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3 Things to Define Before Your Next Animation Project

Picture this: you’ve just received an email that a new animation project arrived and now it’s time to move forward. This is all good news and your creative brain starts to imagine infinite possibilities. 

But where should you start? How do you do the first step and turn this excitement into a tangible piece that will serve your client?

One of the biggest problems that affect production is the lack of preparation, especially in animation projects. In a media that involves a lot of sensitive steps and takes time to produce, starting without a good foundation can cause a lot of problems along the way. The issue here is there’s no instruction manual and it’s not always clear what needs to be done to prepare for a project like this.

But no worries. Take a deep breath, a step back, and let’s start defining the foundation that will lead your next animation project to success by following these steps:

1. Know Your Constraints

In animation, if you don’t know the limitations and constraints of a project, it’s easy to fall into an endless production. The constraints in an animation project help to guide and limit the time you spend in the strategy and production stage, as well as the resources available to make the video happens.

Having these limitations clear beforehand is the best way to get the most out of every project. Below are some of the constraints you should think of when planning a campaign: 

  • Budget: What are the financial resources available?
  • Timeline: Is this a normal or fast-paced project?
  • Target Audience: Who am I trying to reach?
  • Video Duration: How long should my animation be?
  • Aspect Ratios: Where will the audience consume this video?
  • Language: Should I make my animation accessible to multiple languages?

As well as more technical details as:

  • Colors: What are the predominant colors of the campaign and/or brand I’m working with?
  • Characters: Should my video story be expressed with characters or not?
  • Specific styles: Is there an animation or visual style I should follow?

The more details about those limits you can get on your creative briefing, the better equipped the team will be to deliver a good final product. When the scope is too broad, it’s easy to lose yourself in the middle of the project and turn weeks of production into months.

And at the same time, a defined scope is not only good for the project’s development but also for collaborating with other teams, making it easier for them to evaluate and price the project accordingly.

2. Understand the Process

Most animation projects are developed in a waterfall format, so almost every step must be approved and locked down before moving to the next stage. Some of those phases tend to be only internal, while others require review from the end client. 

The development process of Motion Graphics or 2D animation campaigns usually looks like this:

Script → Voice Over Recording → Style Frame → Storyboard → Animatic/Boardomatic* → Design Assets* → Animation → Music and Sound Design

*usually approved internally

Keeping this structure in mind also helps you evaluate the time needed to go through every step and understand how development should operate in each scenario. This way, you can ensure each step is given ample time.

A good thing to remember is that even though production in animation takes a lot of time, you can expect to spend the same, and sometimes even more, at the pre-production stage. Script, style frame, and Storyboards tend to include a lot of back and forth with the client. Account for these review times and don’t think of only the time needed to prepare them.

3. Define Your Strategy

A successful animation campaign is about more than creating cool characters and making things move. To achieve your client’s goals, you need a strong animation strategy.

Think of the animation strategy as part of your campaign strategy: the target audience, where the campaign will run, what’s the core message… and combine the planning around those points with a focus on the visual experience.

A good animation strategy allows your campaign to:

  • Create emotional connections with the audience. “At the end of the day, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote by the poet Maya Angelou represents why creating emotions are so important. Put a lot of effort into exploring ways to build memorable emotions with your animation pieces.
  • Send a powerful message. You want viewers to get the message right the first time. Make clear the message your campaign should send and work around developing visuals and a story to support that.
  • Develop a strong brand association.
    You also need to make sure your client’s brand is recognizable and expressed in every moment of your animation. Plan the use of colors, typography, and visual elements the target audience most associates with your client.

Your visual concept, script, and storyboard (defined during the pre-production stage) need to be aligned with these 3 points of your animation strategy. To help you with that, you need to develop a good Creative Brief, highlight these points, and translate them into visual references to guide production.

Put It All Together

With all that in place, you’ll be in a great position to start every animation project in the right direction. A well-defined process and scope make it easier to align deadlines to budgets and help you create the right expectations for your clients and the creative team developing the animations. Your animation strategy ensures everyone working on the project understands what you want to achieve and how they can make it happen. 

A clear picture and plan, right from the start, is key to deliver good results. Those are the foundations to develop a project that can run smoothly for both your agency, the end client and the team you partner with.

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

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