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What to Look for When Hiring an Animation Studio

Hiring the best team to bring your animation projects to life is not an easy task. Animation projects require extensive production and the proper studio needs to deliver the desired visual output while also guaranteeing a smooth experience throughout the whole process.

But of all the animation professionals out there, how do you choose the best one for your project? In this article, I’ll explain how vendors differ from partners, how to determine which is the best for your project, and — if you want to move forward with a partner — what you should look for.

2 Types of Animation Studios

Every company and agency has different needs when it comes to animation. But as you consider your options, it’s important to know that some studios operate just as vendors while others are real partners. Being able to differentiate between them will help you to not only make the right decisions, but also save you time, money, and many headaches. 

Vendors

If your internal agency team includes people who are experienced in the animation field, it’s possible that you can manage the following steps of the animation production process in-house: strategy, style, script, storyboard, and/or voiceover. In this case, you may only need to hire someone to create the animated work itself. Those scenarios usually call for a vendor, someone who only needs to jump in and execute on what was established.

Some studios are great vendors and are ready to follow and execute on the agency’s direction. They usually work in specific steps like the illustration phase (turning the storyboards into the final designs following an established style) and animation (adding movement to those illustrations and putting everything together). These are very technical partners/allies and depending on the size and demands of the project, just a freelancer may be capable of handling it.

Partners

On the other hand, if you don’t have these skills in-house, you likely need to work with a studio that functions as a partner. This calls for a team, a studio that not only executes but also strategizes around animation and marketing. An animation partner should be brought in right from the start of the project and should be available to participate in early discussions with the client.

Partnering with a full-service studio is a much longer and in-depth interaction and it results in the best results for both parties. So, if you want someone to manage and produce in the earlier stages of the project – including scriptwriting, storyboarding, style definition, and story building, a partner is the best way to go.

Identifying the Right Animation Studio for Your Needs

One of the best ways to identify if a studio you’re researching fills more of a vendor or a partner role is to look beyond just their reel or portfolio.

Vendors tend to focus on the output of their projects, so you’ll probably find their website looking more like a wall gallery, full of projects. Partners can have a handful of projects as well, but they show more than that. The websites of partner studios will usually also showcase case studies and other aspects of the animation in addition to the output. They generally have additional resources and offer services that are beyond just describing the animation process. 

Even though a website can help you identify if you’re looking at the right studio for your needs, the best way to understand it is by having a conversation. Vendors usually focus the conversation on technical aspects, while partners turn their vision to the ‘why’ of a project. Those are some key clues that will help you understand who you are talking to and help you make conclusions if they are the right studio for your needs. 

There’s no right or wrong type of professionals; both vendors and partners can shine if engaged in the right project. It’s a matter of you understanding better what will best solve your problems.

What to Look for in a Studio Partner

If you’ve decided that a partner studio like MOWE is the best fit for your project, you still have to determine which of those studios to work with. In our experience, there are 5 main things to take into consideration when evaluating studios.

An Animation Specialty

One of the biggest advantages of partnering with an animation company is its laser focus on the animation world. A good animation team will be capable of handling all steps of the animation process, either internally or through dedicated collaborators. A great example is when it comes to scriptwriting and storyboarding. Even experienced copywriters and directors of live-action videos can struggle when shifting to a different media like animation. That’s because the way you tell a story, the flow of the scenes, transitions, even the concept of camera movements are different. A good animation studio can help you enhance those aspects, which are crucial for a successful animation.

A Strong Core Team

Structurally speaking, every animation studio consists of a staff team and additional freelancers depending on the project’s specificities. It’s common in our industry to have a consistent flow of freelancers in the animation studios as the volume of demands and the need for specialized professionals can change overnight.

However, it’s important to pay attention to the core team of the collaborator you’re talking to. A solid staff helps to set the quality standard a studio can offer without relying on the availability of freelancers. At the same time, having a core team helps to rapidly initiate projects and start to move the needle in the right direction.

It’s always good to do some research and ask questions to understand if certain pieces you saw in a portfolio are the result of a core team, or if it relied mostly on freelancers to happen. It’s not that working with freelancers is a bad thing, it’s just that if you are looking for consistency or a quick start on a project, the studio’s core team will be your best friend in making those happen.

Production Management

Besides a core team, it’s even better when the studio has the capability to handle production management. The role of a Producer in an animation studio is essential for its success, and working side by side with this professional won’t just help to guarantee the delivery dates but will create a seamless experience throughout the project’s development. 

Voice-Over Management

An experienced animation studio can also handle voice-over hiring and directing, so you won’t need to worry about that. With a clear vision of the client’s business and message developed through the script phase, the studio can better direct and suggest styles of narration to better fit a project. It will save you the hassle of thinking about it and chasing for voice talents.

Sound Design Management

One final aspect that makes a huge difference in the impact of a project is the capability of a studio to handle the sound of an animation piece. Sound Design is an important factor in animation that is usually less prioritized by people who aren’t used to the media. Even though it’s rare to find a studio with an internal sound design team, the best partners tend to have a handful of dedicated sound studios they engage with constantly. Since sound design is such a pivotal part of an animated piece, being able to consolidate this task in a single place can leverage enormously the end result of your project.

The Greatest of Outcomes: Peace of Mind

Dedicating enough time to filter and interview studios until you move forward with your new partner is essential. When you pick the right collaborator, the biggest benefit you’ll see is peace of mind, the assurance that the project will be delivered in time, within budget, and without bumps in the middle of the journey.

One of the best ways to also allow that to happen is to trust the studio’s process. If a studio gets all the way to the end of your filter, it’s a sign they might be the best for the task, and valuing their process is the best way to enable productions to run smoothly and good work to come out of it.

It becomes even more important when engaging in longer and bigger animation products. In those cases, every small delay or shift in the process can cost weeks of production time, and the same applies to picking the wrong partner/all. 

Allow time to understand your current needs and research for the right partner/studio. Let them apply their expertise in animation towards other parts of the project (scriptwriting, sound…). Find someone you trust, and respect their process. These will not only guarantee you a great result but also some good nights of sleep.

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Author avatar
Felippe Silveira
Co-founder & Creative Director at MOWE Studio

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