20 ways to speed up and improve your animation production workflow
In this day and age, it wouldn’t be hard to understand and run animation software for someone, however, to produce quality animation content is often quite tricky and time-consuming. It requires a lot of experience to excel in this field. For bigger projects, there are far too many elements that need to be kept in check whilst working on an animation, especially if you are working in a studio and have to supervise many people simultaneously. In addition to that, each stage of animation requires extra attention to detail, so animators have to be thorough and focused on their work. Moreover, maintaining a healthy back and forth contact with the client and ensuring your team is working tirelessly on the projects is very vital for the survival of an animation studio.
Since there are a lot of tasks that have to be handled, projects can get overwhelming easily. Things have to be written in pre-production and storyboards have to be produced in the initial stages of the process. It is also very crucial to the animation process that the whole studio team is assigned tasks according to their capacity and are not overburdened. They all should be working as a team. Therefore, we have compiled a list of a few general tips that will not only help in bringing greater efficiency to your day-to-day tasks at the studio but also promote healthy relations with your clients, below.
1. The initial briefing stage is very important.
For any good animation to be created, the animators need to have a thorough understanding of the project. This can only be achieved if they have been briefed by the clients regarding the specific requirements of their orders. This initial briefing stage is ignored by many studios, when in fact quality briefing is essential to the production process. Important factors to consider:
- Is the client interested in a serious corporate video?
- Is he inclined towards making something funny and light?
- What other exciting ideas would he like to share?
- Has he answered all the questions the studio has?
- Can the studio incorporate those ideas into their videos?
During the briefing stage, the client should be informed of how everything will be done and what he should expect over the next couple of days. Similarly, the client should provide all the details in a precise and clear manner about the kind of video they want and the background story of the subject so that the studio can come up with the best possible product. Our Producer Marichka shared her thoughts based on her experience as follows:
“Please note that it is important to provide the information about your project in a clear way, but not in a detailed way. Writing everything you know about the project is just unuseful. Thus, please, be precise. The thing is that the clearer you answer the questions-the more accurate the message we get in the video”.
Advice # 1
Present a PowerPoint presentation to the client that concisely shows them when and how everything will be done. Answer all their questions and provide them with the exact dates you’ll be contacting them.
Illustration by Titus Smith
2. Internal Quality Checks are required for smooth functioning.
For the smooth functioning of any project, quality checks are important. After the initial briefing, an internal quality check is needed to ensure that the production process is running without any bumps. Internal quality checks are recommended at every stage of animation production. These checks prevent you from sending something that is not up to the mark or fails to meet the clients’ orders. Internal quality checks will eliminate all the issues present in the order and this way they can be smoothed out before the client sees them.
Advice # 2
Project Managers can use special apps or software to log the progress of each team member so that everything is kept on track and is running smoothly.
Illustration by Felic Art
3. Take the help of the best team member.
Steve Jobs rightly pointed out that:
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”.
Make sure you know what every member of your team is best suited for. Always remember to assign tasks according to your team members’ fortes and animation styles. It’s best to keep in mind that sometimes even the most experienced animators have difficulty handling a particular part or they perform better at other styles of animation. Hence, make sure that you take the help from the best artists and animators available for every task regardless of their experience.
If you’re ever confused about a team member’s capabilities, discuss the issue with them and take their opinion on it. Ask them if they would like to proceed with the task at hand.
Illustration by Alaina Johnson
4. Decrease the number of contact points between you and the client.
To create a noteworthy product, reduce the number of times you contact the client considerably. You do not need to get in touch with the client after every stage.
Remember that nobody wants to endlessly approve the stages and provide never-ending feedback.
This saves your time and allows you to focus more on the creative process of producing a well-thought-out animation video and saves the time of the client too. Moreover, when a client places an order with your studio, they trust your work and want you to surprise them. They do not expect you to constantly nag them for feedback and inquiries. We would recommend that you create a flowchart for your clients and show it to them during the initial briefing stage. Through that you can let them know that you will be following up with them during stage 4 and 8 for example, so they are ready for you on time.
