Production Workflow for an Animated Video

By Brigitte Sachse of Bee Video Production

I’d like to create an animated video but I’m not sure about the process. How does it work?  

Before I answer that question, let me tell you a bit about myself. I’ve worked in the production industry my whole career, mostly on the business side and entirely on the live-action side. I started Bee Video Production almost 4 years ago now which seems like a relatively short period of time, but it’s actually felt like a lifetime. In the past 4 years I have made over two hundred videos.  When Covid hit in March and production ground to a halt, I knew I needed to pivot. So we dusted off the few examples we had of animated videos and started to build a business model around that. Fast forward to today, and we’ve produced animated videos for a wide range of clients, including TD Bank, Accenture and many more. We love the process and I don’t think we’ll ever look back. 

One of the things I’m most proud of is that now we can move equally well between animation and live-action storytelling. Not many other production companies can do that. But it was important to me that if we were going to do this, we’d have to jump with both feet. We had to be equally conversant in the language of animation as in live action.  That required building out two quite different skill-sets.  I was told on quite a few occasions that I should pick a lane and become more niche. But I didn’t want to be constrained by what kind of story we wanted to tell so we worked hard to understand both genres equally well and at times, have them converge.  And it was worth it.

Animation is a very powerful medium and as more and different animation software arrives on the marketplace it becomes even more so every day. 3D, 2D, VR, AR, whiteboard, kinetic typography, rotoscope, explainer videos, the list goes on and on. The ability to tell a story using animation is almost limitless. A lot depends on your budget and the time you have to develop your project. The rest is limited only by your imagination.

Okay so back to the question: How does it work? answer: there are 4 main stages I’ll break down below, and it all comes down to planning, planning and more planning. 

Stage 1- lock the Script- As with live action, clients want to make sure the product story is locked before anything else. So script is everything. We don’t move forward on the next stages until the script is locked.

I’m now convinced the easiest way to tell a product story is to animate it. You can explain how something was made. Tell people why you made it. Demonstrate why it’s special. Be specific about why someone should buy it. If your product is complex, use the animation to simplify it. Location means nothing in animation. Your video can be on the moon! Let your creative flag fly. 

Most animated videos start with the same basic act structure (actually live action videos follow a similar format).  We always start with Who? What? And why? These three core acts allow us to present a problem and then solve it.

A good animated video engages viewers from the first second.  It is almost always less than 3 minutes and often just over one minute. If you plan your script well, you can surgically remove smaller cuts right out of the longer video without much (or any) new animation.

Stage 2 Next is the Storyboard.

This is where we incorporate the look and feel of the brand right into the story. Animation style, music selection, font, colours, icons, voiceovers, even the timing of the transitions can be used to reflect and support the particular brand. 

Stage 3 is Animatic. An animatic is a string of storyboard images edited together with sound to illustrate how a sequence will flow in motion. It’s a next-level technique after storyboarding. The illustrations don’t move yet, and the music, narration and graphics are not finalized, but you’ll have a very strong idea of what the finished product will look like. Not many animation companies provide animatics, but we think it’s really important to give clients confidence about what to expect. It’s a bit like laying out all your ingredients before you bake. You don’t know what the recipe is going to taste like yet, but you know you’re getting a rainbow birthday cake and not an apple pie. 

Key Animation is the final stage. That’s when all the ingredients are baked together. Smells good! Our pastry chefs, oops I mean animators, are truly talented artists. This is where we step back and let them work their magic. It’s always exciting to see the end result. Clients are usually thrilled with the end result (because they’ve been collaborating with us at each of these 4 stages, so they feel real ownership of the end result.)  Most people enjoy being part of a creative process and our team is very fun to work with. We are truly proud of our perfect 5-star google reviews, and I put it down to this basic process. 

In summary, our animated corporate videos also follow a basic formula: they start with a great script, which comes alive on a storyboard, then move to animatic, then principal animation. They are concise, they solve a problem, and they do it with on-brand graphics, music, and voice overs. The right explainer video can take virtually any concept and turn it into an engaging story. 

Every day, video is gaining momentum as one of the fastest-growing marketing channels. We’re not giving up on our live action projects, but given the times, it truly is the perfect time to explore the power of an effective animated video. So call Bee Video today if you want to learn more. Because nothing is more powerful than a story well told!

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