Can you improve your product explainer animations?
I'm pretty sure that the answer to this should be yes, there's always room for improvement isn't there? For me, it starts with an ability to be self critical and allowing others to review my animations. It can be tricky hearing how this or that should be changed when you've put your heart and soul into something, but listening to others has always resulted in a better animation. I also like to sleep on a completed render or animation before I send it to a client, I'm always surprised how well a good nights sleep can open my eyes to errors in my own work.
Let me take you through the process in a little more detail, this way I hope to show you how I gather and process the information and build up the ideas and final products.
Know the clients product
It all starts with getting a solid understanding on what your client needs and understanding what the main points are. It may be a hidden feature, such as an internal shot of a filter, or a benefit that can only be shown with animation, hole boring for example. Whatever the need, make sure you get a full list of these features and benefits. Make these into clear touch points for your animation and think how you can clearly get these points across to the audience. A useful tool I use is word association, by creating a spider diagram of thoughts around those key words or phrases I find it helps my to think a little more laterally about ideas that may help to get the point across.
Get hold of the product and take it apart, measuring, photographing and building each component will make your models look infinitely better. If it's a large product, make a visit and take lots of images and video, note any key areas that need extra detail and take extra care documenting these.
Story board the process
It may take a couple of days at the start, but it will save you and the client so much time in the long run. Make sure you touch on all of the key points that you gathered and that these will be communicated correctly and simply to the end viewer. Personally, I like to create an animatic, (animated storyboard), this way you can add in the final voice over and music and it gives a fuller picture of what the final animation will look like. Providing this to the client really helps them with the timings of shots and gets them thinking early on about any other information that may have missed out
Record the audio
In truth, this is a chicken and egg situation. Usually, the client struggles to figure out the voice over until they see the animation, and as the animator, you want the voice over before you start to animate. It's a tricky one, and you should stay flexible on it. Get yourself involved if your not recording the audio yourself, ask for a script, or better still write it for your client. Record a rough version yourself and add it to the animatic, it will help you massively in creating a coherent animation.
Developing a look for the animation and getting client approval is a key step that you shouldn't skip. Why? because your vision may not match the clients expectation. Pick out a few online examples that the client may like and ask them to commit to a style. Develop your models and animations to that style and share these as still images early in the process. Doing this sets a clear expectation on what the final product will look like.
While it's name suggests developing an animation with outlined objects, wire framing is the process of fleshing out the animatic and helping the client better visualise the final animation. It may be that you render a fast and low resolution version, this can be a good way to get sign off whilst reinforcing the style that you have developed and when the final renders arrive there will be no nasty surprises.
This can be a costly process, you may be committing your computer to a weeks worth of rendering and you don't want to get this wrong. Make sure you have sign off before you start the render and let your client know that changes are not possible without cost after this is complete. Check everything twice and monitor the images as they are generated.
Edit and compositing
Once you have all of your renders, potentially thousands of images, you'll need to string them all together and add in the final audio and any titles. If you need to grade your projects or compost call outs or visual effects, you'll do it at this stage
It's quite exciting seeing the final product, but hold back the urge to send it to the client. Take a few hours to review you work, walk away from it and have a fresh look, have your colleagues check it over. Your reputation relies on having a polished animation and if it's not right, fix it.
By taking these baby steps with your clients, you can help them better understand the process, give them control of their project and save a lot of time by not reworking parts of your sequence.
Key points and takeaways
Keep the client in the loop, with lots of opportunity for review
Keep looking back to the storyboard and key messages when your animating
Peer review your work at all stages
Sleep on it. fresh eyes in the morning can spot errors
Get sign off at each stage and communicate why you need it.
Always stick to your budget
Always ask for a client review, feedback helps you to improve
If you want to learn more about the Frame 4 animation process, take a look at our process page.