Advice # 4
Create a flowchart and include it in the presentation you will give in the briefing stage. Send the client home with the hard copies of this too, so they don’t forget.
5. Copyright is the backbone of your entire video.
Another important factor to remember is while writing the script you have to keep in mind all the tiniest details the client has shared with you regarding their video so that you don’t lose the essence of the project. After the script has been written, it is advisable that you get it approved by the client first, before adding it to your animated video. The voiceover artist can only create magic with their voice if the script has been written to perfection.
Advice # 5
Get the script approved before proceeding further.
6. Animatics made from storyboard sketches are recommended.
Also, Animators should make animatics based on storyboard sketches for complicated projects. Animatics are essentially animated storyboards and they can often help clients visualize the project they are ordering better. This small effort on your part will not require huge resources but it will be extremely helpful for the client and allow them to clear their head and take a swift decision.
Advice # 6
Include Animatics in your presentation that you will present in the Initial Briefing Stage.
Source: Giphy website
7. Clients should be given a chance to approve the style of their video.
Since you’re making this project for the client, you must have their approval for the style of the video. They should be shown the final color themes and characters that you have designed and the studio should only proceed further with the work if the client is happy with the layout style of the video. This will prevent you from editing the finished product at the end and wasting time.
Advice # 7
Get the client’s approval before moving onto the next stage.
8. Reduce the number of questions you ask the client.
Remember to also reduce the number of questions you ask the client. Most of the clients will only be interested in the end product and would just be able to provide you with basic details. Your client is particular about the quality of the video and your studio should not make the process overwhelming for them. Therefore, do not bug them by asking too many questions and don’t invite them to participate at every stage of the project, as this can also disrupt your creative process. Your client might be interested in asking you questions, and you can aid them in the process.
Advice # 8
Create a Glossary of terms on your website. This way they would know about the technical aspects of what you are talking about when asked.
Source: Giphy website
9. Create a demo version of your video instead of creating the whole thing first.
Also, we don’t recommend you to make the entire animation videos in one go. It is better if you get a chunk of it approved by the client before proceeding further. This way you can get the client to be familiar with the final product beforehand and they would know what to expect in the end as well. Creating an hour-long video and then having to edit it after getting feedback from the client is not advisable.
Advice # 9
Make the first 20 seconds of the animation video first only, get it approved from the client, and then proceed.
10. Choose good quality sound effects.
Make sure that the sound effects you add in the video are of the topmost quality. This will make a better impression on the client of your work. It will also reduce the number of corrections the clients will ask for the video.
Advice # 10
Include the sound effects in the 20 seconds video you send to the client and get their approval on it too.
Illustration by UI8
11. Take control of the process.
Sometimes orders are placed by Marketing Agencies instead of the client directly, therefore you as a video production company need to ensure that you are being provided all the materials needed to complete the script, storyboard, style frame, illustrations, animation, voiceover, and SFX. This is to ensure that there is no delay in the production process and your creativity isn’t affected.
Advice # 11
Don’t hesitate to send reminders to the Agency if materials are missing.
12. Choose voice-over artists for them.
Similarly, try to preselect voice-over artists for the client beforehand, instead of asking them to pick one for themselves. Providing a ton of options will make the client lose attention and make it hard for him or her to stay focused on the animation video.
Advice # 12
Provide the client with 3 voice-over artist options and no more than that.
Illustration by @John McGowan
13. Don’t forget the actual client and value their feedback.
Furthermore, we recommend that you also keep the middlemen in the loop if they have been part of the process from the start. So, for instance, the sales manager of the client that initially placed the order should be contacted at specific stages to get the feedback of the actual client. It is important to keep a check on the client and if they are happy with the ongoing progress of the animation video.
Advice # 13
Stay in touch with the actual client through the middlemen. Collect valuable feedback via the salesman this way, as they are the ones that are paying you for the job.
