9 steps to perfect explainer video production process

A detailed overview of the animation production process. 7 Steps To Creating An Awesome Explainer Video.

9 steps to perfect explainer video production process

Are you taking your first steps in the world of animation or looking to master the details to perfect your video?

We meticulously break down the process here.

Each stage has been refined and honed over 18 years in the field, spanning TV, commercial video, and explainer video production.

By the end of this article, you'll have learned every insider secret and be able to create a process that works as smoothly as a Swiss watch.

1. Brief & Research

Briefing & Research

The success of any project lies in a clear understanding of its objectives. Begin the process by asking all the necessary questions.

What is the main goal of the animation? What problems does the product solve? Who is the target audience? Who are the main competitors, and how does your product differ from theirs?

You get the idea.

Create your brief questionnaire and ensure it includes all necessary aspects. If you're unsure where to start, use this cheat sheet that we employ for briefing our clients.

Next, assemble your entire team to delve deeper into the information provided. Go the extra mile here. It's crucial to understand the competitors and their market strategies thoroughly.

Remember, the success of your video depends not only on its quality but also on how distinctively you present your message to cut through the noise.

It’s worth noting that your clients might lack experience and either omit crucial details or, conversely, provide unnecessary information.

Ensure you have all the necessary info and sift out any distractions that could sidetrack your creative team.

2. Crafting the concept: setting the strategy

Some animation studios might combine this stage with scripting, but trust me, that's not the best way to go.

Let me break it down for you.

The concept is like the blueprint for the script. When we go over a brief with our clients and tackle all the strategic questions, we determine what kind of concept will hit the mark for the project's goal. For example, should we use a "Problem-Solution" model with storytelling techniques, or maybe just focus on pure demonstration?

The approach we choose has to align with the project's objectives.

Another key factor is the platform where the video will live. If it's for a website, there's one strategy; if it's for multiple platforms, we plan out multiple versions in multiple dimensions (vertical, square and horizontal) with different calls-to-action, each tailored to a specific scenario.

Once we've nailed down the main message and how we want to present it, this information goes to the content team. They'll weave these strategic insights into a script that's both engaging and on point.

3. Script

Scriptwriting

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to follow the KISS principle.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Don’t try to impress with complex language. Forget the university essay style.

The script should be smooth, easy to understand, and centered around the main message. Trying to include too much often leads people to forget the key points.

Remember, your video will also have a visual component. Simply highlight the main benefit, and let the artists illustrate the details. The script and visuals should come together like a puzzle, forming a perfect picture.

Additional Points to Consider:

The script is more than just the words in your video; it's the overall strategy and tone of your narration.

  • Know your audience: Imagine your ideal customer and speak directly to them.
  • Choose your tone: Do you want to surprise, educate, have a casual conversation, or even provoke thought?
  • Hook 'em early: Grab their attention in the first 5-8 seconds. Don't waste time meandering.
  • Focus on benefits: Highlight what your product or service will do for them, not just its features.
  • Clear call to action (CTA): End with a clear and concise CTA that tells viewers exactly what to do next.
  • Customize your CTA: If the video will be used in different marketing funnels, consider creating a customized CTA for each one.

4. Storyboard

Now it's time to visualize your ideas, starting with the storyboard. This is a detailed sketch that outlines every scene and action in your video. It helps you:

  • Avoid Surprises: Plan everything out visually to prevent unexpected production costs.
  • Ensure Proper Pacing: Achieve balance and correct pacing within each scene.
  • Visualize Flow and Timing: See how the narrative of your video will unfold.
animation storyboard

To better meet expectations, artists can also utilize a mood board. This tool helps define the overall style and mood of your video and can include references for:

  • Character Design: Essential if characters are involved.
  • Background Design: Setting the scene.
  • Color Palette: Establishing the visual tone.
  • Animation Style: Determining how the animation moves and feels.
  • Overall Tone and Feel: Creating a cohesive atmosphere.
animated video moodboard

Once the storyboard is finalized, it’s the perfect time to review the timing and make any final adjustments to the script before recording the voiceover. This helps avoid the need for reworking later.

5. Illustrations

After finalizing the storyboard for all scenes, it's time to bring in some colors.  We have a tried-and-true process for that.

Here’s how we do it:

Identify Key Visuals

First, we select 2-4 storyboard frames that highlight the most crucial design elements, like key characters, the product, or significant scenes. This step ensures that we're focusing on the parts that matter most.

Develop the Visual Style

Next, we dive into creating high-quality illustrations for these key frames, paying close attention to every detail to match the final look. We make sure to use brand colors and accents consistently to align with the brand’s visual style. This method helps us reduce extra work during the full illustration phase.

animation style frame

Approval

Once everyone is happy with the visual style, we move on to illustrating the remaining scenes.

By following this approach, we ensure that everyone is on board with the overall visual direction before fully committing time and resources to illustrating the entire project.

This way, we stay aligned and efficient, making sure our visual storytelling hits the mark from start to finish.

illustrations for animation

6. Voice Over

Voiceover is an often under-appreciated yet crucial component of animation production. The tone and delivery can significantly impact how your message resonates with viewers. So, how do you find the perfect voice for your project? Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Start with an Audition: We organize a voice audition on voice.com, defining client-approved preferences for tone, gender, accent, and other criteria.
  2. Review Samples: Next, the voice artists record a small portion of the script and send it to us for review.
  3. Client Selection: We then select the best options and send them to our client for final selection.
  4. Record the Narration: Once the candidate is approved, we work with the voice talent to record the narration.

