Production Scheduling 101: How to Get Stakeholder Buy-In for Your Animation Project
Understanding how production schedules are put together is an important bit of knowledge to have on hand when it comes to pitching a new animation to your stakeholders—and selecting the right animation studio to produce your project once you’ve got the greenlight.
That’s because preparing an accurate and effective animation production schedule before work begins is like opening Google Maps before your road trip. When you have directions and a plan to get to your destination, the journey is blissfully uneventful. But if you don’t pull up your GPS app before you hit the road, the drive can quickly spiral into a major headache, full of delays and wrong turns.
All to say, if you’re embarking on your next animated video, you can certainly trust the studio you hire to know the ins and outs of the scheduling process, but you’ll be even better positioned for success with a little first-hand knowledge of how production timelines come together. Understanding how animation schedules are made and developing an instinct for ballparking the time it takes to make different types of projects allows you to set more accurate expectations internally, evaluate potential partners more thoroughly and negotiate any tricky last minute stakeholder requests more effectively.
Simply learning to whip up stress-reducing calendars isn’t the only reason to read on. Your stakeholders might ask you for a timeline before they’ll even agree to seek studio bids. Our tips can help you build something preliminary. You can show your stakeholders what to expect from an animation production and plan your internal content calendars accordingly.
That’s where the five tips below come in handy. They’re all best practices for building an impeccable animation production schedule that every quality studio should follow.
Factors that Influence Animation Production Timelines
Everyone wants to know how long producing an animation takes — especially your stakeholders. So before we get into the tips to build a production schedule, let’s discuss the factors that influence overall production timing. That way, you’ll be prepared to explain why your schedule is the appropriate amount of time to craft an impactful video. The factors include:
- The length of the deliverable
- Script word count
- Animation style
- Your budget
- Animation complexity, i.e., the number of illustrators/animators required to complete the work
- The final delivery date
- Your requested review window for each project phase
- Your schedule and availability
- The ability to keep elements locked after we pass through project phases/gateways
Note that many of these factors are interrelated. It’s the relationship between them that ultimately determines your schedule.
5 Tips to Build a Fool-Proof Animation Production Schedule
Let’s learn to schedule an animation production properly! Keep in mind that the producer at the studio you partner with will be the one to create and manage your final production timeline. So remember that these tips are meant to help you build a rough draft schedule — if your stakeholders are asking for it — and arm you with the knowledge you need as you pursue animation to market your brand.
1. Make Your Production Schedule Visual
Production schedules have tons of moving parts. To keep everything organized and easy to follow, make it visual.
iCal, Excel, gantt charts — all of these tools can be used to build an effective animation timeline. What matters is giving each project gateway or milestone its own line and color within your chosen tool. That way, you can see your entire schedule and the factors contributing to the timing at a quick glance.
What’s more, choosing a color to represent each project gateway means you can adjust portions of the schedule easily if these factors necessitate revisions to your timeline.
2. Use a Word Count Timer
As noted, one of the most critical variables in determining the amount of time required to produce an animation is the length of the final deliverable. Of course, the allotted production time also shifts because of factors like animation style and budget. But wrapping your head around your video’s final run-time — whether it’s seven seconds or two minutes — is the simplest way to start estimating your production timeline.
Luckily, there are algorithms that calculate the amount of screentime a script will take. These algorithms take the number of words in your script and generate a rough estimation of run-time.
These tools can help ensure you remain within the boundaries of your media buy. But first and foremost, word count timers and the run-time info they give you are essential for scheduling. Because as you can imagine, the shorter the script, the shorter the project timeline.
3. Build in Buffer Time
Animation productions are generally smooth sailing. But hey, if you finish early, everyone’s thrilled. So while you may not need it, it never hurts to let your animation production schedule breathe by adding in buffer times
This does not mean adding weeks of extra time, we promise. Actually, animation scheduling is highly predictable. And productions rarely run longer than planned. Why? Because unlike live action productions, animations don’t rely on finicky variables like weather and traffic. There’s no need to be on location or set to animate.
Still, animation productions come with a few variables that might shift your schedule slightly. It’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. To that end, we suggest adding a 10% buffer to each major section of your timeline and each gateway point. You should also consider adding a 10% buffer to the review time for your key stakeholders.
4. Communicate Changes ASAP
It’s true that animation is the most predictable content production medium. But again, some factors are out of your control. Namely, people. Your stakeholders might not be able to review a draft on time after all, for example. In that case, be vocal as soon as you know there’s a holdup.
Even if you’re unsure how unexpected obstacles will impact your schedule, communicating them early will help your animation studio producer make adjustments, allowing them to give you a heads up on any potential extensions or overages, which can soften the blow to your timeline. And you can expect the same from your studio producer; they’ll tell you about changes to the schedule as soon as they pop up.
As you can imagine, your schedule and budget are inextricably tied. If your schedule gets extended, it’s likely that your cost will go up, too. If you let your stakeholder know their delay in review might affect your budget, they just might complete their review on time.
5. Manage Stakeholder Expectations
We know that despite your best efforts, it can be challenging to wrangle reviewers, gather stakeholders, and generally safeguard your schedule. Now that you know how to scope out a schedule, use this knowledge to help keep your stakeholders on track. Because nine times out of ten, it’s the people who blow up production timelines.
Booking review windows on your stakeholders’ calendars at the start of your project can go a long way in encouraging them to meet their review deadlines. While external circumstances and fire drills could always knock these meetings off a calendar, pre-booking busy stakeholders gives you the best chance of staying on schedule.
Tap Your Animation Partner to Schedule Your Project
Just because you now know how to schedule an animation production like a pro doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Let us do the scheduling for you. When you come to MOWE with a request, we’ll tell you approximately how long you can expect it to take.
You don’t even need a script to bring the MOWE team on board. We’re happy to start with a concept and give you a rough time estimate to complete each project phase. And once there is a script to work from, we can provide you with a more exact production schedule.
We’re here to be your partner for the entirety of your animation; we’re not just a production factory. Because when your schedule is accurate, your project proceeds smoothly. And when your project proceeds smoothly, you look like the rockstar you are to your stakeholders. And of course, your brand gets the powerful marketing animation it needs. Win-win-win.