14. Art should not be forced.
Sometimes you might receive complaints from clients because the videos submitted by your studio have not been able to meet their demands. The client will most likely ask you to make some changes. You can discuss the feedback with your animator and let him decide if he wants to incorporate those changes in his creative work. If he doesn’t want to make those changes you should hand over the job to some other animator instead of forcing him.
Don’t push your team members to do things they don’t want to. It is crucial to remember that creativity can never be forced and it has to come out naturally.
Illustration by DeeKay
15. Choose the right accent for your voice-over.
Selecting the right voice-over talent for your video is also very important. If the client is planning to release the video in the United States, then you should hire a voice-over from the same state and country. This will ensure a better reach for the client and will make them want to come back and work with you in the future too. Similarly, if you need a video in English for the French-speaking population, you should try to get a hold of someone who’s French and speaks English. This will guarantee that more of the population will understand the language and continue watching the video.
Your video should be able to speak to the audience and a great way for you to do that is through the right dialect. Our voiceover talent Tim is of the same opinion:
“When the voice doesn’t sound right, it won’t resonate with the target audience, and probably you simply can’t create a feeling of trust between you and the audience. Consider a simple notion that the voice of your brand is the soul of your brand. What is your brand about? How does it sound in your head?”
Advice # 15
Choose a suitable voiceover accent according to the video’s audience.
Illustration by Zeusanimation
16. Keep the client posted.
Clients should be informed in detail about how things will be taking place in the production process. From the very start you should for example notify the client about the different periods each production stage will take. It is also very important that the client knows how much time they’re given to provide feedback and when and where that stage will be during the production process.
You need to make sure that the client is aware that if they are late in sharing their feedback, their project can be delayed and the studio will not be able to do anything. Clients need to understand that your animation studio will not compromise on creativity, hence they need to cooperate fully and stick with the decided schedule.
Advice # 16
Take the client along your animation journey by sending updates between production stages.
Source: Thehungryjpeg website
17. Train your intuition to detect when something is off.
As a project manager, you need to be able to train your intuition to spot if something is not right with a product. This means that you should pay full focus to every material, every set, every style, and every illustration that has been used in the production of the video. Your internal checker should be turned on and you should let the animators know when something wouldn’t sit well with the clients.
Advice # 17
Be observant. You don’t have to be an artist to detect problems with a video.
Source: Gfycat website
18. Be responsible about meeting your deadlines and don’t take undue blame.
Remember to always take responsibility and give responsibility as needed. If you’re waiting on feedback from the client, then it is the clients’ responsibility to stick to the schedule and not cause delays.
All you should do is send reminders and follow-up messages. On the other hand, if the studio is working on writing the script, then the responsibility to produce good content is on the shoulders of the script-writing department.
Keep a check on everyone involved in the project and make sure all of them are fulfilling their responsibilities on time.
Source: Ied website
19. Ask a moderate number of questions only.
Find the correct balance between asking too many questions and asking nothing at all from the client. If you ask too many questions, the client can get annoyed and even wonder if you know how to make quality content. Alternatively, if you don’t ask the client any questions, they can feel isolated and start to fear whether you are working on their assignment or not. They might worry that you are not headed in the right direction with their video.
Advice # 19
Make a list of all the questions you have and get them to be precise so you don’t take up a lot of the client’s time. Always be professional whilst asking questions.
20. Have a reference video to discuss.
If you want to find out the kind of work your client wants, you can show them a reference video. This video can act as a guide and as a starting point for both of you. The point of this exercise is to not just show the video to the client but also get their opinions on the colors, characters, themes, etc. of the video.
This video can later act as your guide for the clients’ likes and dislikes and help you in making a video that would have a much higher chance of being approved by the client. You can use your old animated videos or find similar options online. You’ll be surprised at the little things the client points out like the font or the voiceovers when you show them something.
Advice # 20
Note down all the points the client paid attention to in the reference video and pay special attention to them when you make their video.
Darvideo hopes to have shared a handful of tips in this article that was collected over the years from our experience. These tips have helped us to avoid delays and problems related to working in the virtual world. They will surely speed up the production process of your animations and will also increase your turnover.