I'm often asked to break down exactly of how I bring my clients’ ideas to life. While this particular example is specific to animation, the overall steps relate to live-action video, as well as brand development and design. Each project varies greatly as do their composed stages, especially when producing digital crossover work.
Time and logistics permitting, I love to start with a workshop involving all available stakeholders. It’s a great opportunity to throw ideas around and be truly collaborative. It is also the most efficient way to get projects moving in the right direction.
I need a brief or concept, and any other relevant information from the client or agency that I'm working with. If the client is supplying a final script and/or VO (voiceover), I’ll need these assets at this point. On the other hand, if I'm asked to do any script-work or VO, refining these deliverables will become the main focus of the launch.
Script: What is the story or underlying message of the animation? I can edit a supplied draft to ensure it will animate in an engaging, succinct way. The client or agency knows the story they want to tell better than anyone, so I’ll work with them to get the tone and message just right for their brand and objectives.
VO: Who is going to tell the story? I’ve partnered with a fantastic sound studio, as well as talent preps and at this point I’ll use my experience and theirs to find the perfect voice for the project. If the client has any VO references, it’s helpful for them to share these so I can help with selecting the right person.
Once the script is fully signed off, I’ll get ready to progress to the next stage.
I'm an designer and an animator, and I love nothing more than crafting the designs I’ll later bring to life. If the client would like me to design their animation, I'll start dreaming up the best possible style direction for their brief.
It is helpful to get references from the start so I have a good idea of the look and feel my client is after. I take these on board, yet always deliver something that is unique and tailored to the brief.
Depending on the project, I will provide the client with one or more style frames showing how I envisage the final film, allowing the opportunity to feed back on the design. The number of reviews will depend on the schedule and budget.
I can certainly work with supplied designs as well!
The storyboard shows the building blocks of the animation, and gives an idea of how the voiceover will match up with the visuals. This is typically provided in a simple PDF document.
All the key scenes are mapped out to give the client an overview of how the animation will support and enhance the script. It’s important to note that the style frames in the Previz (previsualization) stage provide basic visual direction, as the storyboard is purely for narrative explanation. Imagine a simple pencil-sketched comic strip.
Animation is time-consuming, so sharing the storyboard with the client ensures that they are happy with the path we're about to take together and avoids delays later down the line. The client will have the opportunity to review and give feedback. The number of times will depend on the schedule and budget for their project, as agreed from the outset.
An animatic is a helpful way to pull together everything I’ve got so far and create a fully timed-out rough film. Its purpose is to demonstrate timing, flow and pace alongside key movements and transitions.
Note that this will not include any finesse. For example, rather than a character walking through a park, there will be a picture of a character sliding along a background image of a park. I typically supply my client with an animatic as a low resolution MP4 video file.
It is desirable to have the final approved VO recording at this point. It is possible to use a VO placeholder, but any changes down the line may impact workflow, timing and costs.
If relevant, or if a tighter budget does not allow for an animatic stage, I can supply a ‘cell-o-matic’. This is very simply the VO played against the storyboard frames, so the client can get an idea of how timings will work for each scene.
During this stage I’ll be doing what I do best: bringing the story to life frame by frame and creating those moments that turn the piece into something truly magical and memorable.
The reason I devote time and attention to the previz steps is to ensure everything is in place before I dive into the animation itself. All the above stages need to be signed off before I can get started, as it’s much harder to change anything after this point. It is possible to step back and amend things, but again this may affect timing and cost for the client so I try to avoid it as much as possible.
FEEDBACK & SIGN-OFF
The client will have opportunities to review and provide feedback on my work throughout the entire process, culminating in the final sign-off before I deliver the finished piece. The amount of feedback I can incorporate at each stage depends on the schedule and budget agreed at the start of the project.
Prompt feedback is important to ensure the process keeps moving. Additionally, it’s always useful to receive requests listed in order of priority, so I can work out what to tackle within the agreed timeframe and assess if there are limitations.
During the production stage, WIPs (works in progress) will be sent as low resolution MP4 video files. Again, the number of WIPs possible varies depending on the project’s timeframe and budget.
At points marked ‘approval’ or ‘sign-off’ I need the latest version I have sent to be signed off by all key stakeholders. This means it is fully approved and I can then move on to the next stage of production.
RENDER & DELIVERY
With agreed amendments in place I'm now ready to provide a low resolution MP4 file for final sign-off. Once I have the thumbs-up, I’ll render and deliver a full quality Pro Res video file to the client.
Any changes beyond this point are entirely possible but may incur additional costs and impact delivery, so again I try to steer clear of this.
Render and delivery can take some time depending on the size and nature of the files I’m supplying, but worth the wait when the final piece of magic arrives in the hands of the client.
So that's the basic production process. I'll see you in the launch meeting!