the animation process
Let’s talk about the animation process for a minute. Animation is a niche that many businesses don’t encounter often. As such, it may be new and murky territory. You’re typically working with a set budget, and want reliable results. I have refined my process to ensure that every project gets done within the allotted time, with just the right mix of creativity, collaboration, and execution. I want this to be an easy process to understand, and a joy for us to work on together. Communication is the glue to any project, so I involve my clients not only at every decision point, but also provide them with regular progress updates. I never want you to wonder what you are paying for, or if it’s getting done.
PHASE 1: The brief and script
Whether you come with a script or we brainstorm one together, this is the first step in the animation process. You know your business better than anyone, so we will discuss your brand voice and messaging here, ensuring the creative solution we arrive at is the best for your audience. My goal is to make sure we’re on the same page right from the start, so this phase will be used to answer any of your initial questions about the process, provide a guideline for expectations both on my end and yours, and understand your goals for the project. During this phase, I will provide a proposed timeline to ensure we stay on track to meet the deadline. We want to get the script nailed down before moving on to the creative phase, since all our visual ideas will be based on this script.
PHASE 2: MOODBOARDS AND THUMBNAIL SKETCHES
Now that we have a script, we can start to visualize what it might look like. I will brainstorm some ideas, and use rough pencil sketches to give you a good idea of the imagery I have in mind. During this phase I encourage you to collaborate with me if there are ideas you’d like to insert/change. Since these are not final designs, we can change things very easily. I will also create moodboards, which use reference imagery to help determine what kind of style might be a good fit for the script/brand.
At the end of Phase Two, the goal is to have the visual ideas nailed down. Even though we haven’t done final designs, the end of this phase marks approval of the visual metaphors used to aid the script. We will also nail down a visual direction at this point based on moodboards. Again, this is not exactly what the final designs will look like, but gives a broad visual direction for the project. After this phase, I will put the sketches into a timed animatic, and fully design some of the sketches to get a better idea of the visuals.
PHASE 3: Styleframes and animatic
Now that we have a good idea of what our visuals and style will be, I will fully design 3 still frames, each for a different point in the video. This is to make sure you like the direction the visuals are taking before we get too far down the design process to change things. At this point, we can discuss things such as color palette, or stylistic choices (i.e. that character has a weird nose, etc.) that we may want to alter to best resonate with the brand’s audience.
During this phase you will also receive an animatic. An animatic is a video with the sketches placed in and roughly timed. I will record a scratch voiceover so we can see the timing and pacing of the visuals. This can help us understand if things are moving too quickly/slowly or if things don’t make sense. At this point, the designs are still in a rough state, and changes are fairly easy to make. This is the last phase where we will make changes to visual metaphors and ideas. Once we leave this phase, I will be designing out all the boards for each scene. After this, making major changes to the visual ideas will most likely lead to a setback.
PHASE 4: BOARDOMATIC AND VOICEOVER
At this point, I will design all the parts and pieces for each scene. This will get compiled into a fully timed rough film. There will be very little animation at this point and the visuals will lack the final compositing/textures because the purpose of this phase is to demonstrate timing, flow, etc. During this phase we will also lock in the final voiceover. Either the client will provide me with a final voiceover, or I will work with a voiceover artist to record it. Having this allows us to time the animation accurately.
At the end of Phase Four, the goal is to have all the visual compositions set. Animation is next, and it is the most labor intensive phase of the entire process, therefore it is very hard to change anything visually after Phase Four.
PHASE 5: ANIMATION
This is where we finally get to pull it all together. During this phase I will be providing small glimpses of animation/final visuals along the way so that if changes are needed, we can make them before reaching the end.
Hopefully by this stage, you are feeling comfortable with the visuals and animation. This is the last phase before we enter sound design, which means after this we won’t be touching the visual portion of the video again. If we do need to go back and change a large portion of the visuals, it may require going back to Phase Two, which will set back the timeline and require a new budget.
PHASE 6: SOUND AND FINAL DELIVERY
We’re in the final stretch now. I will finalize the background music and add sound effects to enhance the video. Everything will be rendered and put together in a final, beautiful composite. Now you will finally receive your video. Congratulations! A video is a great way to share your message and reach your audience.
By using this set process for all my animation projects, I have achieved a reliable process that benefits both myself and the client. I find it incredibly helpful to be able to reference where we are at in a project and what needs to be done to get to the finish line. If you have any questions about my process or would like to talk about a project you have, feel free to reach out to me anytime!