Animation Production: A Commissioner’s Guide Pt 2
In our last article, we looked at why you might choose to commission an animation and the potential benefits and reasons to do so, over a video. This week we are diving into the animation production process, highlighting the various stages of production, and how they differ from video production. We’ll also give you some tips on how you can smooth the process yourself, and take the stress out of what can be a fairly complex process. So, without further delay, lets dive in!
Step 1 – Write an Animation Brief
First up, and before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to understand the various processes within animation production. There are quite a few stages to go through, but initially, we can start similarly as to how we would with video production; it all begins with a written brief. The animation brief needs to cover the project summary, project objectives, messaging and tone of voice, delivery platforms, and an idea of budget spend. All this will then enable the animation production company to be able to understand the brief much more thoroughly and build an initial creative treatment. They will certainly have more questions, especially around the target audience, the project’s call to action and engagement mechanisms, but if you scope this out in advance, it will allow the production company to at least start in the right direction. This dialogue will go back and forth and should involve several meetings and discussions, but eventually, you will end up with a creative treatment that covers your objectives and puts forth a creative concept that you are happy with.
Gatepost #1 – A completed treatment from the production company that details exactly what they will produce in terms of deliverables, creative approach, and messages.
Step 2 – Write an Animation Script
It is essential to get a script written for your animation at this early stage, and this must get signed off by everyone involved in the project. Some scripts will initially only have the voiceover or dialogue, but it is important that you also get scene descriptions included in later drafts so you know what will be on screen as the script is being read. This process may take several rounds of amendments.
Gatepost #2 – A fully signed-off script with scene descriptions, approved by all parties involved.
Step 3 – Record a Voiceover
You obviously can’t record the final voice-over until you have a signed off script, and the animator can’t exactly begin working until he has the voice over, therefore, it is essential to reiterate how important the previous step is. Recording a studio voice-over is not particularly cheap, especially if you want a high production standard, and any revisions to the script later down the line will mean additional studio and artist fees. An animator may sometimes work with a draft voice-over (roughly recorded by the producer, for example) but they can’t progress their work too far as there would be a discrepancy between the draft and final voice-over.
Gatepost #3 – A professionally recorded studio voice-over, signed off by the client, which is then supplied to the animation production team.
Step 4 – Create Concept Artwork and Animation Storyboards
Depending on the animation production team, you should receive concept artwork, such as individual frames from key moments within the animation, or even a full visual storyboard that accompanies the script. You must check this carefully, as this is a still image representation of what you will eventually see animated on screen. Go through this with a fine toothcomb and make sure you are happy with what you see, because once the team begin animating, any significant changes that you introduce, such as new characters or assets, is going to cost you! If your budget and timescales allow it, we think it is well worth commissioning the animation production company for a full storyboard before any animation begins.
Gatepost #4 – You receive and sign off all conceptual or storyboard work. Remember that this is your last chance to make any significant changes before the animation goes into full production.
Step 5 – Animation Production Begins
At this point, you will be fully handing over to the animation production team, so to ensure there are no surprises at the end, you should have a very strong idea of what the final animation is going to look like. The animation process can take a few weeks or a few months, and it’s worth noting that early drafts of animations tend to need a few more tweaks and amendments when compared to video production, so keep your eye out and look for the details. It is also especially important that the feedback process is carefully managed during this time.*
Gatepost #5 – You receive and sign off the animation at various draft stages via an online portal.
*Insider-tip! If feedback needs to be run past a senior figure, get them involved early, ideally around the scripting and storyboard stage. If you do this any later, and if they want to change things, you run the risk of huge budget increases and timescale implications (this predicament happens a lot, trust us!).
Step 6 – Final Delivery of Animation in its Various Formats
Once the animation is completed, ensure it is built and delivered to the specification you outlined in your original animation brief. If you asked for multiple formats and durations, ensure you get them all and double-check they are right for your intended platforms. We also recommend that you check with the animation production team that the animation project file has been securely archived so that if you want to return to it in the future, you can do so with minimum difficulty.
Gatepost #6 – You receive the final animation files and ensure the project has been securely archived.
So in a nutshell, that’s the process for producing a 2D or animated explainer video. Obviously, there is a lot of time and skill involved in animation production and these stages could be broken down into further steps, but we do hope that as a starting point, these articles have put you on the right track to being more confident in commissioning your own animation or animated explainer video. If you would like to see examples of Slate and Mortars animation work, please check out our animation showreel below.
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