Listen to this article read by Miguel Hernandez, Grumo's CEO HERE:
Producing a 1-1.5 min animated promotional video takes more effort than meets the eye.
What millions can enjoy during those fleeting seconds of informational entertainment it is actually the result of several weeks of hard work.
How hard really depends on the complexity and length of the animation, but typically an average 1.5min demo video will take about 4-5 weeks worth of work depending on how many revisions are required.
However, despite the complexity of the animated video there are a number of stages common to all projects.
Here I will do my best to explain each of these stages in the same order as they occur during production.
Before spending any time animating, the script has to be fleshed out to perfection.
Most explanatory videos are driven by a voice over which explains in detail the purpose and features of the product to be promoted.
The voice literally drives the animation so almost every sentence is represented by a new shot in the final video.
This is why it is so important to ensure the script is completely finalized before proceeding with the very time consuming animating process.
Any changes to the script after animation is underway will be very costly and delay the project considerably.
A typical script will contain two types of information. The actual voiceover script and overall descriptions of the shots and graphics to be animated.
Our Grumo scripts always have the voiceover script in black and all the other notes in grey.
A typical script will go over 5 or 6 revisions before is ready for animation.
Writing a good script is an art in itself and there are dozens of considerations that must be taken to ensure the final video is both entertaining, fun, but informative at the same time. The balance between all these aspects is crucial for the success of the video.
Many of Grumo Media promo videos have my own voice over. What started to be a way to save money and time has become somewhat of a signature brand due to my unique Spanish accent.
The advantage of having me doing the voice over is that you will save time and money as I can record several iterations of a script in very little time. It helps if I have written the script myself as I am very familiar with the intention behind each word.
Clients are welcome to record their own voice over. Today any half decent USB microphone and a blanket can do wonders.
I created a 5 min video tutorial explaining how to record great voice over audio using only a iPhone and a blanket HERE.
During the storyboarding process the script is broken down into individual shots.
Each shot typically corresponds to a new sentence on the script. Each new idea should be illustrated with an animated counterpart.
The storyboard is usually hand drawn using a pencil over standard letter size sheets of paper.
There are many storyboard templates available online. At Grumo I have created my own custom storyboarding templates.
A storyboard is divided into frames or shots describing in detail the actions that should be seen at that moment and transitions between shots.
Each frame has a blank for the voiceover text that will be heard during that show. Another blank for the description of the shot and transitions and finally a section where all the graphical assets will be enumerated.
This last part is very useful for the animator as he or she will make a list of this assets before starting with the animation.
Having a clear list of the total assets required will also help them draft a better estimate of the total time they will require to have the animation completed.
Once the storyboard is finished is time to break it down into all the characters and elements that need to appear in the animation.
Backgrounds and static objects are created as well as all the characters that will drive the story.
Character illustrations must be rigged for animation.
During the rigging process each moving part of a character, limbs, body, head, eyes, mouth, eyebrows have to be properly named and separated into individual layers.
At this stage a couple of style frames are provided so the client has a feel for how the animation will look once is completed.
This is usually the longest and most tedious stage of the whole production.
It all starts by importing all the graphics into the main animation canvas.
All characters have to be prepared to be animated. Typically this is a two step process.
First all moving parts must have a proper pivoting point selected to allow proper rotations.
Second, all parts must be parented properly to facilitate animation. The animator has to decide which parts are parents or childs of which ones.
On a typical body, all limbs will be parented to the torso. All facial features to the head and the head to the torso.
The goal is that at the end of the parenting process the character behaves as closely as it would in the real world.
On a properly rigged character moving the torso will affect the entire body and limbs. But moving or rotating an arm will only affect the hand attached to it a not the head or body.
After all rigging is finished is time to reproduce each shot in the storyboard and ensure the timing is in perfect synchronization with the voice over.
A good animator can produce up to 1 minute of animation a week. If the animator is required to do the illustrations as well that would account for up to 25% of the time.
Not all animators are good illustrators so it is recommended to hire specialized illustrators to take care of the important graphics.
Having an additional person adds considerable costs to the production but will ensure a more refined end product.
After the animation is finished and perfectly in sync with the voiceiver is time to add sound effects and a sound track.
There are several royalty free websites that sell or give sounds for free.
Many simple sound effects can be recorded at home with a couple of props and some imagination.
For the soundtrack you can either hire a composer which can get very expensive or select one of the thousands of sound tracks available at one of the many royalty free websites on the Internet.
Finding the perfect soundtrack can be a very time consuming and frustrating task.
Most soundtracks will not match the length of the animation or will have sudden changes that will disrupt the flow of the animation.
Most of the time the selected soundtrack will have to be edited and modified to fit the animation properly.
Ideally most if not all the revisions will have happened before the animation started.
Changes on the actual animation are hard to implement as they may require entire graphic and timing changes.
Voiceover revisions will definitely mess with the timing of the animation and may take days to implement.
A big chunk of the budget should be allocated to possible revisions or clear clauses should be part of the original contract explaining the allowable number and scope of revisions.
Compression and Delivery:
This is an often overlooked stage on a budget. All animated videos need to be rendered, compressed, and uploaded somewhere for final delivery. Even the tiniest change on a video will require a complete new rendering, compression, and reuploading.
Depending on the length and complexity of the final video this process can take anywhere from an hour to several hours.
In the case of animations that include 3D work with complex effects such as lights, particle effects, reflections, and many assets even rendering a single frame can take several minutes, and the whole animation even days.
Many clients don't understand what rendering means and assume a simple change should take a couple of minutes to do.
The actual change may in fact take a couple of seconds to do, like changing a text title, but in most cases that will mean the entire animation will have to be rendered again.
Let me explain what rendering, video compression, and file uploading mean:
Rendering is the process of generating an image from a model (or models in what collectively could be called a scene file), by means of computer programs.
Video compression refers to reducing the quantity of data used to represent digital video images, and is a combination of spatial image compression and temporal motion compensation.
File Uploading the process of sending of data from a local system to a remote system such as a server or another client with the intent that the remote system should store a copy of the data being transfered
As you can see producing an animated promotional video requires several steps, each of which presents its own challenges and set of skills to accomplish successfully.
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(If you are interested in learning how to produce your own promotional videos, I have an exceptional course you can subscribe to it HERE)
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