I’ve decided to document the process I go through when creating a short animated video. Please keep in mind that the workflow I will outline here, in no way represents the best workflow possible. It is however the workflow I have become accustomed to when dealing with tight budgets and a small team.
On this project, we are in the preliminary stages of releasing a new app to the public. The app is called DriveEaze. Amongst its many features, this app will help driver’s submit insurance claims with their mobile phone. Our job here, is to come up with a short animated video introducing the app and its many functions. One thing to keep in mind is that the video is to be targeted to Insurance Brokers and not directly to the general public. The goal of this video is to introduce Brokers to DriveEaze and have them contact us for more information.
Scripting any type of video can be a cumbersome slow ordeal. What has worked for me over the years is to open a blank document and begin to type everything that I feel needs to be shared. I also try to picture the video in my mind and workout some scenes as I go along. In no time I will have a few pages of content I can work with. My job now is to take what I have written and puzzle it together to make a cohesive and interesting script. As it begins to take shape, I will read the script countless times over and over to make sure it has a proper flow. Once I am happy with it, I pass it on to someone else and wait patiently for their critique.
Changes, Changes, and more Changes
As in any creative field, it is hard to have someone else critique your work. It’s even harder when they decide to focus the project in a different direction. My best advice is to know when to pick your battles. Step back from the project and see how the changes affect the flow. If the main objective (which in this case is having the Brokers contact us) is still being achieved, then get passed it and keep moving forward.
With a final script in hand it is now time to visualize the look and feel of the project. I start with breaking down the script into chunks. Each chunk represents an Idea we are trying to get across. I start to visualize these chunks and begin to storyboard. Of course every storyboarded idea may not come in succession but placing them on paper is important. After I have laid them out I begin to work on flow and timing. I usually involve a few people during this process to keep the process as efficient as possible.
Some scripts can involve many characters; this script fortunately only involves one. His name is Ben, an Insurance Broker. Creating a character from scratch can be time consuming. A little trick I have learned is to use Google image search. I do a search for “cartoon businessmen”. A number of different images appear. I will choose the one that fits the style I have in mind. This will be the basis for our new character. Using the cartoon image as reference I begin to create the look for Ben. In a short time, our main star is born.
Layout and Design
Before any animation can begin I need to get my backgrounds in order. This is where the completed storyboard is very important. I take all the storyboard panels and begin to construct each one and get them as close to camera ready as possible. Ben will also be placed in each scene as shown in the storyboards. These become my character key-frames.
Audio : Voice-over
After the storyboarding process, the script was sent off to one of our many voice-over talents. Within a couple days I receive a clean read I can work with. We used to do this in-house but with technology changing over the years a good majority of our voice-over talent now have their own home studios in which they record these scripts from. It has become very convenient for everyone involved.
This is the brunt of the project. The most time consuming aspect. It is also the most gratifying! This is where the project really takes shape. Using our audio as a guideline we start stitching together each scene. These consist of the backgrounds and key-frames we’ve already created. I now begin to animate the character going over each scene a number of times. Always adding a little more detail to help sell each movement or dialogue on screen. By the end, we are extremely close to having a finished project.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are always parts of the project that could use someone else’s feedback and skills. On this project I asked for the help of our Video Production Guru. Through his years of experience he can let me know what’s working and what’s not. He also volunteered to edit the video for me!
More Criticism and Changes
Nothing will ever turn out perfect the first time out. It always takes a lot of tweaking and reworking. No one ever said it was easy right? This is where things really get that professional polish. After some well-deserved changes, the project is ready for its final stage.
Audio : Effects
This is what I consider the cherry on top of a well-constructed sundae. It is background music and sound. Without it, the animation will seem flat and lifeless. No matter how nicely animated it is.
And Finally… The Finished Project!