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10 steps to develop an animation

As communicators, we have much to contend with right now as the COVID-19 crisis continues to upend the business world. We are often asked how clients can find new ways to communicate with customers. If your congress was cancelled, your reps are at home, whilst speaking engagements are on hold, how can you cut through and use digital methods to sustain your customer and internal communications. And what is the most impactful way to engage employees away from the endless Zoom meetings and emails? How can the board send a different message to their remote teams and improve digital communications? And how can you optimise your digital marketing channel offering and speak to your target audiences better?

Animation communication such as explainers, motion graphics, animated graphics, animated videos can all tell your story effectively, and they are often much more engaging, and punchy and can be multi-purposed across many channels, and not just social media. They are a great way to communicate with all audiences.

However, the nature of producing an animation requires a distinct set of development stages. These stages need to be developed in sequence. It isn’t quite so easy to just dive straight in.

We thought it could be useful to outline the ten steps to producing a brilliant animation efficiently.

1. Define your objectives, content and key messages first

As you create your animation it is important to determine your objectives and how you want your audience to think and feel, (and do) as a result of the communication. Whilst it may seem like the next cool thing to have in your marketing tactics, you must always have a reason to communicate. You must also ensure that the animation has clear and relevant content in order to achieve your objective.

A clearly defined objective also helps you to understand how successful the animation was at the end of the project, so think about what KPIs you are going to set and what success looks like.

2. Define your evaluation criteria

Once you know what your objective is you can then evaluate what success will look like on completion of the project. What are you wanting to accomplish with the animation? Is it to educate? Change behaviour? Inform? Raise brand awareness? Share news? How will you evaluate that you have achieved this at the end? This will allow you to focus your attention on making the most of the short animation time and engage existing and potential customers.

3. Choosing your animation style

You may be happy to let the creatives define how the animation should look, or you might have your own idea in mind. Perhaps you have seen another animation that you would like to emulate but know that there are many styles of animation to choose from.

The first consideration is do you prefer graphics that are either two dimensional or three dimensional, would you prefer to create a 3d medical animation or virtual reality medical animation video? Do you prefer moving imagery? Have a think about if your message lends itself to literal depictions of the real world and tangible objects, or is it more of a conceptual message where abstract icons or symbols are going to be the best thing to use? Do you want to use a classic hand drawn illustration, or a contemporary moving graphics style?

It might be that you just want the slick, fast moving typography, where the words provide the action which we see in TV adverts and title sequences. And since different styles of animation deliver different benefits, understanding the exact content that you want to communicate will inform the style of animation that you use. We find that the type of animation is often determined by your message and your budget.

4. Writing a voiceover script

Some animations, although not all, need a voiceover. Audiences tend to watch 80% of animations with the sound off so a voiceover or sub-titles are always recommended. We’d always recommend that you keep your initial key messages at a high level.

It is always useful to think about what part the animation is playing in your overall marketing mix. Be mindful that it is best practice to house a more detailed communication piece behind the animation, that you can direct the viewer to for more information. Try not to use the animation to do your marketing tactics’ heavy lifting or be your only element of your digital marketing strategy. (The caveat to this is when the animation details a scientific mode of action).

The average spoken word is about 120 per minute so use a calculation of no more than 240 spoken words when writing your script so you can probably drop about 50% of the words you would use in a written blog post, email marketing or journal article.

A little tip is to always read your script out loud to hear back how it sounds in the spoken voice. Is the tone of voice relevant for your audience?

5. Duration

When was the last time that you watched a video animation or explainer and thought “OK, I’m bored now” and switched off? Unless you have a very good reason to keep going longer the typical animation should last no more than 2 minutes and typically between 45 -90 seconds. It can become tedious any longer, especially if you use the same styles throughout.

And of course, the longer the animation, the more budget you will need to find. So, for various reasons keep it as short as you can.

6. Written frame

Once the voiceover script is approved you are ready to move into the written frame.

The written frame is basically the template for what we are going to see on screen frame by frame. The best way is to plot this as a single page document like this:

The written frame is the pre-story board and is the written description of what action will be produced and how (animation or film shot). It is basically a wireframe of the story you are going to tell and is useful regardless of how complex the animation will be. These are particularly beneficial stage of the development process as they help to define the technical details, especially where a voiceover may not be able to such as in medical science. It is worth noting that the wireframe also helps with approval and editing any changes that are needed by all the stakeholders involved in the project.

7. Develop the storyboard

At this stage we can start to develop the final storyboard. Typically, this would still be being developed in parallel with the script, written frame and visual mapping. This is the stage where the animator will use static frames and have a good idea of the transitions. This is where they will create the final details that then end up as a moving picture.

This is the last stage where you have a chance to make amends and to get it right before building your production. So, this is where the last amends should be made before amends start to get costly!

8. Selecting a voiceover

In order to bring the audio written script to life you need a voice that can convey the emotion of the written word. Your agency should be able to arrange this for you and present a selection of voiceover artists and examples to be able to shortlist and select.

At this point it is important to also select any music or soundtracks that will be used. Music gives a real power to the animation, so it is important to ensure the voice and music blend well together; and most importantly that they reflect your brand appropriately and resonate with your audience optimally. Think about the regional accents and international representation you may wish to have.

9. Record the voiceover

The voiceover should now be ready to record and will be completed in line with the approved script. You can ask to attend or dial in to the recording and give direction and be part of the production if this I something you would like to do.

10. Build the animation

Now the animation can be built. Any amends at this time will take more time and consume more budget so it is always wise to ensure that all stakeholders have signed off the storyboard, content and voiceover before starting this stage. There should be no surprises at this point.

By the end of all these ten steps you will have a full animation with some punchy messages, engaging graphics and visuals, a strong voice over and captivating music. An engaging piece that captivates the audience and conveys your message impactfully.

If you need help to improve digital communications for your products or services, brands and medical devices, or wonder how to use different digital channels in your marketing efforts, and produce a scientific animation / moving film, then don’t hesitate to get us involved. We have a team of storytellers and animators who can be called on to provide support. We look forward to seeing your animations – tag us into #GreyBearAnimates

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Emma Clayton

Emma Clayton

Emma has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 22 years across sales, marketing and communications, and has been part of some of the largest blockbuster product launches over the years.

Emma has a huge passion for the NHS which is infectious and has been instrumental and a leader for some world class medical education programmes, that not only improve lives but improve efficiencies and value to the NHS.

Connect with Emma on LinkedIn or at emma@greybearconsultancy.co.uk

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