To get the best results, consider these tips:

  • Go Beyond Demos: Don't rely solely on pre-recorded demos. Organize a voiceover audition where potential voice actors can deliver samples specifically tailored to your script and target audience.
  • Match the Message & Audience: The ideal voice should not only complement your animation style but also resonate with your target audience. Think about the emotions you want to evoke and choose a voice that aligns with that goal.

By investing time and effort into casting the right voiceover talent, you can elevate your animation and ensure your message connects with viewers on a deeper level. Don't underestimate the power of the right voice—it can make all the difference!

voice over

7. Animation

This is where the magic happens!

With a well-defined script, storyboard, and visual style, the animation stage can be a smooth and efficient process.

Just ensure all creative elements, especially character designs, are finalized and approved before animation begins.  Changes at this stage can be costly and time-consuming.

However, by following the steps outlined above, you'll have a solid foundation for a successful animation project.

animation

8. Sound Design

Music is a crucial component that influences both the tone of an animation and the perception of its tempo.

It's equally important to get the mixing process right. While music sets the mood, it should act as a supporting element, creating atmosphere without overshadowing the main content.

If you plan to use music from royalty-free websites, ensure that the license you purchase matches the specifics of the media and campaigns where your video will be used.

Alternatively, if your budget allows, consider hiring a composer to create a custom track tailored to your animation.

Following music selection, the next step involves adding supporting sound effects. These can enrich the sound experience and emphasize certain actions, drawing attention to key movements.

9. Finalizing Your Video: The Last Stage

This stage gives the video its final appearance. It involves making small revisions, adding final touches, and exporting the video in the appropriate format.

Additionally, consider incorporating elements that enhance accessibility and engagement:

  • Adding Subtitles: This not only makes your content accessible to more viewers but also caters to those who watch videos without sound.
  • Alternative Endings: Create different endings, especially for calls to action, to see what resonates best with your audience.
  • Editing for Social Media: Consider crafting shorter versions of your video tailored for social media platforms to capture broader engagement.

FAQ

How long does animation production take?

Producing a 1-2 minute animation typically takes between 5-8 weeks, depending on the complexity and style of the production. It's important to note that this timeframe usually does not account for the review and revision process needed by decision-makers.

What is pre-production in an explainer video process

Production is the actual work process of making the video. So then, pre-production is everything before that. Research, concept talks, and scriptwriting are all part of the pre-production process. Production officially begins when visuals start being created.

What is post-production?

Post-Production is the final stage of animation production: everything that comes after the main production is finished. It includes the final polishing of animation, editing, adding the soundtrack and sound effects. After the video is ready for export, you can render it in a format and dimensions that fit your delivery channels.

What is a “pipeline” in animation video production?

Animation production pipeline is essentially the workflow, and there’s a very specific order that the work has to move in. Generally, an animated video production pipeline flows like this:

  1. Research
  2. Concept
  3. Script
  4. Style Frame
  5. Storyboard
  6. Voice over
  7. Animation
  8. Soundtrack and sound effects
  9. Revisions
  10. Finalization

What are the main factors that influence production price?

Usually, production price varies based on:

• Quality of work (how complicated and detailed the animation is)
• Visuals (3D takes much more time and therefore is more expensive than 2D)
• Illustrations
• Music (custom or stock?)
• Sound FX
• VO artist
• Length
• How fast you need it

How do I choose the best animation style for my brand?

Depending on your marketing goals, we’ll send you references (including prior videos and mood boards) that we may think could fit your business and you’ll make your choice.

How many people are involved in the production process?

When you work with Yans, you get the talents of an entire team. This generally includes a creative director managing the project, a scriptwriter, two 2D animators, storyboard artist, 2 illustrators, VO artist, sound designer, and editor.

Can the video use our company's colors and assets?

Absolutely! We always incorporate any fonts, logos, colors, or other brand standards you have to fit the video to your company.

I have my own illustrations. Can we use them in the video?

The short answer is YES.

Just sometimes the images need to have been created in a scalable (vector) format so that we can work with them and they’ll look crisp in video form.

Sometimes visuals created for websites and design aren’t made that way and look poor when used in video. However, if we can re-create the visual in a vector format, then it is possible.

Can we mix live action video or screen capture in our animated video?

Yes, that is possible.

What software are the best for production?

The industry standard software on the marketis the Adobe suite of products. It includes Photoshop and Illustrator for creating visuals, After Effects for animation and effects, and Premiere for editing and finalization.

These tools are widely recognized for their powerful features and versatility in handling different aspects of the animation process.

How does your revision work?

Typicall studios offer 2 free revisions for every stage in the process except for the VO stage, which has 1.

However, you can have unlimited revisions for an agreed price.

NOTE:
Once a stage is approved and we move on, it is considered finalized.
For example, if we are at the animation stage, we can’t go back and make script changes. Building a video is like building a house — once the windows are in you’ve moved on to painting the walls, the amount of time, money, and work needed to go back and change where the windows are is pretty much impossible. That is why we make sure everything is finalized before moving to the next step.

Do you provide support after production is finished?

Yes. We save all assets and project files in case you’d like to make any changes or adjustments in the future. This can happen when a logo or slogan changes.

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