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Tips to creating a great animated video

As our clients realize that video is an effective way to tell their stories, we’re seeing an increase in our video production business. While creating a video can be fun, multi-disciplinary work, it can also be an expensive headache if not approached with a clear, mindful plan. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way that will help keep your project on track and allow you to focus on telling a compelling story.

The kickoff meeting and creative brief
Before production begins, it’s important to set expectations with your client to help get your project started on the right path. On larger projects with multiple stakeholders and decision makers, identifying a single point of contact for feedback and edit requests can simplify and streamline your work, so you can focus on telling a better story and producing higher-quality video.

During the kickoff meeting, we like to provide a creative brief that outlines all aspects of the video – the story, the length, intended audience, the format, host, primary contacts and decision makers, and other details like branding and closed captioning requirements to ensure everyone is on the same page. A signed creative brief is an insurance policy assuring that everyone is executing on the same vision.

It’s a good idea to remind your clients that video projects are different from other projects. Many decisions, once made, should be considered final, since revisiting them later in production can introduce costly expenses and project delays. It’s also a good idea to reiterate this later during the review process.


A solid script is vital
We recommend leading with a tight story and script. There are also some tried and true components to a good storyto be familiar with before writing. While budget can limit some creative choices, if you have a good script and creativity, you can still create a compelling video.

Keep it short
It can be difficult, but it’s important to resist the urge to include too much detail in the story. Most audiences have a short attention span and going too deep can result in losing focus and missing key messages. If a video is part of a larger project, providing links or referring to supporting content makes the “let’s keep this short and sweet” recommendation an easier conversation.

As a rule of thumb, 90 seconds seems to be the sweet spotfor most video projects. This translates to about 225 words. As I write a script, I take time to read it out loud and time myself to ensure the story is strong and that the cadence and tone work.

Script and storyboard review
Once the script is complete, it’s time to bring everything together into a storyboard. I generally use a three-column format in Microsoft Word to keep track of the scene number, dialog (script), and on-screen visual descriptions and storyboard sketches. Word is handy because it’s easy to track changes and add comments, so everyone’s ideas and feedback are captured in one place for review.

Since a typical viewer makes a split-second decision to watch a video, the use of an effective thumbnailand bumpersare vital. I make sure to include these in my storyboard. Closing bumpers are a convenient place to add a CTA and a URL to learn more. Consider shortening on-screen URLs to make links easier to remember.

I generally offer 3-4 samples of voice over talent and strong>background musicin the storyboard for the client to choose from. I also take the time to remind my client which creative decisions must be considered final and get them (as well as their branding and legal teams) to sign off on the script, storyboard, and audio choices before starting production.

Once you’ve captured all the details in the script and storyboard, your illustrator and animators can start their work. For a typical 90-second video, I recommend breaking reviews into several buckets:

Preview clip
A preview clip is generally a 15-20 second cut of the intro and opening scenes that gives your client a taste of what’s to come. This is the first time a client gets to see everything come together and it’s exciting. I always try to review the preview clip with the client in person to capture their thoughts and first impressions.

Make sure to download and review video locally. Video streamed directly from a shared folder can introduce network speed and buffering-related quality issues.

V1 review
At this stage, you can provide an edit of the entire video for the client to review. I recommend sending this edit a day ahead of an in-person or virtual meeting to provide your client the time they need to review it and collect their thoughts. This review is the most intensive and you should encourage clients to provide as much feedback as possible at this stage.

Iterations V2-V3 (and hopefully not V4!)
These iterations should be refinements of V1, and while a V2 edit pass might be a little more extensive than a later review, by the time we reach V3 there should only be light edits remaining.

Post production/the handoff
Once you wrap up your edits and you know your client is happy with the video, you can create the closed captioning file and bundle that up with the final video along with instructions on how to host everything. This is also when we recommend taking a few minutes to reflect on the project and conduct your team post-mortem. If you follow your plan, schedule, and communicate well along the way, the post-mortem is usually short, and you can spend some time celebrating the completion of a fun project.

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