to agree on are the production schedule, roles and responsibilities. Every production and every production company is different but in an ideal world at Echo Video we like to have 6-8 weeks to produce a 2D character animated video. That includes all design, scripting, production of assets, animating, sound, voice over, everything. Sometimes that isn’t possible as client’s need things sooner but whatever the deadline is make sure you set targets along the way. We like to agree on the following check points for delivery:

  • Proposal
  • Script and storyboards with design assets
  • Voice over and music suggestions
  • Initial animation
  • 1st full cut
  • Final cut

Between these it’s also a good idea to have a couple of meetings schedule just to keep everyone up to date. For a smooth production it’s also vital that you as the client understands what’s needed from you. This, after all, is a co-production. You need to get back quickly with answers to any questions and feedback on the different stages of production. With a schedule in place we can finally start working on delivering the different aspects.

Script

No matter what style of animated video production you’ve chosen, the script is vital to get right. Even if there’s going to be no audio you’ll need an outline of everything that will happen in the video, what action will be occurring on screen and what the message will be. You can work on the script yourself or the production company can produce it for you whatever your more comfortable with. If you’re having a voice over then it’s a good idea to record yourself saying the script out loud and timing to see how long it will be. It’s easy at this stage to be tempted to keep adding in more and more information so keep your target message and audience in mind and only include what’s really needed.

Storyboards & design proposals

animated video production storyboard

Working from the script, the production company and designer can then get to work on the storyboards. This may not necessarily be representative of the final look of the video, instead these initial sketches simply show what will be happ

ening in each scene. They will most likely be accompanied with a description of the action as well as the part of the script that will be included with that frame. It’s really important that you are clear with any feedback you have at this point – do the storyboards accurately get your message across, is it clear what’s happening? Any problems you might have now will only get worse when it comes to the final animation and it’s a lot easier to change things at this stage.

animated video production design

The production company should also provide you with a fully illustrated frame or two to show you what the final designs will look like. Fully illustrating these frames is very time consuming which is why they won’t do them all until the storyboards and designs have been signed off.

Final assets

With the storyboards, script and designs all signed off the designer can get to work creating all the assets needed for the animation. At this point we can also start casting for the voice over (if applicable) and deciding on the style of music we want to use. In an animation, the voice over becomes the voice of the company, it’s representing you and speaking directly to your audience so you need to carefully consider what you want. It might be that you want to use a celebrity which will obviously be quite expensive but could increase the appeal of your video. You’ll also need to decide on:

  • Male or female
  • Old or young
  • What sort of accent
  • Tone of delivery

Your production company will be able to provide you with a number of options for you to choose from. You can also start deciding on what sort of music you’ll want in your video – this can have a dramatic effect on pacing and tone to pick carefully.

Last chance

Although it seems we’ve done an awful lot of work and haven’t even started animating yet, this prep work is vital for the success of the video. Once the animation process begins it’s difficult to make large or significant changes which is why you have to carefully assess your options and decide on what’s right for you before signing off on the script, storyboards and design. So this is the time to double, triple check your happy with how everything is looking before you begin the…

Animated video production

So at last we come to the main event, animating your video. This can be a lengthy process but the benefit of having that long pre-production time means that there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises. The first thing to get done is recording the voice over. Having made your decision on an artist and given direction on tone of delivery then we can get this recorded. It’s essential that this is recorded in time for the animating to start as it will dictate the pace of the the final video.

At the same time the designer should be finishing off the assets for the animator and you might get a chance to have a look at these as they are finished off. Once the first batch of frames are completed the animator can start work on bringing everything together. Everyone will work different but we like to focus on animating the first section of the video and get that fairly complete along with voice over, music and sound effects. This can then be sent off to our client for approval before moving on to the rest of the video. The benefit of doing this is that it keeps the client in the loop on what’s going on and allows them time to send over feedback on the work so far.

After that initial cut it’s then just a case of working through the rest of the animation, adhering closely to the storyboards before finishing off the 1st cut.

Final cut and delivery

Once a 1st cut has been delivered it’s your chance to make any final tweaks and amendments before the video is completed. A few things to focus on might be:

  • Is it tonally consistent – do the images, voice over and music work together?
  • Is the pacing correct – do some sequences need to be sped up or slowed down to allow the viewer time to absorb the information?
  • Are there any little flourishes that could be incorporated to liven up any scenes?
  • Are all the titles spelt correctly!?

With the final piece of feedback the production company can complete your video and deliver it ready to be shown on your website, exhibition stand, social media or anywhere else you choose to display it. And there we have it I do hope you’ve found this guide through getting an animated video produced helpful. Every project is slightly different and as I mentioned a few times different companies and animators will work in different ways. The main thing is to be involved as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions.